From preschool and kindergarten through the primary grades, students are taught the foundation skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening and using technology. As students move into the middle grades, the focus changes to an emphasis on vocabulary development and building of comprehension skills - a movement from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."
This issue of Educator's Voice addresses delivering effective instruction for students in grades 4 to 8. This issue focuses on those critically important years of increasing the complexity of the reading material and building the requisite skills so students will flourish in these years and beyond.
The context of literacy instruction includes addressing the diverse needs of students, the appropriate use of remediation, strategies to capture the interest of reluctant readers and writers, and ways to enliven literacy instruction so students remain actively engaged in understanding a variety of genres. These articles help teachers guide students in becoming independent readers, able to comprehend content textual material, and preparing them for the rigors of literacy in high school.
Welcome and Introduction
"Building on the foundation of early literacy that was explored in Volume I, this issue will help educators in the intermediate and middle levels guide learners to understand the demands of more intensive and complex reading of fiction, non-fiction and specific subject content reading," says NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira.
1. Engaging Special Education Students in Higher Levels of Literacy
Strategies developed at the University at Albany's Partnership for Literacy are proving effective in engaging special education students at the middle level, who are demonstrating to themselves, their parents, teachers, and others that they are capable of higher levels of thinking.
2. Teach Kids to Think and They'll Want to Learn
When students are given the tools for thinking, reflecting, and extending their comprehension from literal to deeper levels of thinking, a passion to learn is established.
3. Two Important Strategies for Struggling Readers
Even students who meet standards in the early grades are likely to struggle if they don't receive instruction in the more sophisticated literacy demands of middle-level content areas. This article shares recommendations for two strategies that its authors say should be included in any comprehensive literacy program at the middle level: differentiated support for literacy across the curriculum, and additional targeted instruction for those who struggle with reading and writing.
4. Differentiated Learning in Science
Using graphic organizers and literacy strategies, two middle-level science teachers demonstrate their methods for helping students develop literacy skills - from organizing their thoughts for written expression to improving their reading comprehension.
5. Read Alouds Move to the Middle Level
While reading aloud has long been shown as a successful way to improve students' literacy skills at the pre-school and elementary levels, less is known about the practice and results at the middle level. Here, the authors observe reading aloud in middle-level classes to see how it's done and speak to teachers involved with the program to find out how it is working.
6. Dispelling the Myth of the Perfect Reader
To determine why some students feel estranged from the reading process and to create serious, motivated readers, a veteran middle-level reading specialist says it's first necessary to deconstruct the myths that surround what it means to be a good reader.
7. How Classroom Research can Improve Literacy Instruction
In this article, two assistant professors in Lehman College's Department of Middle and High School Education argue in favor of classroom research in the context of K-12 schools, as well as teacher education programs. Supported by a substantial body of research, the authors base these arguments on their own experiences as classroom teachers and teacher educators.
8. Literacy Lives at the Virtual Museum
The Internet and the availability of free and low-cost desktop publishing software have enhanced literacy opportunities for students by giving them access to museums around the world whose exhibits they can replicate in the classroom. However, even without access to technology, educators can help middle-level students create a classroom museum that will enhance literacy skills for current and future classes.
9. It's Time to Tap in to Technology
The use of technology to support and develop literacy skills at the middle level is no longer an option, it's a requirement for student success in the 21st century. In this article, the authors outline some of the technology available and provide strategies and resources for immediate use at the middle level.
10. Reaching Diverse Learners through Social Justice Themes
A curricular framework that provides techniques for teachers to combine content about labor and social justice with technology for digital storytelling is giving culturally and linguistically diverse learners new opportunities to participate in personally meaningful activities that incorporate multiple literacies, and become successful critical readers and writers.
11. Meet Your New 'Reading First' Students
Since 2001, in more than 308 New York state schools, 10,000 teachers have adopted the principles of reading instruction that were part of Reading First, the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Resources for Middle Grades
In offering these recommendations, we remind the reader that adolescent literacy is complex. There are many reasons why adolescents have difficulty making sense of texts, and there are many manifestations of these difficulties. Addressing students’ needs often requires coordinated efforts from teachers and specialists. Readers should also note that appropriate professional development in reading has been shown to produce higher achievement in students.