Close Reading

Close reading is a term used in literary criticism to describe the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of a text. A close reading puts emphasis on the single and the particular aspects of the text over its general connotation, affected by close attention to:

  • Individual words
  • The syntax
  • The order in which the sentences unfold ideas, 
  • Formal structures

A truly attentive close reading is to think both about

  • What is being said in a passage, which refers to the content that it presents, and 
  • How it is being said, which refers to the manner in which the content is presented (its form) 

This leads to further possibilities for observation and insight. The emphasis on this method in primary and secondary education is partly due to increased feedback from college professors in the early-mid 2000s stating that students were arriving in university classrooms with fewer comprehension skills than they used to. The increased demand for students to attain concrete skills right in high school that they need in transitioning to higher education and to adult life resulted in the creation of the Common Core State Standards in 2009.

Ever since then, there has been an increasing demand for English language arts (ELA) teachers, especially at the secondary level, who were tasked with the role of helping students develop close reading strategies. Many of the ELA standards for reading literature wanted students to be able to cite textual evidence directly and analyze words with respect to their context. 

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