Close Reading and the Magic Eye – A quick thought

After researching close reading strategies for a lesson that I want to do sometime in the next few weeks, I had an epiphany of sorts while running past my eye doctor’s office. Last fall, I spent hours upon hours waiting in her office (my eyes were rejecting contacts) and I came across this book..a haunting reminder of my youth. Yes, my early teen years were partially plagued by Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World (and numerous other iterations).

To get the full effect, I recommend clicking on this image* to attempt to unearth the hidden image, which is cleverly hidden behind the repeating pattern. If you have never seen this type of image and want step-by-step instructions, click here.

Despite my numerous attempts in the early to mid ’90s, I could not actually see the embedded image. While friends and family delightedly saw the hot air balloon, all I could see was a repeating patterns of clouds. “Relax your eyes! Look through the image! Put the picture at your nose and pull it back slowly!” I knew the directions, but this was a skill that I had yet to master. Adding insult to injury, I was given a 1995 Magic Eye Star Wars Calendar for Christmas. (Thanks, Uncle Frank.)

Eventually, I figured out a trick to hide my shame. The repeating image usually had something to do with the hidden image. For instance if the repeating image was of the sea, the hidden image was probably a boat or a fish. Furthermore in an attempt to help, people would often give me very leading clues as to the picture’s true identity. I never did develop the skills needed to see the image**; however, I was able to develop the skill for guessing at the image without really seeing it.

Which brings me to the point of this post, doing a close reading of a primary document is like seeing the hidden image of the Magic Eye. It takes skill and concentration. One cannot simply just skim the document to get the full understanding or the inferences associated within it. One has to actually sit back and examine the document line by line in order to successfully complete a close reading. Furthermore, it is important for students to focus on the textual evidence and their prior knowledge rather than clues from the instructor to unearth the documents inferences.

Like with the Magic Eye, one truly has to look deeper into the document to unearth what’s behind it.

Now for the exciting part! In the next few weeks, I will be introducing close reading to my World History students. We have just finished discussing the Treaty of Versailles, so if anyone has any ideas for documents or strategies please let me know!

For more on close reading, watch this clip about using the strategy with Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. While it’s long, it give a really thorough of why close reading is important and how it can be done.

Oh, and a final note…

Based on a suggestion from a few posts on Engaging a Blog’s Audience, I am having a contest. The first two people who correctly guess the hidden images in this post will receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. While this will never get you out of an actual jail, it will get you one step close to replenishing your Monopoly set!

*Want to make your own “Magic Eye” image? Check out
**While I was waiting for the doctor, I finally conquered the Magic Eye. I now understand why people were so excited about this and am a bit sad for showing up to the party so late! At least, I now look forward to waiting for my eye doctor.

For lessons aligned with the Common Core click here.

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
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5 Responses to Close Reading and the Magic Eye – A quick thought

  1. maryjjohnson says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of work on how to help kids ask better questions around primary sources. My interest was piqued by a September, 2011, article titled Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions, by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Rothstein and Santana have now written a book titled Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions (Harvard Education Press, 2011) that I really want to buy. They also have a new website ( for their non-profit efforts to help kids think critically about democracy. All very interesting material!

    As for the Magic Eye…several years ago I read that some people really cannot and never will be able to see those hidden images. So I think you’re off the hook because it’s physiological. I can see a brick form floating in front of the wall, but it could be an elephant, another piece of a wall, or something entirely different. Maybe it takes more imagination than I have to identify it.

    Good luck with the Treaty of Versailles!

    • @42thinkdeep says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful post! I have just updated my Amazon wish list! My favorite part of a PLN extended due to social media is that I am able to get great suggestions and tips from a very large group of people.

      Oh, I ended up seeing the Magic Eye image at the eye doctors office. I am pretty sure I shed a single tear when the image finally popped out (which was helpful as part of my issue was that my eyes were not producing enough tears).

      Last thing…neither image is an elephant.

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  3. Ashley says:

    Great post! Very thought provoking. I see a purple heart in the first image & a guitar in the second image. I had a few of my students try and find the hidden treasure, but they had no luck. Maybe patience is the answer, or maybe it’s age =).

  4. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

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