3 Effective Close Reading Strategies for Informational Text

Ask many students how they feel about close reading informational text, and they’ll tell you it’s a bore. Informational text is full of just that, information. Without a fun story or interesting characters, some view it as a one-way ticket to Snoozeville. Throw in close reading strategies, and you’ve entered the Humdrum House. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Well chosen informational text will be interesting and engaging.  Close reading activities can help your students further understand the content without being tedious.  Keep reading for ideas on close reading activities to your students engaged and entertained.

3 Close Reading Strategies for Informational Text | Minds In Bloom

There Are Different Close Reading Strategies

When deciding which close reading strategy to use with your students, keep the length of the text in mind. 

Short text or passages from longer books can be completed using the traditional three read process outlined in this freebie. Click here to grab your copy to use for reference.  

3 Close Reading Strategies for Informational Text | Minds In Bloom

It’s helpful to provide this anchor chart to your students or to have it posted in the classroom. This resource is also included in the Close Reading Toolkit for Informational Text along with six other posters/anchor charts to reference when completing close reading activities.

When reading a longer text, you can pull out passages and complete the three read process, or use other close reading strategies.  Keep reading to learn ways to implement close reading with longer text successfully.

Engage In Discussion With Prompts

Meaningful discussions are the foundation of close reading activities. All questions, however, are not created equally.  Questions should surround topics that students must refer to the text to answer. Remember, the purpose is for students to pay attention to details and develop a deeper understanding of the text.

Close Reading for Informational Text Discussion Questions | Minds In Bloom

  • The Structure Will Vary:  Working collaboratively to answer these questions is ideal, whether in a whole group, with a partner or in small groups. It is amazing how lively and insightful a discussion can become as students interact with each other and the text. You can decide based on your class how to divide your students best. Let their level of independence and understanding of the process be your guide. If your students are not comfortable with close reading, you can complete these discussion questions as a whole group.  With more practice, they will be able to have independent conversations.
  • Choosing The Text:  Since the passages are longer for this strategy, you can select the parts of the text to discuss, or you can allow your students to choose.  The ultimate goal would be to provide your students with the autonomy to make decisions about the discussion. In the beginning, as students are getting comfortable with close reading activities, you might want to choose the passages, and as they get better with the process, allow them to select their passage. Be sure to have students explain why they select a given passage.  You might also consider assigning jobs within the groups, and one role could be choosing the passage to discuss.
  • Differentiated Questions:  Be sure to ask the right question at the right time. The Close Reading Toolkit For Informational Text organizes the discussion questions by color based on if they would be most appropriate for a first read, second read, third read, or at any time.  While the questions are meaningful at any point, the question levels indicate the anticipated depth of the discussion. With this coded color system, you can easily differentiate for your groups based on those that are ready for in-depth conversations and those that need to stay at the surface level of the text for now.

Use Graphic Organizers and Printables Effectively

Using graphic organizers and printables allows you to explore various aspects of the text including making connections, comparing and contrasting, making inferences, exploring text features, and more. When selecting materials, keep your busy-work sensor on high alert. Everything you give to your students should help them to dig deeper and further understand the text – and in doing so, learn strategies for understanding all texts.

Text Structure Graphic Organizer | Minds In Bloom

  • Keep Thoughts Organized: Using graphic organizers gives students the opportunity to organize the information they’re learning on paper often allows them to develop a better understanding of the facts and keep track of them easily. Some students really benefit from seeing things laid out in this fashion. This can also be a good way to check to make sure students are really understanding the passage and not missing something important.
  • Choose a Focus Skill: Perhaps you are focusing on a specific skill such as summarizing, predicting, or using context clues. Using the right printable is a great way to hone in on that skill. Choose activities that are best for your students based on their current comprehension ability level and the targeted skill. You can find a wide variety of ready to use printable and graphic organizers in the toolkit.
  • Resource for Discussion Questions:  Graphic organizers can be used as a great pre-writing activity for an in-depth text-dependent question.  When students take the time to organize their information on paper, they can refer to it as needed when answering longer-format questions or while discussing the passage.  The graphic organizer provides them with an additional resource beyond the text.

Write All About It

Giving students the opportunity to provide a written response to the text is another close reading strategy that can improve overall comprehension by digging deeper at any stage of reading.

You can use the text to formulate questions or, as student progress, they can formulate their own questions. If your students aren’t ready for that or you are short on time, you could also the questions in the  Close Reading Toolkit for Informational Text. There are 20 sheets of writing prompts that you can print on Avery 8163 labels.  You can also print them on regular paper and have students tape or glue them to their papers. You might consider dedicating one notebook or binder section to close reading writing prompt responses. 

Close Reading for Informational Text Discussion Questions | Minds In Bloom

  • Independent  Writing:  While writing is generally an independent activity, you can also allow students to collaborate by discussing their responses before writing them. Allowing students to do the actual writing on their own gives them the chance to explore their own ideas and insights. Students can also share their writing within their group or with a partner. Doing this gives them practice in reading their writing and expressing their ideas.
  • Exit Slip Assessment:  Writing prompts can also be used as an exit slip for students to quickly demonstrate their knowledge at the end of the lesson.  When using them as an exit slip, be sure to choose responses that require shorter answers.

