What are your goals for teaching reading to 6th, 7th, or 8th graders, and how do you find the time to achieve these goals? One way to shore up reading skills is to make efficient use of independent study time – that includes homework, bell work, study period, or anytime students work on their own.
Here are five goals for reading during independent study time, as well as some passages and question sets to help students engage in efficient reading practice every day.
- Increase reading comprehension: To become a strong reader, it is essential to engage in daily reading, over time (meaning every day of the school year, plus all summer). Give students something interesting that also matches their reading level. And give them a purpose for reading on their own. Set the purpose by including text-dependent questions for writing and/or discussion. To increase time on task, assign a short passage and accompanying questions every day
. Developmetacognition: Teach students the importance of thinking about and self-regulating their reading and study habits. They need to recognize which of their strategies work, and which do not. Readers can use text-dependent questions, for example, to think about what they’re reading, check their understanding, and link content with prior knowledge.
- Strengthen Tier II and Tier III vocabulary: There is no disputing the fact that strong vocabulary increases reading comprehension. Provide a structure for building Tier II and Tier III vocabulary. This, too, can be accomplished with text-dependent questions. Focus on using context clues to draw out the meaning of words as they are used in the text.
- Expand capacity for independent reading and research: During independent reading practice, students develop strategies and skills they can apply to other areas—with or without instructional support. To increase the length of time students can work efficiently on their own, require some independent reading and/or research every day. Assign passages geared to students’ independent reading level. (Lexile measures can help ensure passages have the right amount of complexity.)
- Use corrective feedback: Giving feedback in a timely manner is invaluable, especially when students have been working independently. Allow students to self-check or partner-check their work very soon after completion. Then, spend some time correcting errors and clarifying misunderstandings. Don’t allow students to continually perform a task or use a strategy incorrectly, as this may habituate errors.
Sample Lessons from Simple Solutions Middle School Reading Comprehension
Grade 6: The Magic Candy
Grade 7: Blackbird: Faster than a Speeding Bullet
Grade 8: Underground Wonderland
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