Northwest AEA

Reading Blog

Close Reading In Elementary Schools



February 2013 Reading Blog


Close Reading In Elementary Schools

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

The Reading Teacher Vol 66 Issue 3 pp. 179-188


Blog Written By:  Teresa Murray, NWAEA CIM Coach


The Common Core Standards in ELA has focused teachers on the instructional practice of close, analytic reading.  Close reading is an instructional routine in which students critically examine a text, especially through repeated readings.  Close reading invites students to examine the deep structure of a piece of text. 

            The purpose of close reading is to give students the opportunity to assimilate new textual information with their existing background knowledge and prior experiences to expand their schema.  A second purpose of close reading is to build the necessary habits of readers when they engage with a complex piece of text. 

            The key features of close reading include the length of texts.  The selections typically range from three paragraphs to two pages.  Sometimes these short passages are selected from longer passages and sometimes they are stand-alone readings.  Another feature is complex texts.  The texts are often above the independent reading level of most students.  A third feature is limited frontloading.  A purpose for reading is set but a lengthy conversation about the meaning of the text or what students should expect to find in the text in advance of the reading is not present.  Repeated reading of the text in which each successive reading comes with a purpose or a question that influences the reading is another feature of close reading.  A fifth purpose of close reading is text-dependent questions.  Students are required to provide evidence from the text in their responses.  This is part of Raphael’s (1986) Question-Answer-Relationship instructional strategy.  The last feature of close reading is annotation.  Students are regularly observed underlining, circling, and writing margin notes.  Sometimes students write on bookmark or sticky notes and other times students write directly on the text. 

            The practice of close reading is one that many elementary teachers are less familiar with.  By taking on an approach to what has traditionally been regarded as a secondary skill, elementary teachers are able to make informed modifications that take younger students’ development, cognition, and metacognition into account.


Close reading is a recommended instructional approach to meet the challenges of teaching complex texts. But close readings are more common in high school and college than in elementary schools. In this article, we identify the components of close reading that were developed after a group of elementary school teachers observed their colleges in high school. In addition, we focus on the modifications necessary to implement close reading in elementary schools.



Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2012). Close Reading In Elementary Schools. The Reading Teacher, 66(3),179188. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01117

Jan 20, 2013 10:59 AM |Add a comment
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