Close Reading

"Close reading" is a process for a group discussion of a specific text. The discussion focuses on understanding what the author meant, based on the words of the text. The emphasis is on thinking independently and reflectively about what you have read. Students prepare a text by reading it closely, marking the text to indicate key points and areas which are obscure. Students come to the discussion, prepared to ask questions so they can help each other interpret the text and clarify puzzling passages. The rules of discussion are:

  1. No one may participate who has not first read the selection.
  2. Discuss only the selection everyone has read.
  3. Do not introduce outside opinion unless you can back it up with evidence from the selection.
  4. The teacher is there to facilitate your discussion--I may only ask questions, and then only to advance your discussion.

Questions for discussion will be of three types:

  1. Questions of fact: only one correct answer, based on the text. Used to advance an inquiry into an interpretation.
  2. Questions of interpretation: more than one correct answer possible, based on the text. Exploring these ambiguities is the heart of close reading.
  3. Questions of evaluation: answer to the question is based on the participants' values or choice of actions in similar situation. Usually used toward end of discussion, when range of possible interpretations has been clarified.


© 1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 2 January 1997