The Closer You Get, the More You See

What does Close Reading mean?

Students who meet the expectations of the standards are able to comprehend complex text closely. They are close readers, delving into texts in order to unearth evidence, construct knowledge, and broaden their understanding of the text and world. As thinkers, such students are able to reason logically and use what they read to discuss options, construct arguments, convey information, and make decisions.

from “Sharing Complex Text and the CCSS”           Aspen Institute 2013

An article published last year in the Harvard Library Research Guides begins with this explanation of reading strategies: Critical reading–active engagement and interaction with texts–is essential to your academic success at Harvard, and to your intellectual growth.  Research has shown that students who read deliberately retain more information and retain it longer.  It goes on to say: Your college reading assignments will probably be more substantial and more sophisticated than those you are used to from high school. The amount of reading will almost certainly be greater.  College students rarely have the luxury of successive re-readings of material either, given the pace of life in and out of the classroom.

Imagine getting students college and career ready by practicing these skills repeatedly in the pre-K through 12 grade levels with a variety oftexts to “read” closely in various languages along with their own? Let’s explore high and low tech options to get our students on this path:

WHAT to do while they are reading; WHY they are reading and; WHAT they will do after reading.

Instead of looking only at traditional or obvious reading choices such as news articles, literature, letters, etc., let’s try a different approach that offers greater variety and flexibility and that targets more levels and ages of language learners.  Images, paintings, drawings, architecture or even different types of infographics can be read closely using the same strategies that we use for more traditional texts.


What do you see in the picture? Name objects, people, places, ideas, descriptions of scenes using a variety of vocabulary and grammar functions. What are the parts of the picture? What does the title tell you? Who is the author/creator and what does the author’s/creator’s background tell you?

Low tech: Use think/pair/share strategies, brainstorm in class, write lists of words and ideas on graphic organizers.

High tech: Add comments on a Google doc while viewing the graphic, picture, painting, etc. or use one of these tech tools for students to collaborate: wallwisher/padlet or popplet.


Have students make their thinking visible through writing on, in the margins of, or all around the image/graphic. Students should use words, symbols or short phrases to identify the purpose for reading the image/graphic and to extract meaning from it.

Low tech: Use pen or pencil on the image/graphic (no highlighters here: we want students to write out their thinking), Post-it notes or flags may be attached to the image/graphic if writing directly on it is not possible.

High tech: You and your students can annotate with tools such as snagit, diigo, marqueed, skitch or bounce.

Outline, Summarize, and Analyze/Look for repetitions and patterns

All of the following steps can be intertwined with annotating and understanding the graphic/picture/art students are reading. These steps should require students not simply to restate what they see, but also to dig deeper into the meaning and impact of the graphic  When analyzing, they should reflect upon and decide how effectively the images are used. What emotional impact do the images have or what information is conveyed by the images? The questions should be pertinent and focused on the graphic and should dig more deeply into meaning.

Low tech: Activities can be done in class using a Gradual Release of Responsibility strategy where the teacher models steps with one graphic and lets students try the strategy independently with other graphics while the teacher circulates to help with any struggles or roadblocks, to guide students, and to keep them on task. During this process you can provide students with questions, graphic organizers, and other tasks to extract meaning, purpose, biases, and ideologies.

High tech: Use a Google Form as a questionnaire to analyze the graphic or create a flipped lesson where students view a graphic for homework and complete the activities at home using eduCanon or blendspace (many of the tools can be used for viewing both videos and graphics alike). Wikis and blogs could also be used effectively for these collaborative tasks.

Contextualize/Compare and Contrast

When students have had time to complete the assigned tasks of reading and annotating the image/graphic, they should take time to consider various points of view. When asked to contextualize the image/graphic, students should consider how it is rooted in its historical, cultural, material, and intellectual circumstances as well as through the lens of their own experiences of living in a particular time and place.

Consider formative and summative performance assessments or culminating activities that focus on higher level thinking where students show evidence of their learning. Here are examples of questions students should be asking themselves:

  • Why read this graphic at this point in the theme/unit we are studying?
  • How does the graphic contribute to the main concepts/purpose of the theme/unit (learning targets)?
  • How does it compare/contrast with other graphics that preceded it?
  • Has our thinking been changed by this graphic? If so, how has it affected our response to the issues and themes that it represents?

Low tech: Write a letter or email to the author/creator and share it with classmates/teacher, create a conversation/interview with the author/creator and present to class, find other graphics that students can compare/contrast using a Venn diagram, write a critique on the graphic, create a brochure or commercial based on the information read in the graphic

High tech: Many of the same ideas shared above for low tech can be done in a high tech way using these tech tools: educreations, voicethread, glogster, google presentation, google voice, google hangouts, piccollage and many many more!

Ideas and strategies used above were adapted for using graphics and are based on:


Consider some of these examples of graphics:


Make Your Own Infographics


Close Reading Resources

Tech Resources—graphic-organizers.html

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