As a reading teacher, with a language arts and special education licensure, I have a deep understanding of how reading challenges can create barriers to learning and comprehension. One thing that general education teachers need to consider when asking middles school students to read aloud is that students tend to focus solely on their turn to read and often do not comprehend the content being read. Do middle school students need to read aloud? Yes. Should they be forced to read in front of their peers? That question is debatable. It depends on what the teacher’s objective is and if they are more concerned with student comprehension or with creating a situation that ultimately constructs a barrier to learning and potential disruption in effective classroom management.

One way to address the read aloud in middle school is to take the volunteer approach. Set standards for reading aloud right from the beginning. 1. When a peer is reading no correcting mistakes, if the error needs to be corrected in order to maintain understanding the teacher will make the correction, otherwise continue reading. 2. At the end of a paragraph or section, pause and stop reading, the next volunteer can start. Long pauses, waiting for someone to start reading will eventually close as students grow more comfortable reading. Remind students not to volunteer others to read, you can only volunteer yourself. 3. No additional talking is accepted during reading time. Respect each other and listen. 4. As students grow comfortable with the classroom and see that it is a safe environment to read aloud, more students will start volunteering. Requesting that more students volunteer is a good way to increase involvement as well. This approach to the read aloud encourages active participation in the read aloud process giving students an in or out as needed. Differentiation for students with reading difficulties includes; providing the student a selection the day before giving them a chance to practice reading. Then in the whole class setting, the teacher may work the discussion stopping points in a way to allow the target student to start a section that they have practiced. Best practice would be to reserve read aloud with struggling readers for small group and pair reading.

When it comes to independent reading differentiation is easily attained by having students develop an understanding of their personal reading levels (easy, independent, frustration). Quarterly STARS reading assessments provide teachers and students with detailed information that offers opportunities for students to take ownership in their learning. Students use their reading levels to select a text that allows them to focus on reading for enjoyment. For nonfiction text (example Newsela) students choose the LL when reading articles. It is important for the teacher to continually discuss reading with students and encourage them to push themselves to the next level; especially with leveled nonfiction reading with comprehension questions (see Fostering Critical Thinking with Comprehension Questions).  Oral book conferences and optional AR testing provides students multiple ways to share the books they are reading.

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