Hey teacher friends! This is Tanya G. Marshall from The Butterfly Teacher! I am so excited to guest post again for Minds in Bloom! It is an honor to join this community of passionate educators who are looking for ways to engage students and improve learning. This post shares tips for helping students read more deeply and comprehend better. These close reading strategies can be used across grade levels.
It is so frustrating and discouraging to see students read entire pages and paragraphs but then have no clue WHAT they actually read. Just because a student can read fluently doesn’t mean they are reading deeply. The close reading strategies listed below are easy to implement in whole group or in a small guided reading group with students.
What Are Close Reading Strategies?
Before we dig into the nitty-gritty details of close reading, I want to briefly define what close reading strategies are. It’s when a reader pulls a deeper meaning and understanding from a text based on the vocabulary and sentences used. Close reading strategies, like the ones listed below, help students comprehend better and read more deeply.
1 – Give Students Chunks of Targeted Practice
One strategy for helping students read more deeply is to break longer texts or passages into smaller chunks for more targeted reading practice. Each week, I give my students Non-Fiction Quick Reads.
2 – Teach Students How to Highlight and Circle Keywords/Phrases
Another close reading strategy for helping students read more deeply is to show them how to highlight keywords and phrases. When we are reading our short stories, our non-fiction quick reads, and our chapter books, I have my kids highlight things like the 5 Ws and 1 H:
- Who is this passage about? Who the main character? Who is talking or telling the story right now?
- Where is the action happening? Where are the characters?
- Why did the character do that? Why is this happening?
- What do you think will happen next? What line from the story/paragraph gives you this idea? What does this word mean?
- When did the action happen? When did the character ____?
- How did the story end? How does the character feel? How do you know this word means _____?
3 – Model Accurate Reading Habits to Them Through Read-Alouds
Another easy but very effective way of helping students read more deeply is to model close reading strategies to them with read-alouds. I read out loud to my students all throughout the school year. Students of ALL ages love a good story! Plus, they get to see what it’s like to actually use close reading strategies. Students NEED to see that it’s normal to stop every few sentences and ask themselves questions about what they’re reading. Students will be encouraged to see their teacher stopping to think out loud about what he or she is reading. This encourages them to do the same, which will help them read more deeply during independent reading time.
A BONUS Tip to Make Your Read-Alouds More Rigorous
Before I read to my students, I read through the book myself. I print questions that I want to ask my students on sticky notes and keep them in my read-aloud books.
4 – Teach Students How To Ask Themselves Questions While Reading
This close reading strategy for helping students read more deeply goes hand-in-hand with the second strategy above. I always tell my students, “Pretend there’s a teacher inside your head asking you questions while you read.” As crazy as it may sound, students who struggle to stop and read more deeply need to visualize and pretend that a teacher’s voice is inside their head guiding them. One of the best way to implement this reading strategy is to keep your questions simple and consistent. Your students will learn WHAT this looks like by watching and listening to you do it during your read-aloud time.
The 5 W and 1 H questions I mentioned above are examples of the types of questions students should be asking themselves as they read. Over time, they learn how to self-question during reading without your help. This helps them read more deeply.
5 – Making Time to Talk About Their Reading
One final tip for helping students read more deeply is to make time in your classroom for students to talk about the things they read each day. One year I had a VERY chatty class! I could NOT get them to stop talking. So, instead of continuing the struggle to get them quiet, I decided to find ways to let them talk about their learning. Here are some things we did:
- Books talks
- Literature discussion circles
- Turn and talk to your neighbor about what you just read
- Book club reading groups
- Book buddies/partner reading
That class ended up with amazing reading growth!
For the students who struggle with this and love to respond by saying, “I don’t know”—I let them use a bookmark with the 5 W questions and their highlighted sections of reading to form a “script.” Their partner asks them a question, and they respond in a complete sentence. It really helps them build practice with digging more deeply in the text to talk about what they’ve read.
Talking about what you’ve read and putting descriptions in your own words is a higher-order thinking skill. It forces students to think critically and to go back to the text more. So now, every year, I allow students to talk about (and write about) their reading.
Sometimes trying to implement too many teaching strategies at once overwhelms me as a teacher. I always recommend finding at least one golden nugget from a list of ideas and work on mastering that one strategy first with students. Then, incorporate another idea in your classroom. Eventually, you’ll have a set of strategies that you are using each week that help students read more deeply.
I hope you found some useful tips on helping your students read more deeply!
Which idea stands out to you the most? Or what questions do you have about reading instruction? Please share in the comments below!
Tanya G. Marshall is a busy mama to a bouncy and bright little boy named Caleb. She is also a teacher and a blogger for The Butterfly Teacher. She enjoys creating resources for others in her Teachers Pay Teachers store. Tanya loves eating good food, reading, and being with family and friends! Be sure to connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.