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9 Ways to Incorporate Close Reads Into Your Classroom

When I first heard of close reading and its benefits, I thought it could be a strategy that could be beneficial in helping my students tackle a higher-level text. Many of my students were below grade level each year and struggled when it came time for assessments on grade level or above. I wanted them to have strategies to help them better understand the text. If you want to learn more about close reads and get started with them in your classroom, check out this post by clicking here.

Once we started using the strategies in the classroom, I was amazed to see some students using them voluntarily on reading assessments and activities. The main issue other students had was the idea of reading a passage more than once. To them, that was just more work and not worth it. After much practice and proving to them that they could do it, they slowly came around. The things that got them onboard were these differentiated close reading passages with mystery grid pictures. Find out more about them by clicking here, or check them out in my shop by clicking here.

Close reads quickly became something the students didn’t mind doing, and they got excited when they saw these. I think the key is the HIGH-INTEREST topics, plus the accountability of the mystery pictures. There are several ways to incorporate them into your classroom so that your students can practice essential reading skills and strategies while learning about exciting topics. Read below to find some options for using close reads in your classroom.

Whole Group

When first beginning close reads, we would practice as a whole group, as I would demonstrate on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the classroom. Students always do the first read independently, but doing it as a whole group allowed us to start using the strategies quicker as they were all exposed to the beginning steps to get them going. Once students know the strategies and what is expected, we don’t do anything as a whole group after that.

Small Groups

Small groups are the perfect time to check on students using close reading strategies. Students always do the first reading independently to get “the gist” of the passage. The second reading is when they should mark up their text and dive deeper into what it says. The second reading is perfect for small groups…especially when they learn the strategies. You can check in on them quickly and model what you expect them to do as they read the second time.


Once students know the strategies and are using them more consistently. The close reading passages with mystery pictures make the perfect center activity because there is a lot of important practice. It will take them multiple days to complete, and they enjoy it, so they look forward to it. (Day 1: 1st read + questions, Day 2: 2nd read + questions, Day 3: 3rd read + coloring, Day 4: Writing prompt, Day 5: Finish up) Close Reads with Mystery Pictures make it fun and engaging for students so they stay working during centers while you meet with small groups. It can be done individually, with partners, or in groups.


Close reading passages can be great for a weekly homework assignment. They are differentiated so students get the level of reading difficulty they need while still practicing the same skills as everyone else in the class. One passage would work for an entire week. That way, students can work on it throughout the week and have it to turn in on Friday. (Monday: 1st read + questions, Tuesday: 2nd read + questions, Wednesday: 3rd read + coloring, Thursday: Writing prompt, Friday: Hand it in) They cover repeated skills throughout grades 3-6 while exposing students to skills that may be seen at a later time or grade level.


Holidays were always a struggle for me because I always wanted to do something fun for the holiday but still needed to cover content. Students often didn’t even know the meaning behind many of the holidays throughout the year and how they came about. There are holiday versions of the close reading passages with mystery pictures that are perfect for incorporating and learning about the holiday, all while practicing many important ELA standards. PLUS, the kids LOVE it. They make for a fun way of celebrating holidays without much effort from you…just print and go! All you need are pencils and something to color with. Click here to check out my close reading holiday bundle, or check them all out here.

Holiday Reading Comprehension Passages Bundle
Halloween Reading Comprehension Passages with Mystery Grid Pictured
Valentine's Day Reading Comprehension Passages with Mystery Grid Pictured

Substitute Plans

Do you need a no-stress activity to print and leave for a sub? We all know it can be a struggle to prepare for a sub…you don’t want to leave something new because you may have to reteach it anyway. You don’t want to leave busy work because you still want your students to practice and learn. Close reading passages are perfect for a sub because you know your students will be reading and practicing important skills, AND they LOVE them because they have something I have found that students LOVE…mystery pictures! My students would do anything for a mystery picture activity…even read a passage multiple times. Substitutes will love them because students will be well-behaved and busy!


The best way to get students struggling in reading to be better in reading is for them to….you guessed it, READ! If you are tutoring students who need help in reading, close reading strategies may be an excellent option for you. Start them on the lower level until they start feeling more confident and understand the strategies. Since you are right there working with them, you can walk them through the strategies and really help them to tackle more difficult text while reading about topics they might be interested in learning more about.

Test Prep

While close reads are a great test prep option throughout the year, they help make for some fun review right before the big test, too. My students and I always dreaded the required review time each year before state testing. It was dry, not very much fun, and didn’t feel like much of a review as my students were disengaged. I was totally to blame as I thought the only way to review for the test was to take practice tests…boy, was I wrong! I started incorporating games and close reads with mystery pictures, and my students now cheer when it’s time for review. There are so many skills being practiced in each set that they make a perfect review that students will enjoy, and I was happy cause I knew they were practicing the skills I needed.

Room Transformation

Room transformations are all the rage, and I’ve had many teachers use close reads as one or more of the activities they have available for a room transformation. A close read can be the perfect addition to a room transformation with topics about emojis, sweets, football, and more. You could use the close reading passage with the mystery picture as one station and the writing passage as another. Then, just a few more themed stations, and you have 100% engagement!

Click here to check out all of the close reading sets found in my shop.

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