Close reading

During April, many students focussed on ‘close reading’. Close reading is what we do when we want to slow down and dig deeper into challenging or important text. We don’t use it each time we read–we don’t usually practice close reading when we are reading a novel for pleasure, or when we are scanning the morning paper over breakfast. We read closely when we encounter difficult or important texts–at a turning point in a challenging novel, for example, or when we are reviewing some kind of important contract or test question.

There are many ways to read closely. We simplify the process in Academic Support and Study Skills by teaching a three step routine:


…for the flow and the big idea.


….What do you need to know?

….What is your purpose for reading?


…. and think again!

We practiced this routine using a variety of leveled texts, as well as some challenging poems and song lyrics. Poetry is great for close reading, because good poems can be read with many purposes in mind; we might read a poem once for the images it presents; another time to look at figurative language or verbal music; yet another time for how it might operate on the level of metaphor. (There is of course, a danger in interrogating a poem as if it were the scene of a crime: sometimes we just read poems for the undefinable way they can make us feel!)