Close Reading Notes - Teaching with Jennifer Findley (2023)

Did you see thatpopular memesWhere does the student mark two full pages of text? It breaks me every time I see it. One of the reasons memes resonate with teachers is because it's a very real struggle. Seems like I get some students commenting like crazy every year. Or the other way around, and students don't pick up a pen or note-taking tool as they read. Fortunately, our students can learn to annotate text effectively as they grow and learn in other areas. This post has specific annotation tips to use if you read carefully. Using these notation tips will help your students understand a text, analyze a text, and think about the text (spoken and written).

Please note: The links to the hand2mind small group reading kits are affiliate links (meaning I will receive a small commission if you or your school purchase something through the links at no additional cost to you).

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General comments vs. Specific comments

Before we dive into the tips, let's back up a bit and discuss the two main types of notes my students take while reading.

General remarks- This is the most common type of annotation you see on blogs, articles, and Pinterest. In this style of commentary, the student reads the text with the goal of capturing the essence of the topic or story. Students use symbols and common notation instructions that work with any text (make predictions, make connections, interesting facts, etc.). This type of commentary works very well when students read a text once for a single purpose or during their first reading of a text.

Specific comments-When students complete this type of commentary, they have a specific purpose in mind and are looking for textual details, facts, and evidence that fit that purpose. As you've probably noticed, this type of notation lends itself to close reading, as each reading of the text serves a new purpose. It doesn't make sense for students to use the same notation symbols and generic directions every time they read. Specific notes are also useful for discussions in literary circles and literature analysis.

Some of the annotation tips I share work well with both types of annotation, and some are better suited to helping students with specific annotations.

Teach students the purpose of commenting

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Even before I start modeling and allowing my students to practice commenting on the text, we spend time discussing the purpose and benefits (or possibilities) of commenting. We discuss what commenting is, what it looks like, what tools can be used, and how it helps the reader.

We discuss how annotations help readers:

  • focus on what you are reading
  • Understand the details of a text, including details that are complex or difficult to understand
  • Track your thoughts and feelings about a text and its details
  • Keep track of important details
  • prepare the discussion
  • get ready to write about a text

Click here or on the image below for a free printable version that I use when entering notes.

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Comment on each upcoming reading with a specific purpose

Remember how we talked about the difference between general and specific notes above? One of my best tips for close reading notes is to have students write down each reading with a specific focus. As they read, they should specifically comment on the details and textual evidence that support their discussion or response to the suggested approach for that reading.

(Video) Complete Lesson: Modeling Close Reading of Short Texts

For example, if students are reading a text to understand how the author is using the character to develop the theme, students should discuss details of the character, such as dialogue, plot, and internal monologue that support the theme. They can then use those comments to respond and discuss the approach.

Color code for each annotation

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Have students use a different color for each reading. This will help them organize their notes and be responsible. Students can refer to specific notes to discuss and reflect on a text.

Click here for the printable version I use to introduce my students to the benefits and purposes of color coding (on page 3).

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Model the annotation process

The first few times you practice close reading strategies with your students, be sure to model how a text will be correctly annotated. To do this, I recommend using shared text, projected on a whiteboard, enlarged to the size of a poster or aText created specifically for modeling.

Here are the steps I follow when preparing to model annotations:

  1. Prepare my materials: The materials I use are interesting text divided into paragraphs (two copies, one for pre-class use and one for class use), a focus topic or question, and an annotation tool (this can be as simple as like a pencil)
  2. Read aloud – Before class, read and discuss the text, keeping in mind the orientation of the focus. Doing this ahead of time will help ensure that the guiding/focus question fits well with the text and that you have plenty of detail to comment on.

And this is what I do to really model the annotation process with my students:

  1. Introduce the text to the students and focus on the suggestion/question. I declare that I will read this text with a specific focus. As I read the text, I will discuss details that show my understanding of the text and the focus question/promise. I also declare that the notes I have chosen will help me discuss the suggestion/question.
  2. Read the text section by section. After reading a sentence or paragraph, stop and think aloud regularly. I do two different ways of thinking out loud:
    1. Stop and Discuss: Whenever I come to an obvious detail, I will stop reading and explain to the students that I am commenting on that detail and why.
    2. Pause, reflect, and then comment: I also model pausing, reflecting, and commenting after reading a passage of text. To do this, I read a paragraph and then think out loud what details I can comment on that fit my main question. I invite students to help me also in the search for details.
  3. When I finish reading and annotating the text, I show students how to use the notes to discuss the focus message or questions. I do this simply by referring to the notes (pointing to them and using the same words) while commenting on the text.

My favorite part to useSmall group close-up reading kits developed with Hand2mindsample texts are easels. This allows the teacher to easily model how text is written down in a small group.

