If you’re interested in close reading, you may know that it’s not always easy and requires a good deal of focus and practice. One of the best ways in which you can start close reading or improve your close reading skills is to implement some close reading strategies.
Close reading involves reading a piece of text carefully to glean as much meaning and context out of it as possible. It’s the art of reading words and phrases closely enough to understand exactly what the author is intending to convey. In other words, close reading is, in essence, the opposite of passive reading, which involves skimming through chunks of text without fully understanding and absorbing the impact of words and phrases.
Passive reading is often useful when you’re reading novels and other entertaining material that doesn’t exactly require in-depth analysis and doesn’t merit too much focus and concentration. However, the same cannot be said about materials that are used for either academic or professional purposes. These materials should ideally be read as closely as possible to ensure the reader can process and retain every piece of valuable information available.
Besides, closer reading doesn’t just involve reading and re-reading written content, but it also involves understanding and analyzing the flow and structure of the article. Therefore, it takes more than just basic reading skills to excel at close reading. In this article, we’ll take you through some of the best close reading strategies in use today.
Follow A Set Procedure
If you truly want to improve your close reading skills, the first thing you’ll need to focus on is developing a procedure for close reading and sticking to it as often as possible. Everyone from young students in school to experienced professors in reputed colleges employ close reading techniques, and they all do so with a set procedure in mind.
You can either learn this procedure from an experienced close reader or choose to develop one yourself based on how you feel you can absorb and retain information best. You shouldn’t necessarily follow a routine or procedure just because it works for someone else? It should work for you as well.
The best way to establish a procedure is to try out different steps related to close reading techniques until you eventually figure which one of these works best for you. A few basic tips and tricks that close readers generally follow ought to help you get started. So let’s go through some steps you can try with close reading to help you get started.
The most popular procedure used by experienced close readers is to first read through and highlight those portions of a text they find to be of the most importance or relevance. Stationery such as a pencil or highlighter pen should suffice here to get you to underline whichever lines in the text you feel are most deserving of analysis. Based on what conclusions you draw from the highlighted words and sentences, you can even frame sentences and notes and take these down so you can come back to them whenever you need.
Those who are experts at close reading will likely tell you that highlighting important bits of text can compel you to pay closer attention to what you’re reading. So think about it – if you’re going through a paper intending to underline and highlight the most important pieces of information in it, aren’t you more likely to find such information than you would be if you were passive reading?
Once you’ve started reading the text on hand as closely as possible and are actively highlighting important portions of it, you’ll soon find that you’re able to analyze the text on a deeper level than you initially could. Sure, this may sound a little confusing, but it’s quite simple. Just try and read a text with the most concentration you can muster, keeping your eye out for important details, and you’ll eventually identify patterns in the writing.
The first thing you may notice is repetition, quickly followed by any comparisons and contradictory statements made by the author. Now, if the author of the paper or book you’re reading is reputed, you can be sure that these repetitions, etc., are not made by accident, and there are generally implications of such words and phrases laid bare for the reader to analyze.
Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye out for words, phrases, and sentences the author has included in the text that seem to be contradictions or repetitions of what they wrote elsewhere in the text.
Ask yourself what the implications of the repetitions, contradictions, etc. could be. A good way to do this would be to frame questions around the author’s assertions and try and answer them as best as you can. This may require you to go back and re-read some of the phrases, words, and sentences you highlighted earlier during your initial reading so you can verify that the author has indeed followed a pattern while writing and that you’ve identified this pattern correctly.
You can then frame a set of questions based on the ideas the author is trying to convey through the text. Once you start answering these questions, you’ll find that you’re analyzing the text in-depth, which is the very essence of close reading.
Look For Evidence
If you’re a teacher looking to teach your students the best close reading strategies, one of the main strategies you simply cannot overlook is to teach them to look for evidence in a text. A good close reader should ideally be able to identify any signs of evidence in the text to support their notions and assertions about what they’re reading.
If your students are reading a thesis or research paper, train them to identify the main relevant arguments in the source material. Once they’ve successfully identified the main argument, ask them to look for evidence supporting the argument (and if available, evidence refuting it). In doing so, they’ll be able to identify the basics of writing a thesis which could help them eventually write papers of their own.
In identifying evidence from the text, those who are learning to close read will successfully identify facts and other key bits of information over time.
Choose Complex Texts
When learning to close read, it doesn’t make sense to simply stick to materials that you or your students understand well enough (if you’re a teacher). Reading simple texts that can be understood without much focus or concentration wouldn’t prove to be challenging enough for those looking to master close reading.
Therefore, it’s important to pick out passages or papers that are complex and require extra concentration and focus on understanding and analyzing effectively. In doing so, you’ll be able to absorb as much information and meaning as possible from complex pieces of text. Consider the reason behind choosing a certain text for close reading before you begin working on it or ask your students to work on it.
When picking out passages from books and novels, make sure that the passage you’ve chosen is not so straightforward as to leave no room for more than one interpretation or nothing other than a simple interpretation. Instead, focus on passages that are not unambiguous and require a fair bit of concentration, skill, and effort to interpret effectively.
