Identify Text Worthy of a Close Reading

Posted on October 30, 2018

Identify Text Worthy of a Close Reading

When preparing a close-reading experience, the first step is to select an appropriate text. Such a text should be complex, comprehensive, and considerate.

The text should be complex

Complex texts are not defined solely by their reading level. In fact, the text can be on-level. However, what earns it the "complexity" label is that its meaning cannot be completely inferred in a single, simple read. There needs to be more to the author's message than what can be gleaned with a surface reading.

The text must lend itself to more discussion. With additional reads, there should be additional thoughts about the author's choices--his vocabulary and description, text features and structure, perspective and purpose, illustrations and visuals, etc.

Text worthy of a close reading has these rich layers of meaning. And through text-dependent questions, students are returning to the text, diving in, and inferring answers.

The text should be comprehensive
During a close reading, it is important to select a text that is comprehensive. In other words, it draws upon comprehension skills recently taught.

If visualization was the focus of recent mini-lessons, then the new passage selected must have rich language and lend itself to reader visualization. If students have analyzed infographics to glean additional information beyond the print text, then today's close-reading passage must include some infographics.

Students need a text that has the necessary qualities, characteristics, and ingredients to practice the recently-learned skills.

The text should be considerate
No one can closely read a 200-page novel. The intensity, focus, and rereading required cannot be maintained for dozens of pages. Consequently, be considerate of the length of the text students are expected to closely read.

This may mean selecting a portion or excerpt of a longer text or choosing an entire text that's short to begin with. A considerate or appropriate length for a one-sitting reading is 4-8 paragraphs.

Some teachers utilize longer texts with the plan to stretch the close-reading experience across several days. Although this is an option, plan for some close readings to occur all in one sitting. In fact, this is the scenario students face on standardized reading assessments. They have to execute the close-reading framework for multiple passages to be read in a single testing session.