Support the Core with Close Reading Strategies

Close-ReadingIn classrooms all over the nation, educators are asking students to take a second look, and even a third look, at the texts they’re reading. This deeper study of text is called close reading, and it’s helping prepare students to meet the text analysis requirements of the Common Core State Standards.

In her monthly LibrarySparks column, “Strengthen Your Core,” Reading Specialist Beth Anne Burke outlines the general steps of a close reading lesson.

Effective Close Reading Strategies

First Read: Key Ideas and Details

Select a text that is close-read worthy. Read the text aloud and guide students to think about the big ideas in the text:

  • What is this story/article/text mostly about?
  • Summarize the story/text.
  • Compare and contrast [characters/events/ settings].
  • What message is the author sharing?

Second Read: Craft and Structure

For a second close read, select a portion or chunk of the text (one paragraph to one page or so) that includes ideas that require digging deeper. Select a text-dependent question that looks at how the author presents information:

  • What does [specific vocabulary word from the text] mean?
  • How does the author feel about [the topic]?
  • What is the problem/solution in the [story/article/text]?
  • What is the text structure of this [story/article/text]?

Third Read: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

The third close reading of a text should go even deeper, requiring students to synthesize and analyze information from several sections of a text or from multiple texts or media. They may record their ideas on sticky notes, in graphic organizer(s), or on a thinking sheet. Select a text-dependent question that requires higher-level thinking:

  • What text features did the author include? How did they help the reader?
  • How did the pictures help the reader understand the story?
  • How did the visual elements (pictures, graphs, etc.) that the author included contribute to the tone of this text?
  • Compare the book with the movie version.

Text Selection: Which Text Is Best?

Are all texts worthy of a close read? The answer is no, according to Burke. And this is where school media specialists play a pivotal role in helping identify appropriate texts.

When selecting a text, the Common Core Standards consider three determinants of text complexity: qualitative, quantitative, and reader and task measures. Each of these is equally important when considering the complexity of a text.


Qualitative measures must be assessed by a human reader. They include things like text or sentence structure, vocabulary, and the knowledge demands on the reader. They also address how clearly the author conveys the message or whether the reader has to make a lot of inferences.


Quantitative measures indicate the readability level of the text. Originally, CCSS focused on the Lexile leveling system. The standards have since been revised to include other systems, such as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test and the Dale-Chall Readability Formula. Your school system may use one of these or a different system. Generally, readability measures use a computer program to analyze sentence and word length, word frequency, and other factors to assign a number or level to a text. While a quantitative measure is a good place to begin to find an appropriate text, it is important to include qualitative factors as well. For example, if you were relying solely on Lexile levels to recommend a text for fourth graders, you might select Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, which has a Lexile of 720, over The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, which has a Lexile of 740.

Reader and Task Measures

The final important factors in selecting an appropriate text are the reader and task measures. Teachers know their particular group of students; they know how much prior knowledge the students likely have on the topic and how interested they may be in reading about it. They also will know about the students’ reading skills and whether the text will be easy or difficult for them. The reader and task measures will help determine how much modeling and guidance a teacher/librarian will need to provide when teaching a text to students.

View a sample close reading lesson.


  • “What Is Close Reading?” by Tim Shanahan. June 18, 2012.
  • “Up Close with Close Reading” by Beth Anne Burke. LibrarySparks, November 2013. Vol. 11, No. 3.


Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie

Marketing Content Manager at Demco, Inc.
Liz is the Marketing Content Manager for Demco. Her background includes editorial management and product development of innovative and time-saving tools for schools and libraries, with an emphasis on Common Core, literacy and math. The products she and her team have developed, including classroom games, learning centers and professional development resources, have garnered 46 industry awards for excellence in education. Liz is passionate about promoting literacy through her work and the work of others. If you are interested in sharing your ideas and programming tips on Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog or have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, contact Liz at