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What is Close Reading?

One of the most critical elements of the new Common Core Standards is the emphasis placed on close reading. In the anchor standards for reading for grades K–12, the first item under the heading Key Ideas and Details states that students should be able to:

“Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.”  (pages 10, 35, 60)

In the past, some curricula spent a huge amount of time on the accuracy and speed at which a student was able to read, and stopped there. This emphasis on fluency isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the teacher recognizes that just because students sound fluent, it doesn’t automatically mean they’ve fully understood what they’ve read. 

Making meaning from text is a process and should be explicitly taught during every Read Aloud and Guided Reading block.Howard Thurman's
Great
Hope

The Common Core’s mention of close reading shifts the collective focus back to meaning. It asks teachers to spend time with rigorous, complex texts, reading and rereading a text, moving from the big ideas to paragraphs to sentences to individual word choice, focusing on meaning and craft in a thorough way. 

Time is still spent on retelling the story and basic comprehension questions, but the bulk of the discussions focus on meatier topics such as word choice, author’s purpose, character development, mood, and more.

But what does close reading look like in practice? 

Further reading:

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