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 actually be below the students’ lexile levels. However, what earns it the “complexity” label is that its meaning cannot be completely inferred in a single, simple read. There is more to the author’s message than what can be gleaned with a surface reading.
Complex texts lend themselves to discussion. With additional reads, the students take note of the author’s choices–his intentional use of word choice, text features, organization, perspective, visuals, etc.
Text worthy of a close reading has these rich layers of meaning. And through text-dependent questions, students return 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 requires students to apply 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 quantity of text you expect students 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 general rule of thumb for a one-sitting close-reading experience is 4-8 paragraphs. [NOTE: A complex picture book may sprawl across 24 pages, but when typed up in a single Word document, it typically falls within the same range.]
Some teachers utilize longer texts when they plan to stretch the close-reading experience across several days. Although this is an option, plan for some close readings to begin and end 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.