Close Reading in 1st Grade & A Freebie

January 14, 2014

Close reading.

Ya heard of it?! My old district and new district have been all about it since adopting the Common Core.


When I was first trained in close reading, I thought, HA! Nice try, in my most sarcastic voice. I didn’t see how this could possibly apply to my little first graders. I was very skeptical, but the more trainings I went to, the more I started to pick it apart. I wanted to figure out a way to apply this to my first grade class. Especially since there was a huge emphasis on this skill in the upper grades.


I thought I would break the strategy down and see how I could explain it to my students. This is what I came up with:
Those three steps above are what we focus on in our first grade classroom and I have to say I am VERY pleased! I have been doing close reading in my classroom for about a year and it has been a challenge, but I am thrilled with the responses my students are giving me.


We have a common phrase in my classroom:
Prove it!


We use it all time and in every subject, but especially during a close reading. They must provide evidence for ALL their answers during a close read. They can highlight, underline, circle, write down the page number… I don’t care, as long as they let me know how they came to their answer and what text support they have to back their answer.


Text choice in 1st grade can be very difficult when doing a close read. The text needs to be difficult enough to have meaning and yet easy enough for 1st graders to pick up that meaning with a little guidance. In my classroom, I complete most of my close readings in a whole group setting (especially at the beginning of the year). I believe that these primary years are about building that foundation and I need to show my students exactly how to do that. I also have a small group of students who are able to use this strategy during guided reading groups.


It goes a little something like this:
Day 1:
We receive our passage and read it through once. My students write down “tricky” words they don’t understand in their reading journals. I then read the text aloud once as they follow along. We talk about the words they wrote down and see if we can figure out their meaning using context clues.


Day 2:
We take out our passage and re-read it. I review the vocabulary terms we learned yesterday and students receive the vocabulary sheet to complete.  Students circle the words in the passage and we go over it together.


Day 3:
We read the passage again and receive the comprehension page. We go through each question together and answer them while highlighting the evidence from the text to support each answer. I let my students in this group talk through these on their own and I only guide them when necessary. I keep re-directing them towards the text and remind them I need them to prove their answers.
*when completing these with the entire class, I will provide a lot more prompting and guidance and have my higher group work together on the other side of the room*


Here is a sneak peek of my students who have been working on this MLK Jr. close read for the past few school days:


Again, the text is difficult and the rest of my class wouldn’t be able to read this on their own, but it has a lot of depth to it. We are able to infer and gather evidence for our inferences. There are also plenty of vocabulary words for students to learn.


I thought I would offer this close read for free for you.

{Just click the image below}

It is appropriate for 1st-2nd grade:

Looking for a free close reading passage to help your first and second grade students practice this tricky comprehension skill? Head on over to the post to see how I introduce close reading and grab a FREE close reading passage all about Martin Luther King Jr.

Pin this post:

Close reading in first grade can be tricky! This post explains how I teach close reading in the primary grades, provides an anchor chart to use, and you can even grab a free close reading passage for first and second grade students!

If you are interested in trying close reading in your classroom, I created the following resource:



The bundled unit includes a more in-depth look at close reading in a 1st grade classroom as well as seasonal passages with a focus on vocabulary and evidence-based questioning.There are 10 age-appropriate passages in each season: 5 fiction and 5 non-fiction.



You can click any image above to check it out, or just click [HERE!]


*Just as a final note…. I am in no way pretending to be an expert on close reading. I continue to make adjustments as I learn more about the subject. This is just how I have broken down the strategy to work for my younger students. It has been successful for me and I hope it works for you!*

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  • Thank you for sharing! I will definitely incorporate this in my MLK plans. Perfect timing.
    We always talk about where we find our answers and how we can prove it. It's time to take the next step and get them highlighting and writing about it. Definitely buying your winter close reading… and looking forward to future close reading packs!
    Colleen 🙂
    Fun and Fearless in First

  • Our district has just begun talking about close reading. We had our first training and I left very confused. I am going to give your freebie a try this week and already have added your pack to my cart. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this post and freebie! I'm curious how you have been trained or what you've used to figure Close Reading out for 1st? Can you recommend any books/websites/ etc. that you've used?

  • This text looks so so difficult for my firsties-I have students ranging from reading beginning kindergarten levels to end of first grade levels and I worry that most of them will be really lost with a text this long. How do you find this goes for the lowest, struggling readers? I guess I need some reassurance =)

    • Hi Tiffani!

      The MLK passage is a bit more difficult than the ones in my close reading pack. That being said, the process and passages ARE difficult for my firsties… that's kind of the point. It is not supposed to frustrate them and when I teach it, I do not expect them to read it on their own. I try to teach them the process of close reading. My high group can read it on their own and I most 2nd graders could read these passages on their own. In first grade, I read it aloud to them as they echo read and follow along. We also read the passages MANY times, so words they were unfamiliar with, become much more familiar as they keep reading. I am a happy teacher when I read one of the comprehension questions aloud and my students go back into the story looking for the answer without me asking them to do so!

      The first time you do this with your first graders, it may be very discouraging, but keep going! The first few times are all about modeling, modeling, modeling. Showing them what to do. By the end of the year, many of your students will understand the process of close reading and readily provide their answers with text support.

      When they get to the older grades and as their reading level gets higher and higher, they can attack the text on their own and use the close reading skills they learned to do it on their own.

      I hope this helps!!

  • Thank you you sharing such an awesome close reading activity and for breaking it down into such easy steps. The thought of close reading has always been daunting and this makes it do-able. 🙂

  • Wow! I have to do a demo lesson on a non fiction close read and this was the BEST resource I could find! Thank you for presenting it so clearly! Your kids are lucky! One question…I had a hard time finding authentic text for non fiction. Where so you get yours or are you writing your own?

  • When do you suggest introducing Close reading the 1st graders? This doesn’t seem like something you would want to start in August with 1st graders who are not strong readers yet.