Keys to Literacy Newsletter

Spring 2014
Volume 11

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Our newsletter provides guidance and resources about literacy instruction in grades K-12.  We hope you find the tips helpful ... and feel free to forward this to your friends and colleagues! 


In this issue, the focus is on
Close Reading in the Common Core State Standards. 

What is Close Reading?



Close reading is ...



  • Something readers do to understand high quality, challenging text
  • A process one uses to deeply comprehend
  • An intensive analysis of a text to determine what it says, how it says it, and what it means
  • Thinking about the words and ideas in the text to determine meaning (Shanahan,2012)

Some descriptions of close reading you may have heard:

  • Deep reading
  • Slow reading
  • Critical reading
  • Unpacking the text
  • Dissecting the text
  • Figuring out a text
  • Reading like a detective
  • Dwelling in the texts we read
  • Uncovering the information
  • Uncovering the mysteries of the text 
During a close reading lesson, students and teachers repeat this cycle: read a little, think a little, talk a little, write a little. Click here for a visual to share with students about this cycle.  
Close Reading and the Common Core Standards
Writing image

 "Students who meet the standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complete works of literature." (Common Core 2010, p.3)



The following reading standards relate to close reading:



# 1

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

# 2

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

# 4

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

# 5

Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text relate to each other and the whole.


Tim Shanahan (2013) makes this point about close reading: "The CCSS focus on text complexity will require students to understand the text, interpret what the author is saying and be able to support their ideas and opinions with evidence from the text. During a close reading lesson, students practice extracting meaning through careful and thorough analysis and re-analysis with a particular focus each time students return to the text." Click here for Tim Shanahan's Meeting the Challenge of Common Core: Planning Close Reading.

Tips for Teaching


There is no set way to teach close reading, and there is no research showing that one particular way works best. However, there are some common characteristics of an effective close reading lesson:

      • Use of short, quality, content-based text or passages, including different genres in literature and informational text
      • Preparation of text
      • Minimal pre-reading activities
      • Multiple readings
      • Modeling through think alouds

Click here for a handout about preparing a text passage for a close reading lesson.


Click here for a handout about conducting a close reading lesson.

Recommended Resources for
Close Reading

Here are some excellent articles about close reading:

  • Boyles, N. (2013). Closing in on Close Reading. Educational Leadership, 70, (4), 36-41. Click here! 
  • Ehrenworth, M. (2013). Unlocking the Secrets of Complex Text. Educational Leadership, November 2013. Click here! 
  • Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2012 A). Close reading. Principal Leadership 13(5) 57-59.  Click here! 

Here are three good video examples of teachers conducting close reading lessons:

Here are some websites:
  • Tim Shanahan has some helpful blog entries related to close reading
Keys to Literacy News

We have received excellent reviews for our Keys to Content Writing and Keys to Argument Writing professional development programs from districts around the country. The training books are being published and should be available to order later this spring.


Keys has recently expanded our teacher training staff - welcome to Beth Herman-Davis, Cathy Davison, and Jill Pompi.

A new poster related to Bloom's Taxonomy from our Key Comprehension Routine is now available. Click here to order. 


Joan's picture
Joan Sedita

Happy Spring from Keys to Literacy!  


First, I'd like to share a helpful website that provides free resources to teachers for how to use low or no-cost technology to support literacy instruction: Power Up What Works. The site offers  a collections of "Instructional Strategy Guides", including several that are directly related to strategies in Keys to Literacy programs. Each Instructional Strategy Guide provides an overview of the strategy, alignment to Common Core State Standards, research supporting the strategy, and how to use technology to support instruction for that strategy. The site as a whole is a great resource for weaving more technology into literacy instruction. 


We hope you enjoyed our winter newsletter that provided information about argument writing and the Common Core Writing Standards.  We are very excited about our new, one-day professional development offering - Keys to Close Reading.


This newsletter addresses the topic of close reading, including what it is and how it's connected to the Common Core Reading Standards. I hope you are able to apply some of the tips for teaching a close reading lesson and that you use some of the resources to learn more about close reading from other experts in the field. 
Be sure to read our next newsletter - we will focus on using text-dependent questions to support close reading.
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