How to Do a Close Reading

Step by step instructions on how to read for meaning using Robert Newton's 'Runner' as an example. With thanks to Lisa McNeice.

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Reading closely means reading for meaning and understanding. Follow these 8 steps to perform your own close reading.

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To begin, read your passage slowly.

To begin, read your passage slowly.

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Task 1: Circle any vocabulary you are unfamiliar with and look up the definition. Double check that the definition makes sense in the context of the text.

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The words I wasn't sure about here were: Menacing, seedy and missus.

The words I wasn't sure about here were: Menacing, seedy and missus.

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Task 2: Language Choice - underline any language that attracts your attention for any reason. Why do you find it interesting? Jot down your reasons.

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Task 3: Verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Highlight in different colours the ones you find in the passage. What do you notice? Are there any patterns? Comment on your findings.

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Task 4: Predictions - what might happen next? Why?

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Task 5: Opinions and reflections - what do you think of the story/narrators/characters?

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Task 6: Connections - does the task remind you about your own experiences? Or other books and films? What are the similarities?

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Task 7: Questions - note them down, and remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Try to list more open questions than closed questions.

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Task 8: What key themes from the novel do you think are reflected in the passage?

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And you are ready to discuss your passage!

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