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Close Reading. The SOAPStone Method. Jennifer Bennett Sanderson High School. Why do I need to read closely?. To gain the bigger picture To recognize and appreciate the craft and specific techniques/tools of the craft To understand that which sets art apart from “books”

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Close reading

Close Reading

The SOAPStone Method

Jennifer Bennett

Sanderson High School

Why do i need to read closely
Why do I need to read closely?

  • To gain the bigger picture

  • To recognize and appreciate the craft and specific techniques/tools of the craft

  • To understand that which sets art apart from “books”

    • What is “highly acclaimed”?

    • Why distinctions between “fiction” and “literature”? (See any major bookstore’s aisle categories.)

How soapstone
How? SOAPStone

  • Speaker

  • Tone

  • Organization

  • Narrative style

  • Evidence

  • Subject

  • Occasion

  • Audience

  • Purpose


  • What is the literal topic of this piece of literature?

    • What’s it all about?

      • The general topic, content, and ideas contained in the text

      • Summarize

    • What is the story?

      • Whether an essay, poem, play, novel, etc., it has a story.


  • Where and when does it take place?

  • What is the rhetorical occasion of the text? Is it a/an—

    • Memory?

    • Description?

    • Observation?

    • Diatribe?

    • Elegy?

    • Critique?

Occasion pt 2
Occasion, pt. 2

  • Note the immediate occasion

    • The issue that—

      • catches the writer’s attention and

      • triggers a response

  • Note the larger occasion

    • The broad issue

    • The center of ideas and emotions in the work

  • Example: “Left at the Light”

    • Program for helping the homeless

    • Occasion:

      • Immediate—leaving (driving past) someone who was begging for money in the medium of a left-hand turn lane without helping

      • Larger—how to help the homeless without enabling any destructive behaviors/addictions a homeless person may have


  • Level of general knowledge

    • What do they already know?

    • Ex. Literary analyses; Process analyses

  • Level of diction

    • Slang

    • Informal

    • Formal

    • Ceremonial

  • What assumptions can I make about the intended audience? Does the author identify them?


  • What does the writer accomplish with his or her literary work?

  • What appears to be the writer’s intent?

  • In what ways does the writer convey the message of the purpose?

  • How does the writer try to spark a reaction from the audience?


  • The voice telling the story

  • Not necessarily the writer!

  • What assumptions can you make about the speaker?

    • Age?

    • Gender?

    • Social class?

    • Emotional state? (etc.)

Speaker pt 2
Speaker, pt. 2

  • Assess the speaker’s character

    • Supply evidence for your conclusions from the text.

    • Let the facts lead you to the speaker.

      • What does the speaker believe?

      • What biases may the speaker have?

      • What approach/appeal does the speaker make for his or her argument?

      • How do you know? Produce the EVIDENCE!

Close reading

  • What is the author’s attitude toward the subject?

  • What emotional sense does the writer present?

  • How do the following tools/vehicles for meaning present tone?

    • Diction—word choice

    • Syntax—sentence construction & order

    • Imagery—concrete representations to connect the reader with the writer’s subject/pov/tone

      • From what source/s do the images come, primarily?


  • How does the writer organize/structure the text?

  • How does the writer arrange his or her content?

  • So? What effect does the organization have on the overall meaning of the work?

Narrative style
Narrative Style

  • How does the writer tell the “story”/unravel the subject?

  • What does the writer reveal? conceal? invert? subvert?

  • Is the writing dramatic (play) in nature, poetic, episodic, objective?

  • What point of view does the writer use?

  • SO WHAT?? What effects does the writer’s narrative style have on the work as a whole?


  • The burden of proof is on you!

  • Pull specific examples from the text, using

    • direct quotations,

    • paraphrases, and

    • summaries

      to support your analyses/arguments.

  • Use specific

    • Literary devices

    • Grammatical devices

    • Rhetorical devices