Published using Google Docs
Close Reading with Google Drive
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Step 1: Obtaining an article and saving to Google Drive

Step 2: Converting the PDF file into a Google Doc for editing and annotation

Step 3: Cleaning up the document for your students

Step 4: Distributing the document to your students

Step 5: Have students annotate the document.

More options for annotating

Step 1: Obtaining a PDF article and saving to Google Drive

Obtain an article in PDF format from any source or try out Newsela has articles written at multiple levels of text complexity. Newsela automatically gives teachers the ability to select the version of an article that's just right for each student’s reading ability.

Select the reading level and then select the printer icon if using Google Chrome as your web browser. If not, then you can save the file locally and upload and convert the file in Google Drive.

In the printer dialog that opens, select Change and then under Google Cloud Print select “Save to Google Drive” and then select “Save”. Your article will then be saved as a PDF file to your Google Drive account.

You could also copy and paste an article into a Google Drive document. Remember that this is copyrighted material and you should make sure the original source is credited for the article and, if possible, link back directly to the article you found on the web. If you copy and paste an article, then skip ahead to Step 3

Step 2: Converting the PDF file into a Google Doc for editing and annotation

Go to your Google Drive account and locate the PDF file that you just saved to Drive. Select the file, and then under the More menu, select Open With > Google Docs. This will create a copy of the PDF file in the Google Docs format for editing purposes. Please allow up to a minute for the conversion to complete.

NOTE: You should not attempt to convert PDF files that are longer than 10 pages. After page 10, the rest of the document will not be converted to text.

Afterwards, retitle the document to be something that you and your students can understand.

Step 3: Cleaning up the document for your students

Now you’ll need to clean up the document before sharing it with your students. What you’ll find in the converted document is that each page in the article has an image that was translated into text via OCR (Optical Character Recognition). You can delete the image and the rest of the text remains intact. Cleanup can be done very quickly and then it’s ready to be shared with your students.

Step 4: Distributing the document to your students

In order for your students to edit the document, you can do several things.

Share whole class with edit rights

You can share the document with all of your students and allow all of them to edit it at the same time--though this would probably be counter-productive in a close read. More about sharing settings.

Share whole class with view rights and have them make their own copy

The students will need to copy the document and then retitle it. They will also need to share the document back with you, the teacher. More about sharing settings.

Use Doctopus to distribute copies to each student

Doctopus is a Google Apps script that facilitates sharing copies of documents with all of your students. Doctopus gives teachers the ability to auto-generate, pre-share, and manage grading and feedback on templated Docs for group and individual assignments. Learn more about harnessing the power of Doctopus with Google Drive.

Use Haiku Learning and Google Docs to share a document with your students

Haiku Learning has Google Apps for Education integration that allows you to share documents in two modes: whole class edit or whole class view. If you share the document as view only, then students can make a copy of the document. Watch a video on the process.

Hapara Teacher Dashboard Smart Copy Wizard

Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard has the Smart Copy Wizard feature is an easy way for you to share or copy documents with students.   It places the document right into the correct folder in the student's Google Docs/Drive, therefore eliminating the need to use the Shared Docs folder or emailing docs out. Learn more about this feature.

Step 5: Have students annotate the document.

You’re now ready to have the students complete a close reading activity. There are a number of tools within Google Docs that support Close Reading activities for K-12 students.

Text to Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

As referenced above, Google Drive has OCR built in so that you can upload and convert PDF files into text for annotation online.

Font color

The font color feature is an excellent tool using color to differentiate portions of the text. For example, you could have students use bold red to identify powerful words or phrases in the text.


The highlighting text feature can be used by students to highlight words or phrases they do not understand


The Comments feature in Google Drive is an excellent tool for giving feedback and peer editing. It also a fantastic way for students to make notes in the margin of the document as they read through a document for the first time.


With the embedded dictionary that’s part of the Research tool in Google Docs, students can highlight a word they don’t know in an article or piece of literature and quickly get a definition. This allows them to more readily access and build academic vocabulary.

Research tool

The Research tool also has options for learning more about a word through a web search or through find images for a word.


More options for annotating

Texthelp Study Skills - Google Docs Add On (Free)


Read & Write for Google is another way to annotate PDFs and Google Docs with a more extensive set of features. The Read & Write extension for Chrome has the following feature sets in their paid version.

Newsela is free for students to explore a world of nonfiction and test their comprehension. Updated daily with real-world news from major publications, students can find high interest articles and teachers can customize the reading level for their students.