Teaching a student or a class of students to close read won’t exactly be a cakewalk, and they’re sure to make more than a few mistakes interpreting the text you’ve assigned to them. This is why we’d say it’s very important to let them make these mistakes; we’d even go so far as to say that you should encourage them to make mistakes. This is true if the learner in question here is you as well rather than someone you’re teaching.
Since not all text is ambiguous, interpreting written content wrongly is part of the whole reading experience. While it’s possible to make such mistakes while passive reading as well, you’re even more likely to make mistakes during close reading. This is mainly because close reading requires readers to put forward their ideas and interpretations on what a text is about rather than take it at face value.
Besides, close reading is not a skill that most people would say comes naturally to them. Therefore, making mistakes while close reading is more common than you’d think – even among experienced readers and researchers. Misinterpretations shouldn’t discourage you or your students from continuing your journey with close reading; they’re just steppingstones to close reading success.
The main idea behind following close reading strategies is for students to improve their focus and try and look beyond the words and phrases thrown at them. It encourages and enables them to dig deeper and interpret the text in different ways, which always for the possibility of going wrong now and again.
Close reading is a very useful skill, and as is the case with all skills, it requires constant and dedicated practice. We know practicing close reading over and over again can get quite tiring and monotonous if you keep at it for a while. You also run the risk of over-analyzing a piece of text until its meaning gets convoluted if you read it too closely.
However, targeted practice can truly help you or your students overcome the lack of confidence most people have in their close reading and interpretation skills. The only way to beat monotony with close reading practice is to mix up the content you’re reading now and again. No pieces of source material can be interpreted in the same way, and no two forms of writing offer the same conclusions.
Therefore, reading various forms of written content can provide the variety you may need in helping you break free from fatigue from close reading. Besides, mixing things up will also prove to be more challenging and may just pique your interest in the text you’re supposed to interpret. This challenge can also spark your curiosity and instill the love for close reading over time, as it does with most people that indulge in this practice.
Once you get the hang of how you can go through a paper or novel with a fine comb to find important bits of information that aren’t easy to interpret, you may just find yourself enjoying the process of practicing close reading and mastering it over time.
Discuss Your Analysis
Let’s say you’ve mastered the art of close reading and are now ready to put your skills into action. Now, you have just one – you lack confidence. This is not uncommon among those who learn close reading, and it’s especially true for young children learning how to close read at school.
No matter how old or young, experienced or inexperienced a learner is, when it comes to close reading, nearly everyone grapples with a lack of confidence after their initial learning sessions. After all, you’re always a little afraid that you may interpret the text wrongly and lose the confidence you had in your abilities if you’re an inexperienced close reader.
One of the best ways in which you can build up your confidence as a close reader is to discuss your analysis and interpretations with fellow close readers.
Alternatively, if you’re teaching children how to close read, you can assign the same text to all of them, ask them to close read as best as they can, and encourage them to discuss their ideas with one another. Let them know that no one interpretation is correct or incorrect, and they’re welcome to share their thoughts on the text, no matter how far-fetched these may be.
The best content to use for discussions after close reading is fictional material since this is usually ambiguous and open to more than interpretation. This is why many of those who teach close reading strategies often rely on poetry to help readers put forward their interpretations in a group setting.
Use Additional Resources
To truly understand the nuances of close reading, one resource may not be enough. This is why there are several resources available online and offline that can help you hone your or your students’ close reading skills. The best of these resources are books on close reading that contain clear instruction and guidelines on how those wishing to learn close reading can do so effectively.
Highly reputed authors generally write such books with years of research to back up the strategies, tips, and tricks they provide users with to teach them the specifics of close reading. Don’t be surprised to find that books on close reading are often written by teachers who have had practical experience with teaching students how to close read over many years.
In reading these books, you’ll not only grasp the basic concepts behind close reading but also find yourself developing into an expert close reader in no time. Books on close reading essentially teach you how you can identify and eventually analyze important pieces of information in any text. They also teach you methods through which you can retain such pieces of information for as long as possible.
While most books on close reading contain more or less the same strategies and techniques to help users establish and improve upon their close reading skills, some of these books are better than others. Always look out for books written by experts and professors from highly reputed universities as their books are often the most detailed and useful.
All said and done, close reading is one of the most useful skills you can have in your repertoire, which is why it’s often taught to children at a young age. This highly sought-after skill is not only useful for those looking to excel academically and professionally but also for those who wish to interpret and analyze pieces of literature better for their reading pleasure.
While this skill is not particularly difficult to learn, it does require a good amount of time and effort to master. However, it’s never too late to start close reading if you’ve never been able to excel at it before if you keep the close reading strategies we’ve discussed throughout the article in mind. Not only are these strategies easy to execute, but they’re also highly effective for close readers of all ages.
Speaking of all ages, if your child is old enough to read or old enough to understand what you read them, you may want to check out this great learning resource that can help speed up the learning process. This site offers you various stories that you can choose from based on what you know your child will enjoy the most. One of the best features of this site is that it allows you to personalize stories for your child by adding their name and avatar to the stories.
This could greatly help instill a love for reading in your child and will make their path easier towards learning close reading as well. Therefore, as you can see, there’s more than one way to learn close reading with each strategy being as effective as the next, which is why it’s best to try out different strategies and figure out what works best for you.