Meaningful Engagement With Texts Through Close Reading

Katie Witte/ February 23, 2022/ 21-22 SY, Literacy in K-12, Teaching and Learning/ 0 comments

Mindful Instruction to Guide Students in Their Interaction With Different Texts

In every content area, students are reading a wide variety of texts. The act of reading is integral to learning–something students are continually doing. However, having an extensive collection of topics isn’t always enough to hold the students’ attention. Even though the subject matter switches from one class period to the next, teachers should still aim to make the act of reading engaging for their learners.

When lesson planning with content for the students to learn, teachers should be mindful of how they want students to approach different texts that are part of the curriculum. While there is always an effort to build reading comprehension, consider the formative and summative tasks that the content works toward. 

Will the students be:

  • Answering text-based questions?
  • Contributing to a class discussion?
  • Taking a quiz or test over the content?
  • Writing a short or extended response?
  • A combination of some or all of the above?

When teachers are deliberate in choosing what texts are present and why, classroom instruction becomes more purposeful and objective-driven. Once teachers have set a goal for the reading that aligns well with the overall assessment, then they can consider ways to make interacting with the text engaging for their students. Paired with the right resources, close reading is a strategy that works well to do just that. 

What is Close Reading? 

Close reading is examining written works multiple times for deeper understanding. The goal of the process is that with subsequent interactions with the text, the learners tap into higher levels of cognitive processing. With each reading, students are more complexly progressing in their level of knowledge from basic comprehension to more elaborate analysis.

The Magic of 1-2-3 Multiple Reads

The process of close reading has the students read the text three times:

  1. First, the students’ initial interaction with the text should be done independently where the goal is to look for main ideas and key details. 
  2. Next, the text should be read aloud with the students focusing on identifying specified literary elements and/or rhetorical devices that help the author achieve their purpose.
  3. Finally, the students should examine the text one last time, using their observations and interpretations from the first two readings to come to an overall conclusion based on their analysis and evaluation of the text. 

Benefits of Scaffolding and Differentiation

Close reading is an approach that functions well when tackling particularly complex content because it holds space for careful examination and deliberate interaction with the text. Contact with new and challenging concepts can make learning confusing and overwhelming. Close reading allows for the information to be scaffolded for individual learners throughout the process, breaking it down into manageable chunks. 

When students are familiar with the process of close reading, they understand they are not expected to “get it” the first time. As they conscientiously work through the steps of close reading, they can experience their understanding being actively enhanced in real time. Differentiation within the process allows for learners of all levels to engage where they’re at and build upon their own knowledge. While the class text remains the same, close reading supports and reflects individual achievement and understanding. 

Close Reading to Examine Literary Elements

With texts that tell stories, close reading is beneficial when focusing on one to two literary elements and how its deliberate use enhances the author’s purpose. Even though multiple literary elements play their part throughout the course of a written work, a certain chapter or specific short story may lend itself as a great example of an author developing the text with the deliberate use of characters, conflict, dialect, mood, plot, point of view, setting, and/or theme. 

Introduce the literary element prior to the students’ reading so that they can try to identify its presence in the text. This method is great for engagement and interaction because not everyone in the class notices the same thing, so the students can build upon each other’s ideas during class discussion.

Create Time for Collaboration Around Annotations 

When students are reading and interacting with the text at their own pace, it’s often hard to determine when the best time is to bring the class back together. However, an important part of close reading is dedicating instructional time to collaborate with others, so make sure to carve out space in the lesson to do just that. 

As an integral part of the close reading process, students will know that when it’s time to collaborate, they will be expected to share their knowledge of the text through evidence and observations. Annotating along the way is a great method for students to track thoughts, questions, and realizations for easy reference.

Annotating makes the process of revisiting certain parts of the text simpler. The students’ thoughts are right there on the page, clear-cut and easy to identify with a quick scan. They can easily retrieve their line of thinking to engage in meaningful conversations with the classroom community. This way class discussions will feel more natural. And if there is an awkward silence, students can quickly refer to their annotations to keep the conversation going. 

Highlighting and underlining the text are often the easiest ways to reexamine  important observations. Color coding and use of symbols can help to differentiate between types of information the students are encountering. Taking notes in the margins of the text offers an opportunity to make connections. Summarizing at the end of a section allows the students to transfer the information into their own words. Unfortunately, marking physical texts isn’t always allowable due to shared resources and limited amounts of paper copies. 

The Convenience of Digital Annotation 

Thankfully, avoiding permanent annotation mark-ups is not an issue with technical tools for learning. With access to Glose for Education’s e-reading platform, students can digitally cite evidence within a text with annotation features such as highlighting key passages and creating comments. They can interact with each other through written exchanges, textmoji reactions, and the sharing of supplemental information. All of which can be done with ease of access with all devices–in the classroom, at home, or on the go!  

Read about how to make learning more accessible to students

Level Up Literacy With Close Reading Strategies

So the next time you consider a text for your classroom, think about how it can be paired with close reading strategies. Although close reading takes a dedicated amount of time, this purposeful process is well worth it as it increases engagement through multiple reads, encourages classroom collaboration, and deepens knowledge and understanding. 

About the Author

Katie Witte is a secondary English educator of 10+ years who has worked with students ranging from 5th to 12th grade. Within her current role with Fort Wayne Community Schools, she serves her district as a lead teacher, assessment writer, curriculum collaborator, program manager, and quality improvement team member. 

Most of her experience has been working with learners within a nontraditional school setting at the Allen County Juvenile Center. Her inclusive instruction is designed with social-emotional consideration to support her students with positive outcomes in their academic achievement and personal growth. As a dedicated lifelong learner, she has a BS in Business Marketing, a BS in Education, and a MA for Teachers in English all from Indiana University Fort Wayne.


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