Close Reading Protocol


The Close Reading Protocol strategy asks students to carefully and purposefully read and reread a text. When students “close read,” they focus on what the author has to say, what the author’s purpose is, what the words mean, and what the structure of the text tells us. This approach ensures that students really understand what they’ve read. We ask students to carefully investigate a text in order to make connections to essential questions about history, human behavior, and ourselves. Skillful close reading is also an important foundation for helping students develop the ability to justify their claims in class discussions and writing assignments with specific evidence. A typical close reading activity uses some or all of the steps in the procedure below.


  1. Read Aloud Text
    You or a confident student reader can read the text aloud. Students should follow along with the reading. Ask students to circle unfamiliar words as they listen. After the read-aloud, as students share these words with the class, decide which words to define immediately to limit confusion and which definitions you want students to uncover through careful reading.
  2. Students Read Silently
    Ask students to read silently and note specific words or phrases that jump out at them for any number of reasons: because they are interesting, familiar, strange, confusing, funny, troubling, difficult, etc. Share some of these as a class. Particular questions to ask students at this stage of the reading are:
    • What can you already infer about the author of this text?
    • How is the text structured?
    • Does this structure make it easy or difficult to make meaning?
    • Does this structure tell us anything about the author’s style or purpose?
  3. Students Answer Text-Dependent Questions
    In small groups, have students read the text in chunks and answer a set of text-dependent questions. Text-dependent questions are those that can be answered based only on careful analysis of the text itself.
  4. Students Create a Visual Image
    In small groups, have students create a visual image on paper that captures the essence of the text. You may also want students to include a three-word or one-sentence summary of each section of text. Groups can be assigned either the entire text or sections of text for this portion of the close read.
  5. Students Participate in a Gallery Walk
    Ask students to do a gallery walk of the images that have been created.
  6. Transition to Discussion
    At this point, we recommend organizing a class discussion so that students can make connections beyond the text. This discussion can be informal or can use the format of the Socratic Seminar or Save the Last Word for Me strategies.

You can prepare some questions, use the essential questions from the classroom, or have students themselves create the questions for a discussion. To do this, you might guide the students by asking them to find connections between the essential questions and the text or to write questions based on what resonates with them.

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