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Close Reading of a Text

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Katie Guymon

on 11 August 2015

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Transcript of Close Reading of a Text

It’s like inspecting a particular passage with a magnifying glass to see what you can uncover beneath the surface.

Essentially, close reading means the reader's careful interpretation of a text so that s/he can uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension.

This process works best with a limited text so the reader can read a passage several times.
What is Close Reading?
Annotation: A Helpful Tool
Annotation is the act of adding notes or comments to a text, particularly in its margins.

Often, close reading involves annotating texts for the sake of slowing ourselves down and recording our thinking.

Making Annotations: A User's Guide
Why Do We Practice This Skill?
1. The skill of close reading will become a cornerstone as you proceed in your ability to analyze literature in an academic setting.
Close Reading of a Text
2. In this course, it is inevitable that you will be assigned grade-appropriate complex texts. Close reading will help you interpret these challenging texts and will assist you to create a deeper meaning from both fiction and nonfiction passages.

We annotate to leave bread crumbs (like Hansel and Gretel!) of our thinking, helping us to efficiently retrace our thoughts on the page.

Steps of the Process
While there is no exact formula for success, the close reading process involves several steps with different questions to ask about a passage at each point. You will make decisions about which questions are relevant.
1. Your reaction and first impressions after the first read:
What are your first thoughts, feelings, and questions? What jumps out on the page?
What is confusing to you?
What words are you not familiar with?

2. Your second thoughts after a reread:
What point-of-view is depicted in this passage?
What plot development occurs? How is this event related to or distinct from other events in the text?
What character development is provided in this passage? How does this influence your feelings about the characters involved?
How does setting influence the characters and events within this passage? In what ways does this passage develop your understanding of the setting?
3. Your fine print analysis after a third read:
What words or images are repeated or emphasized?
What sentence structures does the author use? Anything unusual or attention-getting?
What diction does the author use? Examine the connotation of particular words.
What figurative language (simile, metaphor, etc.) or literary devices (imagery, symbolism, etc.) are present? Is there any repetition?
What unique forms of punctuation, spelling, or capitalization does the author use?
4. Making personal connections and deeper meaning:
In what ways do any of the above items seem to echo other parts of the book?
What patterns are evident within this passage? Or between this passage and the rest of the book?
Does this passage include a motif from elsewhere in the book? In what way does this passage build on that motif?
What is the tone of the passage?
In fiction, what themes within the text surface within the passage?
What is left out of the passage? What voices are silenced by the author here? What effect does this have on the reader?
As you work with your text, consider all of the ways that you can connect with what you are reading. Here are some suggestions:
1. Define unknown words. Make the words real with examples from your experiences. Explore why the author would have used a particular word or phrase.
2. Make connections to other parts of the book, to other texts you have read, or to media (film, current events, songs, etc.)
4. Draw a picture when a visual connection is appropriate.
5. Rewrite, paraphrase, or summarize a particularly difficult passage. Make predictions about what will happen.
6. Make meaningful connections to your own life experiences.
7. Express agreement or disagreement with a claim or argument. Explain a new perspective you might have now.
3. Comment on lines/quotations you think are especially powerful or meaningful.

8. Explain the historical context or traditions/social customs that are highlighted in the passage.
9. Point out/discuss the author's diction, use of figurative language, literary devices, and/or rhetorical devices.
Keep in mind, some of these suggestions strictly apply to literature and others to nonfiction. I'll give you a bookmark that lists these nine suggestions tomorrow in class.
Glossary of Important Terms
Copy these definitions into your notes. We will be practicing our close reading and annotating skills with several passages from
What is the What
and related texts over the next several days. Your understanding of these terms is essential to the work for the first two weeks. We will tackle other important terms as the year progresses.

1. close reading
- the reader's careful interpretation of a text so that s/he can uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension

2. annotation
- the act of adding notes or comments to a text, particularly in its margins

3. tone
- the author’s implied expression of attitude toward his or her subject

4. diction
- the author’s carefully selected word choice

5. mood
- the “atmosphere” of a literary work

6. theme
- a central message or main idea in a literary work

7. protagonist
- the central figure or main character in a literary work

8. antagonist
- the person(s) or thing(s) that opposes or conflicts with the protagonist

9. persona
- the speaker in a poem

10. stanza
- a poetic “paragraph”

3. Close reading will help you answer particular questions I pose to you as you work your way through a fiction or nonfiction text. It can also be a jumping off point for class discussion, project planning, or essay drafting.
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