Template for using annotations

In addition to modeling how text is annotated for specific purposes, be sure to explicitly model how annotations will be used to support oral and written discussion of the text. This will help your students see the purpose of commenting and be more successful with this important strategy.

After modeling how to annotate text (using the steps outlined in the previous section), I follow a lesson on how to use those annotations to discuss and write about text. Template how to discuss the text using notes on the same day template how to comment. So we come back the next day and I model explicitly how those notes are used in writing.

I know this may sound challenging, but it is very easy. All you have to do is review your notes, rephrase the focus message, reply to the message, and then provide text details (your notes) to support your response. In doing so, I'm actually pointing out the details I've discussed to show students the connection between what I've discussed and my reaction to the text.

(Video) Guided Reading in a 3rd Grade Classroom

Annotations can be a very powerful tool for readers for many reasons. I hope these tips help you and your students. Do you have annotation tips that work well for your readers? Tell us in the comments!

Need close reading resources?

Click below for close reading resources to implement rigorous and engaging close reading instruction in your classroom. These close reading resources are available in digital formats through TeachersPayTeachers or as durable goods (with included lesson plans) through Hand2mind.

Hand2Mind Mindful Reading Kits

These reading kits contain all the materials you need to implement the note-taking tips and strategies shared in this publication. They come ready to use with a text template easel (for template note taking), color-coded small group note-taking kits, and lesson plans with specific note-taking instructions for each reading.

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Fourth Grade Rough Reading Kit

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TeachersPayTeachers Close Reading Resources

The main difference between the TpT ​​version and the Hand2mind version (besides the digital aspect) is that the lesson plans with specific annotation direction are exclusive to the Hand2mind kits.

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(Video) Real Talk in ELT - Reading Activity Alternatives | Kelly Pennington ELT

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(Video) How to Read & Take Notes Like a PhD Student | Tips for Reading Fast & Efficiently for Slow Readers


What are the 5 close reading strategies? ›

Here are five strategies for teaching close reading, along with ways to incorporate digital tools into the process:
  • Model close reading. ...
  • Annotate with a purpose. ...
  • Write in the margins. ...
  • Collaborate and listen. ...
  • Encourage close reading across the curriculum.
Aug 24, 2015

How do you teach a close reading lesson? ›

11 Tips to Turn Every Student Into a Close Reader
  1. Be a Close Reader Yourself. ...
  2. Teach “Stretch Texts” ...
  3. Teach Students to Look for the Evidence. ...
  4. Always Set a Purpose for Reading. ...
  5. Differentiate Your Instruction. ...
  6. Focus on Making Connections. ...
  7. Model it First. ...
  8. Let Them Make Mistakes.
Jan 17, 2014

What are 3 close reading strategies? ›

3 Tips For Teaching Close Reading
  • Emphasize to your students to read the passage multiple times. As simple as this sounds, it can be difficult to have a student read the text two, three, or more times. ...
  • Promote comprehension through vocabulary. ...
  • Use Text-dependent questions and graphic organizers.
Apr 8, 2016

What are the 4 C's in reading? ›

To prepare for this activity, assign the students reading homework, and on your own (using the giant Post-its), draw a four square grid that has the following labels in each square: Make connections, identify changes, raise challenges, and note concepts.

What are the 4 stages of close reading? ›

Close reading is a strategy for making meaning of complex texts through four critical phases of understanding: literal, analytical, conceptual, and evaluative.

What is the proper sequence for close reading? ›

There is no specific sequence in a close read; these steps are meant to generally guide you in crafting a lesson that scaffolds students and focuses on increasingly complex text dependent questions. Begin with questions about the big ideas in the text and gradually ask higher level questions.

What are examples of close reading techniques? ›

Close reading activities include:
  • outlining the content of the text for the students.
  • using headings or subheadings to identify the gist of the text.
  • selecting an extract for close reading providing a copy for students to annotate where students identify, highlight and discuss key vocabulary and phrases.
Apr 7, 2020

What are close reading notes? ›

A close reading is a very in-depth, careful analysis of a short text. This text can be a passage selected from a novel, a poem, an image, a short story, etc. The analysis looks carefully at what is happening in the short text, but isn't necessarily isolated from references outside the text.

What is the most challenging part of close reading? ›

1. Model and Support – This challenge is the whole premise for close reading and why it is needed. Close reading helps the students reach those deeper levels of analysis. To help students, embed support through teacher modeling and annotation directions that lead the student to higher levels.

What are the 7 strategies of reading skills? ›

The seven strategies of highly skilled readers include activating, summarizing, monitoring and clarifying, visualizing and organizing, searching and selecting, questioning, and inferring.