Resources for Close Reading Strategies

Are you ready to try out these Close Reading strategies during your next informational text lesson?  You can get started with the Close Reading freebie. This free resource includes

  • 1 close reading poster

  • 3 graphic organizers – one for each read

  • 6 “Talk Time” discussion prompt cards

You can use this freebie independently or in addition to other resources and ideas you have for close reading.  However, if you want to dive into close reading fully, a better option for you might be the full Close Reading Toolkit for Informational Text.

This toolkit includes 68 pages full of great resources for your class including

  • 7 posters/anchor charts
  • 36 “Talk Time” discussion prompt cards
  • 18 graphic organizers/printables
  • 20 writing prompt labels/cutouts
  • An explanation of the close reading structure
  • Tips for implementing close reading

Close Reading Toolkit | Minds In Bloom

 

As you move forward with close reading in your classroom, remember that not all informational text reading needs to be close reading.  Students can read with no discussion questions, writing prompts, or strategy.  Allow students to read informational text for fun, to build their knowledge or because it’s interesting.  

What are your top close reading strategies?  If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you looking forward to most, or what questions do you still have? Let’s chat in the comments.

Looking for ways to choose the right informational text?

We’re delighted to have Sharon from Classroom in the Middle guest blogging for us today. She’s written a great post about choosing informational classroom text, which we think you’ll find helpful and informative!

 

Choosing informational classroom text can be challenging, especially since most kids don't enjoy reading informational text. However, there are some tips and tricks to make informational classroom texts more enjoyable. Check out this guest post to get ideas on choosing informational texts.
 
The good news about informational text is that there is LOTS to choose from. The problem is deciding which informational articles will work best with your class.

 

Catching the kids’ interest is always half the battle, so choose an article that relates to something they already have an interest in or one that ties in to their interests in some way. I also suggest looking for articles that will lend themselves well to activities that you want to use as follow-ups. Consider:

 

  • Is this a topic about which students could do a little research?
  • Is the topic something that they could write about?
  • Would it be a fun topic for students to create game questions about?
Choosing informational classroom text can be challenging, especially since most kids don't enjoy reading informational text. However, there are some tips and tricks to make informational classroom texts more enjoyable. Check out this guest post to get ideas on choosing informational texts.

 

Here are some of my favorite kinds of informational text articles to use in class:

  1. Sports: Kids love action, and so many kids love sports stories. Sports stories still seem to appeal especially to boy readers, which is a good thing since, in the middle grades, boys make up a large proportion of reluctant readers. For a wider appeal, try a story about an unusual sport. Or try a sports report in a school paper about a recent game. This would be great for teaching compare and contrast. Students could use statistics from the article to compare the two teams.
  2. Weather: Extreme weather events can generate exciting true stories. There are many articles written especially for students about blizzards, tsunamis, and other types of severe weather. Also check weather or science websites for articles or for short videos to accompany your article. For a follow-up activity, students could look into local weather reports. They could also write their own article about things they like to do on a snow day, on a summer day when the temperature is extremely high, or on a windy day in the spring.
  3. Space: An article about space travel or the planets is great to pair with a fiction article. Students can look for the differences in the organization of the factual article and a narrative sci-fi story. Space articles are especially good if they relate to something the students are learning in science class, and their science teachers will appreciate the reinforcement.
  4. Historical Artifact: Try museum websites for interesting articles about an object from the past. Sometimes one small object can catch students’ interest in a topic that was too abstract to hold their attention in history class. An interesting follow-up might be to have students write about a modern-day object that they think will be in a museum someday.
  5. Unusual Tie-In: For kids who can only seem to get interested in one thing – for example, football – try an article than ties in with their favorite subject in some unusual way. For example, an article that is mainly about the economic plight of a small town might catch their interest if it told about the effect on the town when a factory that produced football jerseys shut down.
  6. How-To: How-to articles are a popular favorite, and they also teach the very useful skill of following written directions. Try searching the internet for food or craft websites that offer free directions for making a craft or a snack recipe. Or pull the directions from a popular old board game and use them as reading material. For a hands-on evaluation of their reading, have students actually make the craft or snack or play the game. With board game directions, students may find that, even though they have been playing the game for years, there are rules that they never knew about.
  7. A Fun Angle: Look for articles that present a fun angle on a school subject. Even a student who just doesn’t like math might enjoy reading about an art project that they could do using tessellations. A kid who thinks history is just dry facts might have fun reading about the craziness at a Renaissance fair. And a report about a local soap box derby might be news that kids would be excited to hear, even though it includes a little math and science.
 

Informational texts provide quick practice that reinforces any reading skill. In addition to compare and contrast and following directions, informational text articles are great for identifying other text structures, such as cause and effect and context clues. History- or science-related articles may include cause and effect relationships that students can find, and almost any informational article is a good choice for studying context clues.

If you are interested, here is a free informational text activity, Let It Snow, Let It Snow! It includes one page of informational text that is set up like a magazine page, one page of multiple choice questions, and a graphic organizer.

 

Choosing informational classroom text can be challenging, especially since most kids don't enjoy reading informational text. However, there are some tips and tricks to make informational classroom texts more enjoyable. Check out this guest post to get ideas on choosing informational texts.


Classroon Middle ThumbnailSharon Fabian, from the Classroom in the Middle blog, is a retired middle school teacher with experience teaching English, reading, and a variety of other subjects. She loves having more time now to create teaching resources – especially materials for teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing. Here is the link to her store, also called Classroom in the Middle.

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