Maintaining Interest During Close Reading‚...or Help! I'm Losing Them

If students are to provide evidence for statements related to a text, they must closely read texts, and Close Reading requires rereading. A first reading should be done to get the overall meaning and purpose of the text—the big picture. Then, to really understand what the author is trying to convey, what purpose the text is serving, from what perspective it is written, how the piece is structured, or why particular words and phrases were chosen, the text will need to be read again.Since each type of understanding requires attention to different details, the text will need to be reread several times with specific purposes in mind.

Not Again! I bet you can anticipate the groans, "But, we've already read this." So, what can you do to keep students' interest during several Close Readings of the same text? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Choose short, worthy passages that relate to and elucidate the content of a unit so students will be gaining insights and context for the text as you progress through the unit.
  2. Explain the purpose of each specific reading. Remind students that they should do the best they can by themselves, then the class will be discussing the text and helping each other reach a deep understanding.
  3. Don't do all the repeated readings on the same day. If the passage is worthy, it can be returned to several times over the course of a unit.
  4. Hand out colorful sticky notes, and use a color-coding system for marking difficult or essential Vocabulary, interesting ideas, or hard-to-understand passages, for example. Placing the sticky notes will keep your students thinking actively during their reading.
  5. To focus a particular reading, present challenges such as these (have students use their sticky notes):
  • Find three words that seem to be important in the passage.
  • Mark one part of the text that is hard to understand.
  • Find a phrase that is "music to your ears."
  • Draw a light bulb and write the big idea inside it.
  • Make two columns. In one, write the author's point of view. In the second, write what you think. Do you and the author agree?
  • What do you like best/least about this passage?
  1. Be sure to guide rich discussions, focusing on the purpose of that particular reading. Have students use their notes to help them participate. Encourage everyone to join in. Remind them again that you are all in this together!