Close Reading Like a Genius!

I love The Big Bang Theory! Not only do I love that their furniture comes from Ikea (I’m pretty sure I have that Klippan sofa too!), but I also love the discussions that these geniuses have when doing close reading.

So how do the geniuses close read a text? Watch the clip below to see:

So let’s break this down. How did the geniuses close read the text?

  1. They read it through once.
  2. They talked about their initial reactions and the overall big ideas.
  3. They located some lingering questions.
  4. They reread to focus on answering their lingering questions.
  5. They discussed (more talk!) their interpretations of the text and their answers to the questions.
  6. They found and cited text evidence to back up their claims.
  7. They even went to additional texts for more evidence (reading across texts!)
  8. More talk!

What can we learn from the geniuses? 

  1. TALK! TALK! TALK! It is essential to close reading. If your students are not talking, then they’re doing it wrong.
  2. Rereading is important in close reading- BUT it must be used purposefully. You need a lens such as: I am rereading so that I can: answer a specific question… dig deeper to notice new details… look for alternative answers, etc. Rereading needs to be purposeful.
  3. It’s not about the reading level- it’s about the thinking. In this clip, the geniuses discover that although the text appears simplistic, it is actually rich with meaning. Comics are terrific for this reason. They require you to: 1)  Read a multimodal text 2) Gather evidence and clues from text and images 3) Ask questions 4) Infer what’s happening 5) Find the author’s meaning behind the text.

I’ve found that using comic strips in my classroom for quick close reading exercises is very fun for students. We’re practicing our close reading skills while having a good laugh! It’s incredible how challenging it is for students to read and interpret comics. Lots of great thinking comes out of these discussions!



Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.