PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Gr 5 Humanities: What Does it Mean to Be a Close Reader?

The 5th graders have been learning how to become close readers! 

What Is Close Reading?

Close reading is a thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc. It directs the reader’s attention to the text itself.

Close reading includes:

  •      Using short passages and excerpts
  •      Diving right into the text with limited pre-reading activities
  •      Focusing on the text itself
  •      Rereading deliberately
  •      Reading with a pencil
  •      Noticing things that are confusing
  •      Discussing the text with others

                  – Think-Pair Share or Turn and Talk frequently

                  – Small groups and whole class

  •      Responding to text-dependent questions

The close reading process is aimed to help students understand a complex text.  

Since the beginning of the school year, we have been using the close reading process to explore the history of the development and language of universal human rights documents, developing skills to determine meaning of words and phrases and learn to quote from an informational text to explain meaning that supports inferences. Last week, we began reading Esperanza Rising to continue developing these skills, but this time, students will be quoting from a narrative. Furthermore, students will apply their new learning about human rights through a case study of how a fictional character responds to human rights challenges.

Steps in Close Reading


file_000Depending on the text complexity and the readers, the first read may be done
independently, as a read aloud/think aloud, or paired or shared reading. The first read is without building background; students integrate their background knowledge with the text as they read. During the first read, students focus on the key ideas and details in the text, making sure they know the main idea, story elements, or key details that the author includes.

Following the first read, students Think-Pair-Share to assess what they have learned from the text.


img_2678For a second close read, a portion or chunk of the text that is “close read worthy” is selected.  A section is considered “close read worthy” if it includes complex elements or ideas that should be explored in order to arrive at a deep understanding of the text. After rereading, students discuss the text with partners or in small groups, focusing on the author’s craft and organizational patterns. This may include vocabulary choices, text structure or text features that the author included.

We have been using Text Dependent Questions to focus or set a purpose for a close rereading. After students share with partners or in small groups, they share out with the entire class to assess understanding.


The third close reading of a text goes even deeper, requiring students to synthesize and analyze information from several texts or media. They record their ideas on sticky notes, graphic organizer, or a thinking sheet.

What’s Coming Up in Humanities?

Upon return from the holiday break, we will continue to read Esperanza Rising and tackle complex texts. Here are the new units coming up in 2017:

  • Social Studies: European Explorers and Case Studies of countries in the Western Hemisphere
  • Writing: Historical Fiction