Strategy Guide

Get Close to Think Deeply: Creating Primary-Level Close Readings

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Strategy Guide Series
Teaching Literacy Across the Gradual Release of Responsibility

About this Strategy Guide

Especially in the primary grades, beginning to address complex texts with students can be daunting. Through the use of this strategy guide, you can plan for and implement close readings in your classroom. The study of complex texts assists in fostering deep thinking by your students.

Research Basis

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, students are expected to read and comprehend increasingly complex texts, with exemplars of such texts provided in Appendix B of the Common Core. To promote this critical thinking, teachers can provide students with the opportunity to engage in a close reading of a text deemed complex by quantitative, qualitative, or reader-based/purpose-based measures of difficulty (Fisher & Frey, 2012; Fisher, Frey, & Lapp, 2012). During a close reading, students answer and discuss text-dependent questions, developing metacognition as they notice what is confusing, make inferences about the text, and determine the author’s purpose. As students gain experience with these readings, struggling and succeeding in their interactions with complex texts, the materials they are able to read independently will increase in complexity as reading responsibility is gradually released to them (Fisher, Frey, & Lapp, 2012).

Strategy in Practice

Prior to developing a close reading, determine your educational objectives. If students will benefit from critically engaging with a text through repeated readings, then a close reading is appropriate.

Step 1: Choose a complex text that merits critical attention from your students and adequately addresses your focus standards.

  • Texts can be complex based on quantitative measures (readability levels), qualitative measures (knowledge demands), reader characteristics (abilities and motivation), or your educational purpose.

  • Determine which portion of the text to address. Primary texts, generally shorter in length, may be used in their entirety.

Step 2: Plan the sequence of readings.

  • Determine what number of lessons to devote to the reading and who is responsible for each reading. For primary students, you may begin with a whole-group read-aloud, gradually releasing the reading responsibility.

  • Plan text-dependent questions that require references to the text for evidence. (For example, what words/phrases does the author use to describe the main character?)

  • Consider the increasing level of thought required by your text-dependent questions, with subsequent readings requiring deeper thinking. Questions should progress from promoting general understanding of the text to understanding vocabulary or aspects of text structure. Finally, questions should require the formation of opinions and arguments.

  • When beginning the reading, do not frontload information about the text; students need to gather such information from the text.

Step 3: Plan how students will interact with the text.

  • While reading, primary students can annotate a copy of the text by underlining or using sticky notes.

  • Text-dependent questions can be answered as a whole class or in small groups, with annotations for support.

  • Written responses at the conclusion of the close reading provide an assessment of student understanding.

Step 4: Engage students in the close reading.

  • Anticipate students’ frustration/struggle with the text as they glean essential information from the text themselves rather than from the teacher. This struggle leads to deeper thinking and understanding.

  • Close reading of the complex text will gradually promote students’ ability to read complex texts independently.


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