What are the 6 pillars of reading? ›

Research has shown that there are six key components that contribute to successful beginning reading. Because of the importance of these components, they have become known as the 'Big Six': oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

What are the five keys to reading? ›

  • Phonemic Awareness.
  • Phonics.
  • Fluency.
  • Vocabulary.
  • Comprehension.

What are close reading questions? ›

  • Questions about key ideas and details: what did the text say?
  • Questions about craft and structure: how did the text work?
  • Questions about integration of knowledge and meaning: what did the text mean?
Feb 2, 2015

What are the most effective reading techniques? ›

The best reading techniques are the SQ3R technique, skimming, scanning, active reading, detailed reading, and structure-proposition-evaluation.

What are the 4 Critical reading skills? ›

Top 5 critical reading techniques
  • Survey – Know what you're looking for! Before you crack open your book, take a few minutes to read the preface and introduction, and browse through the table of contents and the index. ...
  • Ask questions. ...
  • Read actively. ...
  • Respond to your own questions. ...
  • Record key concepts.
Apr 2, 2013

What are the 6 learning skills? ›

The six learning skills and work habits are responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and self-regulation.

What are the 3 foundations of reading? ›

Oral language skills and phonological awareness. Motivation to learn and appreciation for literate forms. Print awareness and letter knowledge.

What are the 4 before reading strategies? ›

Before Reading
  • Establish a purpose for reading.
  • Identify and discuss difficult words, phrases, and concepts in the text.
  • Preview the text (by surveying the title, illustrations, and unusual text structures) to make predictions about its content.
  • Think, talk, and write about the topic of the text.
Jul 12, 2014

What are the 5 stages of the reading process? ›

The reading process involves 5 stages:
  • Prereading.
  • Reading.
  • Responding.
  • Exploring.
  • Applying.

What are 10 reading strategies? ›

10 Strategies to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for College
  • Find Your Reading Corner. ...
  • Preview the Text. ...
  • Use Smart Starting Strategies. ...
  • Highlight or Annotate the Text. ...
  • Take Notes on Main Points. ...
  • Write Questions as You Read. ...
  • Look Up Words You Don't Know. ...
  • Make Connections.
Aug 25, 2020

How many paragraphs are in close reading? ›

Close Reading Essay Format

The format of a close reading essay is the same as most essays you're experienced with: you start with an introduction that ends with a stated thesis. There are three body paragraphs that support the thesis using clear textual details often displayed as quotes.

What should you not do in close reading? ›

Don't take your eyes off the words. Work from the actual text in front of you, not from a sort of mental paraphrase of what the text says. As you do so, remember to think carefully about sound, not only when reading poetry but also when analysing prose.

What are the disadvantages of close reading? ›

It allows the viewer to interpret and pay attention to individual words and pick apart scenes and uncover hidden ideas. However, the disadvantage to close reading is the fact that it is not as easy as it sounds.

What are the 12 principles of teaching reading? ›

CTELL's list include the following:
  • Connecting literacy instruction with the linguistic, cultural, home backgrounds of the learner:
  • Developing emergent literacy skills, behaviours and attitudes;
  • Phonemic awareness instruction;
  • Decoding instruction;
  • Comprehension instruction;
  • Independent reading;
  • Fluency instruction;
Jun 19, 2015

What are the 8 components of reading? ›

Continue reading to learn more about these eight evidence-based elements of reading and literacy instruction:
  • Phonemic Awareness.
  • Phonics.
  • Fluency.
  • Vocabulary.
  • Comprehension.
  • Writing.
  • Language.
  • Knowledge Building.
Jan 4, 2022

What are the big 5 components of literacy? ›

English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction
  • Phonemic awareness. Phonemes are the smallest units making up spoken language. ...
  • Phonics. ...
  • Vocabulary development. ...
  • Reading fluency, including oral reading skills. ...
  • Reading comprehension strategies.

What are the 7 active reading strategies? ›

The seven strategies of highly skilled readers include activating, summarizing, monitoring and clarifying, visualizing and organizing, searching and selecting, questioning, and inferring.

What are the five 5 thinking strategies of good readers? ›

To improve students' reading comprehension, teachers should introduce the seven cognitive strategies of effective readers: activating, inferring, monitoring-clarifying, questioning, searching-selecting, summarizing, and visualizing-organizing.

What are the 5 domains of reading? ›

There are five aspects to the process of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency. These five aspects work together to create the reading experience. As children learn to read they must develop skills in all five of these areas in order to become successful readers.

What are the 4 main type of reading strategies? ›

4 Different Types of Reading Techniques
  • Skimming. Skimming, sometimes referred to as gist reading, means going through the text to grasp the main idea. ...
  • Scanning. Here, the reader quickly scuttles across sentences to get to a particular piece of information. ...
  • Intensive Reading. ...
  • Extensive reading.
Feb 21, 2021


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