Close Reading in the Social Studies Classroom

By Monica Burns 10.29.2014 blog

The Common Core State Standards supports the use of a higher percentage of informational text than has been seen in the classroom in preceding years. Working with primary source documents, current events articles and textbook pages is nothing new for social studies teachers. Also, the idea of close reading isn’t a foreign concept to teachers of this subject matter.

Close reading is the purposeful reading of text to gather information and think deeply about the writer’s intentions and motivations. In the social studies classroom, identifying the central message of a text and locating relevant supporting details are important skills for tackling text. Students should also be able to think about the word choice of a particular writer and draw conclusions about why they included certain information in their piece and perhaps omitted other relevant details. Close reading works well with texts that have a clear bias and those that are written with the intention of explaining a topic or introducing the reader to information on a particular subject matter.

Where can I find texts for close reading?

Close reading can take place with any type of text, and students should see its application in a variety of environments. You might locate a current events article or post on a site like Channel One News that will be of interest to students. Another option is to locate a text that connects to a unit of study where teens will have prior knowledge on the subject. As you search for texts for close reading, you want to make sure that they are the appropriate level for your students. You can figure this out by using a tool that measures the Lexile level of a text like a Lexile Analyzer.

How can students take part in close reading of a picture?

Primary source documents are used throughout social studies units and are an important part of building student understanding around a particular topic. Close reading strategies can be used to help teens gather information from an image that was created during a particular time period. Students can pull out key details, determine the main idea and make inferences based on the position of figures, inclusion of certain elements and why the photographer or painter made certain choices.

Where does writing fit into close reading?

Examining a text closely is an important part of gathering information for writing. Students should be able to identify the main idea of a passage and pull out key details that show their understanding of the position an author has taken. When writing about a text, students should be able to lift a line of evidence that proves the point they are trying to make. By reading closely, students will find the details that can be used to support an inference they have made or a conclusion that they have drawn.

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.


  1. Ilickspoons24

    read how you want it is better than.

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