Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 1

Students need to be taught how to read complex texts. One of the strategies for learning how is close reading. It slows the reader down to notice and ponder more. It also connects meaning and builds systems of thought.

Text complexity with close reading

Complex text requires a close reading. So what makes a text complex? There are three "ingredients" to text complexity:

It's important to understand text complexity to build students' literacy skills. As they become more skilled, they will read more complex text on their own.

Introduction to close reading

Here's an overview of close reading:

What does close reading look like in the classroom?

Here are some examples of close reading at different grade levels and content areas (or components of it such as annotation):

What are the steps for doing a close read?
Click here to download as PDF

Close reading may look different at different ages and content areas. From the research I've done, all close reading has these components:
  • Close reading is a strategy for reading complex text, something that would be at the student's frustration level. However, for primary grades, there are instances where the teacher reads aloud.
  • It is good to do with short passages.
  • The text is read and reread several times.
  • Students learn to annotate their thoughts as part of the process.
I've created the Close Read poster based on the training I received at the Arizona Department of Education, which is largely based on the work of Fisher, Frey, and Lapp. I follow all of these steps to introduce the process.

However, the amount of scaffolding and support needed will be based on the level of text complexity in relation to their independent/frustration reading level. Some scaffolds will (and should) be removed as time goes on, such as step six with the teacher reading and modeling annotation.
Poster CC By Tracy Watanabe & Photo CC By Denise Krebs


Annotation is an important part of close reading. Again, it will look different at the different grade levels.

Annotating with iPads

For annotating with iPads, the students could take a photo of the text, then annotate using various apps.
  • Educreations is a favorite because you can add pages and annotate on the pages with the tools. Educreations is an iPad app that can also be accessed from your browser. Once saved on the iPad, it will also save to the account created.  Since Educreations is like an interactive whiteboard, it requires a narration to record and save.
  • Noteability is another app that is easy to use. Unlike Educreations, it does not require a narration, but that is an option. It also can be saved to DropBox easily. (Note: It also works well with My Big Campus). Here's a brief tutorial on how to use it:

    Annotating on a desktop computer

    If the text is on the Internet, it would be easy to annotate in Diigo, or take a screen shot then annotate in Paint (or Pages, if you are working on a Mac) as well as Google Docs/Apps.

    Text-dependent questions

    There's not a set guide for creating text-dependent questions; however, I like to use Bloom's Revised Taxonomy with Webb's Depth of Knowledge or this poster as my guide:

    Student Task

    What can they do/create as evidence of learning? The culminating activity should capitalize on the key ideas, essential questions, or their understanding. It should include:
    • mastery of one or more of the standards;
    • writing;
    • and, is structured as independent practice (for a formative assessment).
    As a formative assessment, the teacher needs to know how it will inform her/his instruction. Here are the steps to think through:
    • Will it be graded? If so, a rubric needs to be created and shared with the students. If not, prepare a place to record anecdotal notes or a checklist of mastery.
    • How will instruction change based on the information you've learned about student understanding? What scaffolds can you put in place to help, if needed. What extended learning can you provide (such as a blog post sharing their products with a community outside the classroom)?
    • What specific feedback can you give the students to help them progress?

    Final thoughts

    Close reading won't take place all of the time, and it won't need all of the steps I've shared. It is a strategy that will look different for different texts based on the genre, purpose for the reading, the text complexity, and the student's ages.

    While planning for close reading, consider your readers, your text, and how to support them with scaffolds. Scaffolds are meant to be taken away, therefore, the steps of a close read will change over time.

    In Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 2, I will expand on annotating with iPads, and in Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 3, I expand with annotating with Diigo.
    • If you have a great app or way to annotate with technology, please share. I'm interested in learning from you.
    • What does close reading look like in your class?
    • What tips or resources can you share about creating text-dependent questions?
    • What other questions about close reading do you still have?
    • How else does this post connect with you?
    Special thanks to Gina Fraher for the opportunity to close read with her students, and Jodi Walker for inspiring me to give this a try.


    1. Tracy
      Thank you for sharing the poster on Text Dependent Questions. For me, this poster really helped me create text dependent questions. Instead of just looking back through the text to create my questions, I would think of very specific questions under each of the six catergories listed on the poster. This really helped me create questions that went from lower level to higher level.

      1. Hi Jodi,

        So glad the poster is useful! It really helped me create text-dependent questions also. Thanks again for your encouragement to give this a try.

        Kind regards,

    2. You should take a look at Subtext, an iPad app that can change the way you read with students. Thank you for sharing all of your great posters.

      1. Hi Heather,

        Thanks so much for sharing about Subtext! I have not seen that before and from the video I watched, I'm excited to give it a try. I saw that it was currently free and works with Edmodo also. Thanks!

        Kind regards,

      2. Here is a presentation I created on Haiku Deck for using Subtext & Edmodo:

    3. What a WOW post about close reading! Thanks for all of this information. I pinned it so I can read "closer" later. :)


    4. What great information, Tracy! I share CCSS information with teachers in my district at Yours is the most comprehensive and helpful article I've seen! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Thanks Mary! You've created a great Scoop It about CCSS. I appreciate your sharing.

        Kind regards,

    5. I keep coming back to this article as I prepare close reading trainings with teachers, as well as others you have. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    6. I used this article in my graduate course today! You are amazing!!! Theresa


    Post a Comment

    Directions for posting:

    1) Choose "Comment As" first. If you don't have a Google/Blogger account, you can choose Name/URL and type in your name, then place the web site that best describes you in the URL (i.e. Or, you can choose "Anonymous".

    2) You may need to press "Post Comment" more than one time.

    It is always wise to copy your comment before pressing "Post Comment" just in case something happens.

    3) Type in the word verification.

    4) If you did everything correctly, it will state, "Your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval." If you do not get that message, please try again.

    Click here for a tutorial on how to comment.

    Thank you!

    Popular posts from this blog

    Striving for Higher-Order Thinking and Depth of Knowledge

    Craft and Structure, Deeper Thinking, and Tech Integration

    Quality Blogging and Commenting Audit Meme