Sunday, March 29, 2015

Close Reading In Our ISN

While I'm still fairly new at this blogging business and don't have tons of posts up yet, one thing that should be somewhat clear by now is that interactive foldable organizers are my bag when it comes to ISNs! My kids put loads of these foldable organizers into their notebooks and by the end of the year, it's tough to keep them closed because they are just so stuffed.

But, the foldable organizers aren't the only thing that goes in our ISNs. I've mentioned before how we partner our ISNs with close reading. Many times, my students will conduct a close reading of our story to complete their organizer. And then in turn, they use their organizer to answer a literary analysis question. Sometimes though, if we've read a longer short story or are reading a novel, I will photocopy important sections of the piece for students to glue those into their ISNs so they can put their close reading notes on the page as well.

In these couple of pictures, you can see the students conducting a close read in their ISNs. The day before, we had read the short story, "Tuesday of the Other June" by Norma Foz Mazer. The story was about 14 pages in our Holt Reader, making this quite a long, short story (at least for my 6th graders!). It wouldn't be feasible (or helpful!) for my students to do a close read of the ENTIRE story, so instead I photocopied three of the most important sections for students to glue into their notebooks (**Note: these sections were important because they included details essential for supporting the answer to our literary analysis question).

At the top of each section, I have a "task" that guides their reading of that section. We also write down the key that we will be using for marking up this section. The task, and sometimes the key, may change with each section, but they will always guide the students in the direction of our literary analysis question.

Typically, I have students close read with a partner. I find they will actually read the section more times when they are discussing because they keep going back to reference parts of the story in their conversation.

Okay... to summarize how to have students use their ISNs for Close Reading:

  1. Photocopy a section of text from a story that you'd like students to close read.
  2. Glue it into ISNs.
  3. Provide a guiding "task."
  4. Discuss and record a Close Reading Key for the section.
  5. Have students work with a partner to reread and mark-up the text!!

So, what else do you put in your ISNs? Do you include close reading in yours? Do you have other systems for close reading? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Happy Teaching!!


  1. I have just started using an Interactive Reading Notebook this year in my 5th grade reading class. It has changed my teaching SO MUCH, and for the better. I am using foldables in the notebook for reading skills/concepts (figurative language, story elements, story devices, etc.). This is a great way to include Close Reading into their notebooks. I also have students do partner reading because I find, as you say, that they spend more time going back into the text with a partner and their discussions are very rich. Thanks for this post....I'll do it!

    1. Glad to hear you are loving ISNs, Janet!! They are simply the best :)

  2. I guess I'm just confused on how to start Close reading in my class. This is totally new to our school. Are there any tips you have to help me start this off?

    1. Hi Sara!

      So, close reading is a way to get students to dive into a short, complex text. Typically, I'll pick a few paragraphs or a page from a story that we've already read that I want students to go back and read “closely." Usually, my goal is for them to do some sort of literary analysis and that piece of text holds the key to the answer... but students need to dig deep to find it.

      The steps that I use are as follows:

      First reading: just read through

      Second reading: annotate

      Third reading: reflect on annotations

      I often have students close read portions of the whole-class stories that I teach. I also have them complete an Article of the Week for homework each week where they need to close read. This school's website: has an AMAZING selection of articles of the week that basically walks students step-by-step through the close reading process. (I LOVE Vale Middle School's staff!! You ROCK!!)

      Good luck and please ask if you need clarification on what I just said :) Thanks for reading!!

  3. I found this on Pintrest and I'm so glad I did!!! I teach 7th grade ELA and one block of Intensive Reading; however this year, I'm going to be the dedicated 7th grade reading teacher for our school. I slowly implemented IN last year, but I hope to implement it with more consistency this year. This is an AWESOME resource!!! =D

  4. I think placing the copies of the text in the ISN really emphasizes the importance of what you're reading to the students! I know this is an old post, but I only came across it on Pinterest, of course! After 13 years as an elementary teacher, I moved up to 9th grade English and it has been incredibly difficult trying to get students to truly read for comprehension. I think this is a great way of doing it. I had tried close reading with annotations and critical thinking questions with Kelly Gallagher's Article of the week (Dave Stuart, Jr. does AOW for middle school), but my students simply do not have the stamina for longer passages/articles. Now we've been told to not read any novels in their entirety, to simply focus on excerpts as that is how the students are tested on STAAR. Needless to say, I'm not very happy about this at all, but I do think that your idea is a great way of guiding students onto the path of better reading comprehension.

    1. No novels?!? Agh! Feeling your pain :(

  5. Jenna, Thanks for sharing. I've never considered putting our close reading segments into an INB, but I like the idea. It gives kids more room to hold their thoughts. I really love having the task and key up above. I use segments of our text's stories ( the way...but an older version, I'm sure), usually copying off the parts I want them to dig into at a deeper level. I integrate social studies readings (I teach sixth grade SS and ELA). I may use a section from the textbook to focus on for close reading. Recently, I've been using close reading brochures focused on nonfiction. I love these because I keep the passages short and interesting, the questions are right there, and they're interactive. Partners are the way to go. I find it successful to partner a struggling reader with a proficient reader. Kids are much more engaged when they can discuss their ideas. Thanks for the tip on Vale Middle School!

  6. I am thinking about going all in for the interactive notebooks with reading and writing with my 8th grade ELA students. I need some reassurance that it will work with 8th graders. Please let me know what you think.