In middle school, reading requirements ramp up in all subject areas, including history, math, and science. In English or language arts classes, students will be introduced to great works of literature, including biographies, short stories, folktales, poetry, and plays. They will spend time, in class and in homework, analyzing these works and studying the complex elements of plot, setting, and character development. Students will compare differences in genre and style, and learn to interpret literary devices like foreshadowing and flashback. The overall goal is to help them develop a more sophisticated understanding of literature and a true love of reading, which will, in turn, build vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and knowledge.
Reading for Pleasure
Unfortunately, not all middle school students enjoy reading. Some read only when they have to complete school assignments, rarely picking up a book for pleasure. One job of the middle school teacher is to turn reluctant readers into proficient readers by offering them access to a wide range of materials from which they can choose according to their own interests. These might include mysteries, biographies, science fiction, and fantasies, as well as magazines and newspapers.
For struggling readers, teachers might offer books at their independent level — books they can read successfully. Good teachers also provide students with strategies to improve their comprehension and fluency. "When students are offered strategies that bond them to books and stimulate thinking and wondering, it plants the seeds that germinate lifelong readers — readers who turn to books because of the knowledge, pleasure, and entertainment reading brings to their lives," says Winchester, Virginia, teacher and author Laura Robb.
Parents, too, should provide their child with a rich selection of reading materials at home — and share and discuss what they read with their child. Laura Robb asks her students' parents to read the same books as their children, and exchange letters expressing their thoughts and opinions. "Parents say it really opens doors and stimulates communication," says Robb, who also suggests that parents continue reading aloud to their kids. "Sharing a magazine or newspaper article helps build a child's background knowledge and range of experience, which will ultimately make him better equipped to learn," she adds.
By now your child should be a relatively fluid writer, capable of composing essays, reports, summaries, letters, stories, speeches, and poems. The demands of writing increase in all subject areas, including social studies and science, and in forms such as notes, essay tests, and outlines. Assignments will be frequent and varied, as students work to express themselves with increasing confidence, technical correctness, and ease.
In English or language arts classes, creative writing opportunities increase. Students will work to engage a reader with imaginative stories that use a range of literary devices, like dialogue and suspense. They will sharpen their expository writing skills, too, by composing clear and organized essays (descriptive, persuasive and narrative) that include an introduction, conclusion and sub-headings. Special attention also goes to more polished and structured research papers.
Students will continue to refine their research skills, organize information and ideas, and draft, edit, and revise their writing. Teachers will expect final drafts to be printed on a computer with footnotes and bibliographies, as well as with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.