close reading – how it could go with a focus on repetition

we know, and we teach our students, that authors don’t just throw any old detail into their writing. there is a purpose for the details they include. they include details that show us, rather than just tell us, the deeper meaning of a text.

repetition of details, including phrases, objects, and ideas, is no exception and we can teach our students how to read closely to notice repetition and question its purpose. while doing this, we are  addressing anchor standard 4: interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone. when authors choose to repeat a phrase, object or idea, they are using their word choice to shape meaning or tone.

teaching students to notice repetition of phrases, objects and ideas is a tangible element  to search for. in fact, this kind of work can lend itself naturally to read alouds. we’ve noticed that our students will often naturally notice a phrase repeated and even start to chorally read it with us when it comes up in a text. if your students are familiar with a text, you probably won’t need to spend time searching the text for repetition. chances are that they’ve already noticed it, and so all of your teaching can focus on thinking.

we’ve used fox by margaret wild, a text our students are familiar with, to close read with a focus on repetition. here’s one way it could go:

say: readers, authors will often repeat something in their writing – a phrase, an object or maybe an idea – to let us know that it represents something important. we know that if we take the time to notice when an author repeats a phrase, symbol or idea, it could help us to uncover a deeper meaning. listen while i think about repetition in fox by margaret wild.  (remember: when we’re ready to read a text with a specific purpose, like paying close attention to repetition, it won’t be on our first read of the text and the way we teach will reflect this.)

think aloud: when we think about fox, we think of this phrase that’s repeated several times – “…i will be your missing eye, and you will be my wings.” we’re going to re-read these parts and see if we can figure out if there’s a reason this  phrase might be important or if it may stand for something. we know that throughout the story, dog and magpie do a lot together. we can use the *thinking stems on our chart (below) to help frame our thinking.

“…i will be your missing eye, and you will be my wings.”  is repeated over and over. this phrase might be important because it shows how much dog and bird need each other. this makes us think that when they’re together, they are both their best selves. 

say: do you see how we noticed the repetition of a phrase? then we re-read the parts where this phrase was repeated and used the thinking stems to help us think about what this repetition might mean?

note: at this point, you would want to decide how you would gradually release responsibility to your students. will you model again with another kind of repetition in the same text or a different text? will you let students try with a partner in the shared text? maybe your students are ready to try on their own and then share with a partner? it could go like this:

gradual release: let’s try this again with partners. something else that we’ve noticed is repeated when we’ve read this text is… think about this object, phrase, idea and use the thinking stems to push yourself to have an idea about why the author may have repeated this.


watch us while we try this again…


we’d like you to try this on your own. you can write you idea on a post it and leave it here for us.

*disclaimer: we know that a thinking stem can’t make a student think, but we feel strongly that thinking stems provide a scaffold that points students in the right direction.

once we’ve taught students how to do this work and have gradually released responsibility to them to try it, we’ll make sure to have supports in class for them to try this work independently:

  • we’ll add this strategy to a growing anchor chart of strategies readers use to dive deeper that students can refer to.
  • we’ll make the chart user friendly by adding thinking stems and completed examples on post its that students can borrow and use as mentors at their seats.
  • we’ll have mentors with us when we confer to model our inner thinking in a 1:1 conference if needed.
  • we’ll look for evidence of a growing understanding of this work in conferences and reader’s notebooks

how do you teach students about diving deeper into their texts? do you have a strategy for teaching kids about repetition?


2 thoughts on “close reading – how it could go with a focus on repetition

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