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Using “Close Reading” Purposefully and Appropriately

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The term “close reading” has become the newest buzzword in the industry for those who teach reading to our youth.  While this approach is beneficial to many students, it’s important to remember that a variety of teaching techniques should always be used to meet the needs of every student.  The needs of the student must be considered before an instructional approach is chosen in order to ensure they meet the requirements of the Common Core standards set by many states.

Using Close Reading Purposefully and Appropriately

Defining the Terms

In general, this method of instruction refers to a more specific technique rather than a general overview of a passage of text.  Instructors may pay close attention to syntax, words and sentence order as they unfold within a story or textbook.  Teachers will often take a small passage within textbooks and analyze that text in fine detail, similar to how a scientist would examine something under a magnifying glass.

Many believe that this technique is a building block for a more general analysis of a larger piece of text.  Readers can develop their own thoughts from their own observations rather than what is taught to them by another.  The closer the reader can observe the text, the more original their thoughts will be as they development.

Role as an Instructional Approach

Experts in the field have discussed the problem with using too much of this technique in the classroom, fearing that reading becomes tedious for some students that will eventually disengage from the rest of the class.  The concern is also raised that other, equally valuable approaches to teaching reading may be neglected in an effort by teachers to use this form of reading more often.  Students may miss out on meaningful conversations about what they are reading as too much focus is placed on close reading.

Educators are also concerned that the text-based evidence that comes from this technique may encourage students to disregard other sources of evidence that may help them better understand the text they are currently reading.

Appropriate Time and Place

With so many potential benefits to this instructional technique, it can’t be disregarded, but should be used in the appropriate time and place in the classroom.  Students benefit from determining how a particular author’s idea is developed, allowing them to make assumptions about other parts of the same text.

Example: In the example of an article on weathering, including the chemical and mechanical processes that aid in the decomposition of rock, students may learn several important things from closely examining an excerpt from the article.

  • Students can determine that the author is introducing weathering, giving a definition and then explaining how it works.
  • This technique allows students to dig a little deeper and use their new-found information to aid them in comprehending and writing additional texts.

In conclusion, it’s suggested that teachers use this technique purposefully, rather than as a fallback lesson for teaching reading.  There are many close reading programs out there, just remember that this approach can be extremely powerful, but can also be equally detrimental when it is overused by teachers that don’t employ other instructional methods to teach students how to think critically while they are reading.

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Monday 15th of February 2016

Thanks for your insight. When you close read, you observe facts and details about the text. You may focus on a particular passage, or on the text as a whole.

Anna@The Measured Mom

Saturday 25th of January 2014

Very useful post! Thanks so much for sharing it at After School.