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Close Reading, Text Annotation, Text-Dependent Questions, and Paired Passages – Oh My!!!

Take a deep breath. There is no need to take cover. Terms like close reading, text annotation, text-dependent questions, and paired passages are not passing fads in education. Instead, they represent a return to building inspired, engaged, independent readers. They represent promising practices for developing strategic readers, including students with disabilities (SWD) (Katz & Carlise, 2009). This article will link teachers to resources to help implement these high-yield strategies in support of rigorous college- and career-ready expectations for all students.

As Virginia teachers unpack the 2010 English Reading Standards, they are identifying the components of each grade level’s standards that will help build momentum toward long-term student outcomes and aligning all skill instruction with those targets in mind.  As noted in the Virginia English Reading Curriculum Framework document for grades 10 and 11 “… students are expected to use reading strategies to improve comprehension and to achieve the purposes for reading: predicting and adjusting predictions; questioning the text; restating main ideas and summarizing supporting details; and close reading” (Virginia Department of Education [VDOE], 2010 p. 7, 9).  It is critical for teachers in grades K-12 and across content areas to focus on this “big picture” target.

Close reading, text annotation, text-dependent questions, and paired passages are all tools that should be woven into ongoing instruction in order to develop students’ independent strategic reading skills.  While effective implementation of these strategies will result in better outcomes for all students on the Virginia English Reading Standards of Learning assessments, they are not test-taking strategies.  Rather, they are critical thinking strategies that provide students with opportunities to practice reading deeply and making meaning out of authentic fiction and nonfiction text (Boyles, 2013).  This shift in strategy practice will give students the skills they need to be successful throughout their school careers and into their postsecondary lives.

Table 1 includes lesson examples and professional development resources that teachers can use to deepen their understanding of these strategic tools and weave them into ongoing instruction.

Table 1

Strategic Reading Resources

Strategy Resources
CLOSE READING – close or deep analysis of text“Close reading entails close observation of the text, including annotating, determining all word meanings including connotations, syntax, and structure. It also involves paying close attention to figures of speech, and other features that contribute to a writer’s style. Close reading also involves reflecting on deeper meanings of text including considering relationships to other texts or social or cultural history” (VDOE, 2010, pp. 8-9). readwritethink
Get Close to Think Deeply: Creating Primary-Level Close Readings Grades 1-3
Read-Aloud Lesson: The Great Migration: Journey to the North Grade 4
Read-Aloud Lesson: The Heidelberg Project: A Street of Dreams Grade 5
Close Reading of Literary Texts Grades 6-12
TEXT ANNOTATION – a system whereby students make notes as they read text to aid comprehension“Annotating is a writing-to-learn strategy for use while reading or rereading. Annotating helps readers reach a deeper level of engagement and promotes active reading” (Porter-O’Donnell, 2004, p. 82). vdoe
Reading with Sticky Notes Grades 1-5
Guided Comprehension: Monitoring Using the INSERT Technique Grades 4-6
Teaching Student Annotation: Constructing Meaning Through Connection Grades 9-12
TEXT-DEPENDENT QUESTIONS – questions that can only be answered using evidence from the text“Text-dependent questions do not ask students about their prior experience or feelings on a subject, but rather rely on explicit or implied information from the text. Students are expected to speak and write using evidence presented in texts, and to present analyses based on credible information that is based in the text or research-based”(VDOE, n.d.).  readwritethink
Depend on the Text! How to Create Text-Dependent Questions Grades 1-3
Text-Dependent Questions: Samples & Resources
Text-Dependent Question Resources
PAIRED PASSAGES – two passages from different genres or formats focused on the same theme“Pairing passages is an effective instructional tool. Instruction using paired passages is recommended for all grades levels. For classroom instruction, pairing passages should be fiction with nonfiction, fiction with poetry, nonfiction with media…” (VDOE, 2013, p. 2). vdoe
Tabbed Passages Demonstration
Mary Pope Osborne’s Classroom Adventures Program The Magic Tree House series includes fiction and non-fiction companion texts that can be used to build student analysis of paired texts.
Beyond History Books: Researching With Twin Texts and Technology Grades 4-8


It is important for teachers across grade levels and content areas to implement these promising practices in an integrated way.  They are not isolated strategies meant to be used for discrete skill development. SWD and other struggling readers require more intense support and specially designed instruction to connect the mechanics of reading to deeper levels of comprehension of complex text (Katz & Carlisle, 2009, p. 325). When teachers engage students in fiction and nonfiction selections in a way that helps them make meaning and connections across a variety of text-based resources, all students will be better prepared for state assessments and the challenges of the work world that they will enter.

Consider the following texts for professional development book studies:

Notice & Note:  Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

Additional book study resources are available to support this resource at

Falling in Love with Close Reading:  Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life by Christopher Lehman & Kate Roberts

Additional book study resources are available to support this resource at


Beers, K., & Probst, R. E. (2012). Notice and note. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing.

Boyles, N. (2013, Dec. 2012/Jan). Closing in on close reading. Educational Leadership, 70(4), 36-41. Retrieved from

Katz, L. A., & Carlisle, J. F. (2009). Teaching students with reading difficulties to be close readers:  A feasibility study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 325-340. doi:10.1044/0161-1461

Lehman, C., & Roberts, K. (2013). Falling in love with close reading:  Lessons for analyzing texts and life. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing.

Porter-O’Donnell, C. (2004, May). Beyond the yellow highlighter:  Teaching annotation skills to improve reading comprehension. English Journal, 93(5), 82-85. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2010). English standards of learning: Curriculum framework. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (2013, March). Frequently asked questions about Virginia’s 2010 English standards of learning. Retrieved from

Virginia Department of Education. (n.d.). Text-dependent questions:  Samples & resources. Retrieved from

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