Good Readers are Re-Readers

November 2, 2017

By Toni M. Poling

Close reading is the basis for all the work we do in my classroom.  My students are exposed to written text, visual text, and auditory text over the span of my AP English Literature and my AP English Language courses.  When I first began teaching AP English several years ago, I expected my students to instinctively know how to complete a close reading of a written text because I expected them to be passionate readers.  The truth is, however, that I’ve had some of my most reluctant readers in my AP courses and I quickly realized that not only did they need me to model close reading strategies for them, but they also needed extensive practice.

In 2012, I began introducing close reading by using an essay by Nabokov entitled “Good Readers and Good Writers” where students begin to think about what it is that good readers do when they read.  Together, we generate a list that looks something like this:

Good Readers:

  1. Are re-readers!
  2. Read with a dictionary!
  3. Fondle details!
  4. Focus on the text!
  5. Read closely!

Then, throughout the course, I refer to that list when students need reminded of a good reading habit.  I especially remind them that “good readers are re-readers.”

Next, I introduce our weekly close reading assignment that is completed outside of class.  The weekly close reading assignment is a standing assignment that is distributed on Monday and is due on Friday.  Every other week, we alternate between an Article of the Week (AOW) and a Multiple Choice Passage of the Week (MCP).

Articles of the Week provide my students close reading practice of a current event article combined with a reflection activity.  This activity is one I first learned about when I read Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide and most of the articles I use come from his website.  The students receive the article on Monday and they have the entire week to perform a close reading and annotation of the article, as well as composing a 1+ page reflection of their thoughts on the article.  Students are encouraged to think critically about the article, form an opinion on the subject, and support that opinion with evidence from the article.


On opposite weeks, instead of an AOW, students receive an MCP.  These passages come from books, speeches, poems, released AP exams, and practice SAT passages.  Just like the AOW, students receive their MCP on Monday and the close reading and annotation are due on Friday.  Unlike the AOW, this is not a reflection activity; instead, students have a prescribed activity to complete on the MCP:


  1. Paraphrase the passage. Do this by paragraph if the passage is organized into paragraphs.  Be sure that your paraphrase includes all the important points in the passage.


  1. Explain the passage’s central argument.


  1. Define and explain two assertions that support the central argument.


  1. Employing context clues, infer the definitions of words from the passage that are new to you. Record these words and their definitions.  Then, look up the words and record the dictionary definition.  Remember that you won’t be able to use a dictionary on the multiple choice quiz for this passage.


  1. Record two examples of rhetorical strategies (one of the appeals (ethos, pathos, or logos), any example of diction (word choice) or syntax (sentence structure)), identify what kind of strategy it is (label the example) and then explain the effect of the rhetorical strategy.


  1. After the multiple choice quiz, you will staple the passage to the back of your completed quiz answers and submit.


On Friday, students can use their close reading notes and annotations to assist them in answering multiple-choice questions on the passage.  Not only does this provide close reading practice, but students also learn to work under timed conditions as the multiple-choice questions are timed.

At the  end of the year, the AOWs and MCPs are often cited by students as one of their favorite activities insofar as they believe this assignment has helped them hone their close reading skills, become more reflective, and provided valuable practice in handling difficult multiple-choice questions under timed conditions.

WVCTE is wondering…

How do you encourage close reading in your classroom?  Have you tried weekly articles or passages?  Which ones have worked the best?  Let us know what works for your students!

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