Teachers of middle school reading have their own, unique set of challenges. On the one hand, there is the pressure to get middle schoolers ready for high school. In high school, the demands will be high, to say the least. Students will be expected to wrestle with complex texts with minimal help. They’ll be expected to read and digest information quickly, and to write well about what they read. The inclination for many middle school reading teachers is to prepare students for a high school curriculum by angling their own curriculum toward what will come in high school. On the other hand, most middle schoolers still need plenty of instruction in reading skill work, and many are not quite ready for the high levels of text complexity of whole class novels. So what is a middle school teacher to do?
Partner reading is important for many reasons. Literacy is a socially constructed activity involving reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing. Reading together and talking about books can provide partners with enriching experiences, thinking, and conversation that would not take place while reading independently. In addition to the motivation, engagement, and social aspects, Rogoff (1990) documented interactions between partners that led to each child achieving a higher level of understanding than working by themselves. This could be due to the type of talk surrounding partner reading. Brown (2006) found five major themes of talk occurred during partner reading time in second grade: organizational, disputational, word strategy, meaning making, and personal talk. All of these, except personal talk, supported partner reading.
In The Stories of Science, authors Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldberg, and Melissa London describe how many of the elements of good science stories are meant to grab and hold the attention of the audience. (After all, what value is a story with no audience?) As they put it "In the movie The Never Ending Story, a boy reads a magical book and finds himself falling into the fantasy world described by the author. This is exactly what we want the audience to do when they read, hear, or see science stories."
In the book, the authors point to several strategies are used to lure readers into a story (and keep them there). Here are the four essential elements of engaging science stories:
Yetta Goodman (2002) reminds us that there are no substitutes for careful kid-watching and good listening. Nonetheless, a reading teacher can become more confident and able to adapt to students by having umbrella categories, or types of conferences, at his or her fingertips. Carving out time in the day for conference-based reading projects provides teachers with important opportunities to listen and assign readers work that is personalized and rigorous. The fundamental tenet of a conference-based reading project is that the direction should come from the student. Developing conference-based reading projects involves listening carefully to what students say about a text, and then helping them name an idea worth following.
The following nine umbrella categories are intended as a work in progress and is by no means definitive. The best use of this list would be as a jumping off point for educators to add to, revise, and refine. It’s important, always, to remember that the specifics of a good conference should come from what the individual student says and does. With that disclaimer in mind, here we go.
In No More Reading for Junk, Linda Gambrell and Barbara Marinak provide research-based context for fostering children’s intrinsic motivation to read, and share some of the strategies and techniques that can transform disengaged readers into passionate ones.
Teachers are often naturally avid readers, but even if you aren't the sort of reader who is inclined to sit down with the latest best-selling novel, there are so many ways to share with students the authentic ways you engage with text in your daily life. "One of the key factors in motivating students to read," write Barbara and Linda, "is a teacher who values reading and is enthusiastic about sharing their reading with students."
Research has shown that children respond negatively when reading is rewarded with "junk." When given incentives such as candy, toys or stickers, the motivation to read actually decreases and students become less likely to read in the long run.
In No More Reading for Junk, authors Barbara Marinak and Linda Gambrell provide research-based context for fostering reading motivation in children, and share strategies and techniques that are proven to transform students into passionate, lifelong readers.