Reading CartoonAdoption of the Common Core in ELA has become synonymous with close reading. Many teachers are left to wonder, Does close reading replace shared reading? Is it the same thing? Can you do both?

To answer those questions, I read the book, “Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well,” by Regie Routman, and “Closing in on Close Reading” by Nancy Boyles to solidify my understanding of both concepts. After reading, I came to the following conclusions. Hopefully they help you to wrap your head around the concepts a little better.

Shared Reading

Shared reading is an instructional strategy based on a scaffolded model of learning. In shared reading, a teacher demonstrates how reading works – the skills, strategies, and behavior of good readers. Often, during shared reading, a group of learners observes an expert (usually the teacher) reading a piece of text with fluency and expression, and is invited to read along. Through teacher modeling, students join to read the text collaboratively. In this model, students can read the text multiple times to build confidence, fluency, and word familiarity, although it is not required. During these readings, teachers may also demonstrate their thinking and guide and support that discussion with students.

Close Reading

Close reading is the process by which students re-read a text multiple times to extract multiple levels of meaning. When close reading, students focus on the central ideas and key supporting details, reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences, and the development of ideas over the course of the text. To bring student attention to the most important aspects of the text, teachers may prompt students to ask themselves questions about the context, the craft and structure, and the integration of knowledge and ideas in the text. Boyles suggests the following questions to begin:

  • What is the author telling me here?
  • Are there any hard or important words?
  • What does the author want me to understand?
  • How does the author play with language to add to meaning?

Once students have an understanding of the basic concepts in the text, they can move on to subsequent readings to examine deeper questions. Boyles provides a figure that includes these questions, which would be great tool to use with your own students.

What’s the Difference?

Based on the analysis above, the two concepts are related, but different. Shared reading is an instructional strategy where teachers build students’ reading fluency by offering graduated levels of support. Close reading, in contrast, is a process where students read and re-read text to delve deeper into the meaning. That’s happy news, as teachers can use one to teach the other. So, next time you’re ready to teach a rigorous text, use shared reading to model close reading with your students.


Close Reading and Shared Reading: What’s the Difference?
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