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Close Reading Steps for Success

Chances are, you’ve heard of Close Reading. Some of you may already be using some close reading strategies in your own classroom, while others haven’t yet begun.  By implementing a purposeful set of close reading steps and reading comprehension strategies, your students will enjoy a greater level of success when reading independently and when approaching challenging reading passages.

Today, I am going to share the 6 steps to a successful close read in the classroom to get you started with confidence!

Have you grabbed your FREE Close Reading Unit (it’s super fun, I promise) yet?

Take Close Reading Steps to the next level in your elementary classroom or homeschool.

What is Close Reading?

“Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc.” Beth Burke, NBCT (Read Close Look at Close Reading article.)  In other words, students use a variety of strategies to gain a deeper meaning of a passage. They read closely.

Close Reading steps and reading comprehension strategies    

What close reading is NOT:

  • Using long passages or entire books
  • Total student independence
  • Total teacher reliance
  • Basic recall questions
  • Lots of pre-reading/background building information
  • A one-day lesson

What close reading IS:

  • Using short reading passages or pieces of a book
  • A combination of teacher-led activities and student independence
  • A succession of basic recall (right-there) questions leading to deeper-level questions
  • Reliance on the text itself, rather than background, to provide challenging, new information
  • Discussion with Think-Pair-Share and small groups
  • Making connection with text at a deeper level
  • Marking and annotating on the text and in the margins
  • A series of lessons spanning several days

Download a FREE Close Reading Unit (The History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie) to get started today.

So what does close reading strategies look like in the classroom?

Well, since it can be implemented in different ways, it will probably vary from classroom to classroom. Many factors, such as the number of students and the length of your reading block will come into play. I suggest a set pattern of 6 reading steps, but you can definitely alter them according to your own teaching situation. I also strongly encourage you to take the time to teach and model each step for your students. By doing that, you will not only save yourself a world of time in the long run, but your students will gain independence and success at a faster rate.

Take the next step in reading with the Close Reading Toolkit

Get Started with 6 Close Reading Steps:

1.Close Reading Step 1: First Reading First Reading: Students are provided with a passage (I keep mine to one page at the fifth grade level) to read independently. They identify what the passage is mainly about. Remember, we are working from surface level to deeper thinking. So this first reading is all about what is on the surface.


2.Close Reading Step 2: Time to Annotate Time to Annotate: Students use their annotation guides to mark up the text. They circle powerful words and phrases, identify things they don’t understand, and mark the parts of the text they connect with in some way. Have them write important thoughts or ideas in the margins.


Close Reading Step 3: Second Reading3. Second Reading: Teacher reads the same passage aloud. Use expression and fluency. Pause and model think-alouds. If possible show the passage on an interactive whiteboard and model how you would annotate the passage, too.



Close Reading Step 4: Unfamiliar Words4. Unfamiliar Words: Students explore the meaning of new vocabulary. Have them select 4-5 unfamiliar words from the passage and work to identify the meanings, create sample sentences, list antonyms or synonyms, and/or draw an illustration.



Close Reading Step 5: Third Reading5. Third Reading: Students read the passage a final time independently. Now that they have seen the passage twice, have annotated it, and identified the main idea, they are ready to gain a deeper understanding. At this point, students should be ready to answer questions which require them to make inferences and support answers with text evidence.


Close Reading Step 6: Time to Respond6. Time to Respond: After the third and final reading, students are given some more difficult questions to answer. Usually these questions will require students to provide an answer and then support that answer with text evidence. Once these questions are complete, students will respond to the text through writing, usually in well-developed summary paragraph.


You may be wondering where the Think-Pair-Share is in these six steps. I add it in wherever it naturally fits in the process.  Often, it works very well after students finish their annotations and when they have answered questions. I simply suggest you do what works best for your given situation.


Some teachers like to read a passage more than three times during a close read. I don’t. Here’s why: I want students to become excited and stay excited about reading. I feel like anything beyond three readings will bore the heck out of them, and I don’t want that to happen. That’s the same reason I wouldn’t use a long passage or book for the close reading steps for reading comprehension. Students will absolutely hate it. It will suck all the sunshine and joy out of the reading process. I implore you to keep the passages short, manageable, and as enjoyable as possible.

If you are interested in learning more about my suggested 6 close reading steps, check out my Close Reading Teacher Toolkit! It has everything you need to gClose Reading Steps Toolkit for Teacherset started with more meaningful close reads in your classroom.

The Close Reading Teacher Toolkit includes:

  • Helpful, easy-to-follow video outlining 6 Steps of Close Reading
  • Close Reading Steps Posters
  • Annotation Marks Posters
  • Annotation Guide
  • High-Interest, Differentiated Passage (Milton S. Hershey: Determined Candy Maker)
  • 5 Days of Close Reading Activities

I also have many interesting and engaging Close Reading Packets, which students AND teachers LOVE. Click on each image to see the resource in my store:

Close Reading Year-Long Bundle      Close Reading Passages: 5 Reading Activities for September

Close Reading Passages: Solar System     Close Reading Passages: Ocean Animals     Close Reading Passages: Black History     Close Reading Passages: US Landmarks

That’s it in a nutshell. The close reading steps can truly help your students make deeper, more meaningful connections to text with thorough reading comprehension.

Once you have worked through the steps a few times, you should begin seeing the process run more smoothly and students learning at a new level.

Looking for More Great Language Arts Resources?

Check out these blog posts for more fun and engaging language arts activities:

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Shelly Rees

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  • Lisa February 15, 2017 at 2:08 am

    I love close reads. These are great strategies and I love your steps! I can’t wait to use these in my classroom!

    • Shelly Rees February 26, 2017 at 5:48 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa!

  • Nichole Molinaro March 4, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Is this toolkit still available fit purchase? I can’t find it on TpT. Thanks!

  • Marcy Howe March 27, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Thanks for simplifying Close Reading. Having it broken down into basic steps takes the mystery out of it. Thanks for this helpful information.

    • Shelly Rees March 27, 2017 at 12:14 am

      Thanks so much, Marcy! I’m glad you found the post helpful!

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    I'm Shelly Rees of Appletastic Learning. First and foremost, I'm a mom of 4 boys, wife of 25 years to Aric, and Wyoming girl at heart. I love being creative, making resources for teachers, baking cookies, Diet Coke, teaching, public speaking, and spreading kindness wherever I can. After teaching in the upper elementary grades for over 23 years, I retired early and focused on creating and helping teachers around the world with my teaching ideas and resources. I also serve as a mentor to hundreds of teacherpreneurs and help them get focused on growing their own successful businesses. With 100% honesty, I LOVE my life! Thanks for visiting! I hope you'll stay awhile and come back often. Read More

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