A Useful Skill for Educators of All Subjects

A Useful Skill for Educators of All Subjects

Teaching Tip

Close reading

A Useful Skill for Educators of all Subjects

Close reading

Close reading is a well-known technique employed in the study of such subjects as literature and social studies in elementary and secondary schools. However, it is also a valuable skill to have in the study of just about any subject at any educational level. Teaching students to dig deeper into texts and make evidence-based claims is a vital skill that increases both critical-thinking skills and reading comprehension. As students develop this skill, they will subconsciously begin to examine every text they read in a more meaningful way. Most importantly, in teaching this technique, we can prepare our education students to use close reading to help their future students.

A teacher can choose to have their students analyze one or more aspects of a writing, such as the number of times an author states a fact versus an opinion, or when finding supporting primary, secondary and tertiary details within a specific article. Various rubrics can be employed to aid in this process and different areas of interest can be examined from the same text.

Approaching a detail-based close reading with students

As an example, a teacher assigns a ceramics article to his/her students, at the same time they are learning to create and critique art works. Using close reading techniques can have a two-fold advantage in this case. Students can be assigned to find the primary, secondary and tertiary details in the article that support an evidence-based claim they make. But the teacher can also use this experience as a model to help students move beyond offering surface art critiques. Just like in dissecting the article, one can be taught a systematic approach that will aid in both finding multiple layers of meaning and seeing the various art elements that exist in a particular work. This parallel can be shown to the students.

First students need to see a demonstration of close reading to better understand the concept. The teacher can dissect part of an article on a smart board – modeling how to highlight details. Then the class can work together to dissect a subsequent part of the article (or another article).

  • Draw a box around the main idea in black.
  • Highlight primary ideas of each paragraph with a primary color.
  • Highlight secondary ideas of each paragraph with a secondary color.
  • Highlight tertiary ideas of each paragraph with a tertiary color.

Let students choose their own colors but since this is an art assignment – tell them that they must match the correct type of category (e.g. selecting a primary color to highlight a primary detail)

The teacher could also segue this exercise into a full inquiry-based lesson, breaking the students into groups. Perhaps some students would like to do more investigation into why some ceramic works shatter and others do not when put into a kiln, while others might like to theorize why certain cultures created particular works.

Odell Education Literacy Tool Box

Odell Education has developed a “Literacy Tool Box” to help build literacy skills. It contains various tools, handouts and checklists that our future educators can use in the field with their students. One of these tools that can help students organize their thoughts while close reading, is the Forming Evidence-Based Claims Sheet. The teacher can have students use this for the reading portion of an assignment and then even modify it for use as a critique sheet or subsequent inquiry-based assignment.

Following is an example of a completed Forming Evidence-Based Claims sheet for a section of text written by Maureen Makey, found in her Experience Clay textbook.


Mackey, Maureen. Experience Clay. Worcester, MA: Davis Pub., 2003. Print.

"Forming Evidence-Based Claims." Odelleducation.com. Odell Education, Retrieved from