In this blog post I’m going to discuss how I teach close reading in my classroom with a focus on non-fiction. Close reading means to read a text more than once in order to develop a greater understanding of the text. I teach close reading in small groups of no more than six students, whilst the rest of the class rotate around independent reading activities.
Firstly we look at the overall layout of the text together before starting reading. We focus on organisational features, title and briefly scan the text. What do students predict the text is about?Is it fiction/ non-fiction? What is the genre? Have they seen a similar text previously? Before the first read the student begin to form ideas about the text based on their own experiences and knowledge.
The first read
I encourage students to annotate the text, i.e. highlight any words they are unsure of, anything that they find particularly interesting or something they’ve learned.
Students then read quietly to themselves.
I then focus on the new vocabulary students have highlighted. I model reading the sentence around the word and putting it into context. ‘Can we work out what the word may mean using the sentence around it?’ Students then apply this skill to their own highlighted words.
We also discuss parts of the text the students may have annotated. What did they learn? What did they find interesting?
I use sentence openers and for partner discussion about what the text is about. These could be basic ‘W’ questions such as ‘Who…’, ‘What…’, ‘Where…’, ‘When…’. sentence starters to get an overall basic idea of the text.
The second read
We then move on to the second read. This a more in depth read where the student really delve deeply into the text and dig out meaning. I like to concentrate on one comprehension skills. This could be making connections, inference or main idea, for example.
If focusing on the main idea. I ask the group to summarize particular sections or paragraphs to draw out what the focus is. Which parts are relevant to the key idea? We may look for evidence to support their ideas, which I draw out through questioning. This is where ‘How’ and ‘Why’ questions come into play. These could be, ‘How do we know…?’, ‘How does the text say..?’ ‘Why does…? , ‘Why do you think…?’ I usually ask students to discuss their responses in pairs.
I like to summarize the session by bring the group together to share their responses to the questions and I encourage students to support their ideas by backing up with with evidence from the text.
Of course, there are many ways of teaching close reading skills, but this is they way I find particularly useful for my students.
Finding reading passages for non-fiction texts can be challenging, so I created some of my own based on animals. I have six sets including rainforest animals, arctic animals, African animals and Australian animals. The can be used for group instruction or for independent student work. They cover a range of comprehension skills from summarizing to vocabulary development to reasoning. They come complete with student response sheet and answer keys to save you time. Both US and Uk spelling options are included in each close reading set. They are available here in my Teachers pay Teacher store, where you can save 25% when purchasing as a bundle. You can also download my Mountain Animals Close Reading set completely FREE!