Close Reading Links

Close Reading Links for Small Group Instruction is a research-based instructional practice for improving students’ deep comprehension. It is based on the premise that if students read thoroughly and methodically, monitoring their understanding as they proceed through a text, they will finish their reading with a solid knowledge of the text’s central ideas and how those ideas were developed, both the content and the craft. While this practice is championed by the Common Core, it supports any literacy standards or instruction that promotes high-level reading comprehension.

Program Features

  • Six titles (3 fiction and 3 nonfiction) at each grade level — short, complex texts that include classic children’s literature, poetry, folk tales, and engaging informational topics.
  • Strategies for independent close reading with accompanying annotation mini lessons
  • Rigorous text-dependent questions aligned to the Common Core and depth of knowledge
  • Standards-based comprehension skill lessons scaffolded with learning targets and answer frames
  • Text-to-text questions for student discourse and reading-writing connections
  • Formative assessments for six comprehension skills per grade level and text complexity
  • A Teacher’s Resource Guide for each grade with clearly explained reading lessons, suggestions for differentiation, and ready-to-use resources


The Nancy Boyles Close Reading series has been a valuable resource for reading comprehension in my social studies and ELA classes. I have been able to utilize these short stories in cross-disciplinary units, most specifically the Revolutionary War. For example, the 'Investigating Primary Sources From American History' allows for me to teach the skills of comprehending and using information for primary sources while teaching about important events leading up to the Revolutionary War.

I would love an additional copy of each book in the third grade set. I teach reading to 18 students. These students are grouped into four small guided reading groups. I have one group reading above grade level text, two groups reading on grade level text, and one group reading below grade level text. Recently, I used the “Stories From Long Ago” fables with my reading groups. My students enjoyed this Capstone series from Dr. Boyle’s. Animals are of high interest to third graders, so I immediately had their attention when introducing them to the book. The stories aligned well with our current curriculum study as the rigorous text included areas of discussion and writing opportunities involving figures of speech ( specifically idioms), a central message, characteristics of fables, and inferencing. Although I work with students of various reading levels, I was able to scaffold my lessons to meet the different group’s needs. The students enjoyed reading the fables as it followed lessons we had done with a fable in our Journeys reading series. There was a sense of familiarity as we discussed and wrote about similar traits the stories shared. I sensed feelings of confidence and independence as the students were engaged with different guided reading text that all shared some common characteristics. I appreciate this opportunity to receive some additional copies of Dr. Boyle’s Capstone series.

Student Books

At each grade level, there are six titles, three literary and three informational. Informational books focus on topics related to culture, history, and science. They represent different genres, such as expository and biography. The literary titles include three forms of classic literature: folklore, other classic literature, and poetry. All sources include genres that are supported by the Common Core for third grade. All selections also feature qualitative complexities specified by the Common Core: knowledge demands (background knowledge), meaning, language, and structure.

Each book is divided into three sections, all related to each other in some way. Sometimes these sections represent excerpts from different books, as in Animal Friends from Classic Children’s Literature. Sometimes the sections are divided by categories within the main topic, such as Oceans Around the Globe, which focuses on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans.

Regardless of how the sections were derived, all support the gradual release of responsibility for the comprehension skill that the book features. In the first section, the skill is introduced with a clear explanation and modeling. In the second section, the skill is reinforced and practiced collaboratively. In the third section, skill performance is measured through formative assessment.

Pages are broken into chunks with Pause and Think boxes placed strategically throughout, reminders for students to reflect on their comprehension and key ideas before it goes off-track. In addition to the reading content for each section, student books also include:

  • An Introduction describing each of the three sections of the book and some comprehension questions to engage students’ thinking in the topic. A Launching Lesson is included to make good use of this introductory content.
  • Text-Dependent Questions for each section of the book with questions that will encourage students to dig deeper into meaning during the close reading process.
  • A Skill Target aligned to each skill that is taught (one skill per book).
  • An Answer Frame for a constructed response that can scaffold students on their way to independence.
  • Questions for text-to-text connections so students can synthesize their thinking using all of the selections in a book.


Teacher Guides

These Teacher’s Resource Guides were built exclusively for teaching close reading strategies. They contain step-by-step lessons for the three sections of all six books (9 lessons for each book; 54 lessons for the full program). There are also mini-lessons for teaching annotating skills, rubrics, close reading activities, and other classroom-ready templates, which may be duplicated and provided to students.

Use the guides as a model for close reading instruction in the intermediate grades. But don’t be afraid to add a few tweaks of your own. One of the “gray areas,” which only you will be able to determine, is how much time to spend on each close reading excerpt.

Our purpose here is thoroughness, not speed, so give your students the gift of time. You may look at these excerpts and think that students are not reading “enough” text. If this program represented everything your students read in third grade, that would be a valid point. But when the goal is close reading and reading comprehension, it’s the quality of the reading, not the quantity that counts most.

  • All reading lesson plans clearly laid out for every lesson
  • 4 Mini-lessons for developing independent close reading skills
  • Lots of classroom-ready reproducibles
  • Rubrics
  • Suggestions for differentiation and deep understanding of the text

In these guides you will find:

  • 10 best-practices for close reading applied to
    • small group instruction
    • strategies for differentiating instruction for
      • on-grade level
      • approaching-grade level
      • above-grade level
    • English language learners
  • Mini-lessons to teach the independent close reading process 
  • A launching lesson for each unit
  • Lessons for all six books (3 literary sources, and 3 informational sources) that include
    • independent close reading
    • follow-up, text-dependent questions, and comprehension questions
    • a reading skill or other skill matched to the selected passages
  • A text-to-text lesson at the end of the unit integrating all sources
  • Assessment tasks aligned to Common Core Standards, and depth of knowledge
  • Rubrics, checklists, annotation sheets, skill targets, and answer frames and more to help you scaffold student learning in English Language Arts (ELA)


Program Presentation