Exploring the Idea of Close Reading

I’m gathering some resources for a day of Professional Development I am leading with my colleagues in a few weeks, with a focus on reading in connection to the Common Core. We will be doing some work along the lines of the concepts of “close reading,” and “synthesis,” and “text complexity” — all of which are at the heart of the expectations of our readers in all content areas.

This Prezi is my first attempt at pulling together some coherent ideas around close reading, with some activities to be added at the end so that we do close reading ourselves. Let me know if I should add any ideas or resources, please.

Peace (in the sharing),


  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this. We’re just about to embark on this effort with greater depth. I often refer to close reading as “legal reading” with my students–the kind of work you do when you’re a lawyer and need to get the facts.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    First of all, just want to again voice my appreciation of your blog. Over the years I’ve gotten some great ideas from you. And also, because I’m a teacher in a private school and thus freed of the constraints so many public school teachers have you reassure me that there is still great exciting and creative work happening in public school. Too often I hear about all the ways teachers are being constricted because of standards and tests and such so you and others (notably Gail Desler whom I know) relieve me a lot about that.

    I just wanted to suggest a way into close reading for children who have never experienced it yet that I have found enormously successful. That is with Charlotte’s Web. I began doing this with my 4th graders in 1990 after doing it myself in a NEH Seminar at Princeton and, over the years, many others have picked up the idea and run with it as well. When I started the idea of 4th graders doing close reading was absolute nonexistence and no one in my middle school was having kids annotate books. Boy has that changed! More at this 2007 blog post for those interested: http://medinger.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/in-the-classroom-annotating-charlottes-web/ (Though now I’m using a document camera rather than the to-my-mind clumsy Smartboard markers.)

  3. Maureen, while I get the need to read for facts, there are other ways to do close reading too. It can be incredibly creative when doing with a great work of fiction like Charlotte’s Web. What I always think is most important though is being sure the joy and pleasure of the book is still up front and center. (Actually a great book about the pleasure of close examination of a work of children’s fiction is Perry Nodelman’s The Pleasure of Children’s Literature: http://ion.uwinnipeg.ca/~nodelman/resources/)

  4. I think we are just beginning to explore what “close reading” means. I love Doug Fisher’s whole text about it because it is complicated depending upon “your purpose” and your text.

    For a summary, I also like Tim Shanahan’s explanation:
    “Discussing Close Reading
    1st read allows reader to determine what text says,
    2nd read to determine how text works, and
    3rd read to evaluate quality, value & make connections”

    My caution is that the “annotation” should not be seen as the “end product” so that third read that Shanahan is talking about really allows students to have deep conversations about quality, value and connections after first understanding what the author says! Doug Fisher would also say those conversations are critical!

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