Close reading vs. reading from a critical stance: Is there a difference?

A few months ago, I sent an email to several colleagues describing a proposal to begin a conversation to help pre-service and in-service teachers develop the skills of critical analysis and close reading. In response to my email, one of my colleagues suggested that I not use the term close reading because what I was proposing was not close reading but “more like deep comprehension – reading from a critical stance”. My colleague suggested that close reading is a literary device that does not activate background knowledge.

This description baffled me. In my mind there was no difference between close reading and reading from a critical stance. After I read this description I immediately went to Tim Shanahan’s blog post What is close reading?, which I had just read. I reread the blog post (for the third time) “closely” looking for evidence of the similarities and differences between how Shanahan described close reading and my colleague’s description of close reading. What I discovered is that Shanahan’s description strongly supports deep comprehension (reading text three times, each uncovering more about the text (what the text says, how the text works and critical analysis of the text), which ends in a thorough understanding of the text or deep comprehension.

It appears that the difference between close reading and reading from a critical stance is the evolving definition of the terms and how the context defines how the terms are used. At one time the term close reading referred to a technique to analyze literature. This analysis happened in English class and allowed for  discussion of  text structure. It was not used to support the reader’s understanding of the text. In reading class, text was read from a critical stance, where the reader used their knowledge to think deeply about text. With the implementation of the Common Core Standards, the term close reading describes the process of using the technique of analyzing literature to develop a thorough understanding of the text, which will enable the reader to critically evaluate the text.

As I reflect on this conversation, I am wondering if my proposal should have read “…help pre-service and in-service teachers develop the skill of close reading”, leaving out critical analysis since close reading ends in a critical evaluation of text?  How do you define close reading?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Moving Toward COMMON Understanding of Close Reading | Think Beyond the Book

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Disclosure Policy

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me.

This blog does not accept any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. I write for my own purposes. However, I may be influenced by my background, occupation, religion, political affiliation or experience.

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If I claim or appear to be an expert on a certain topic or product or service area, I will only endorse products or services that I believe, based on my expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

The owner(s) of this blog would like to disclose the following existing relationships. These are companies, organizations or individuals that may have a significant impact on the content of this blog. I am employed by or consult with: The Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

To get your own policy, go to

%d bloggers like this: