close reading: what is it really?


with the adoption of the common core state standards, many teachers are finding themselves being pushed to teach students to “do close reading” or to “read closely.” we know that these terms are sometimes thrown around without a solid understanding of what it means or what it’s asking kids to do, which is essential if we’re going to figure out how to teach kids to do it. to start our series on close reading, we’d like to list out some characteristics of close reading to help us get a sense of what it means to do this type of work. think of close reading as a kind of umbrella that covers a lot of reading work, rather than an isolated skill.

close reading:

  • often requires a text to be read and re-read (and maybe re-read again)
  • requires inferential and interpretive work and thinking in the text (i.e. asks the reader to go beyond what’s literally in the text)
  • is ideas-based and supported by textual evidence (standard 1)
  • includes not only identifying themes and ideas (standard 2) and deeper thinking about characters and events (standard 3), but also thinking about and analyzing words and phrases, text structure, and author’s purpose (standards 4, 5, and 6) as well as evaluating arguments made in a text and comparing and contrasting two different texts or the different texts’ treatment of similar themes or topics (standards 7, 8 ,and 9)

this series will contain the following posts to help us think about supporting students in developing their close reading skills:

**a bit of a disclaimer. in the posts in this series, we may say that certain work is “fifth grade work” or “second grade work.” we do this for simplicity, and mean simply that it’s the work found in a specific standard within that grade level. we do not, however, think that the standards should limit how we see work that students do. we believe that a fifth grader can do important and deep work above, below, and within the fifth grade standards. we advocate first finding out where your students are, and then moving them from their starting point, using the standards as a guide for how the work can progress and deepen.


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