When it comes to improving reading comprehension middle school students are often more open to creative exercises. By middle school many of them should be pretty good readers, but reading comprehension can always be improved and enhanced as they prepare to head into the high school and college settings. Reading comprehension as well as general comprehension abilities are foundational in how successful a student will be in the educational process, and ultimately out in the workplace.
The National Reading Panel has stated that comprehension is an active process requiring a thoughtful and intentional interaction between both the reader and the text being read. Improving reading comprehension middle school students will be much better prepared to take on the more challenging curriculum in high school and college.
There are a number of ways that teachers can help improve the reading comprehension of middle schoolers. Here are four to get you started:
Creative quizzes and worksheets
This is one of the most time-tested ways to test comprehension, but there’s no reason your quizzes and worksheets have to be ordinary. Once your students have read a passage or book, give them a quiz or worksheet that is actually fun for them to complete. Make a game of it! Include a mixture of questions requiring specific answers as well as more open-ended, fun questions. Include a mixture of simple as well as more challenging items so that you can gauge the true level and depth of each student’s level of reading comprehension. Ask for descriptions of main characters, or perhaps even drawings of them or pivotal scenes in the book.
Post-it note page markers
Give each student a pack of post-it notes and have them bookmark pivotal moments in the book they are reading. You can have a pre-printed list of things to look for, or have students choose moments to bookmark and discuss later. If they are doing the choosing, have them write down why they’ve marked the page; they can do so either on the post-it note or on a separate piece of paper. (If on a separate sheet, you can have them number what they’ve written and then write the number on the post-it note that corresponds with the appropriate page of the book.)
Have each student create a mind map about the book or material they have just read. A mind map is an illustration that starts with the central theme or the subject in the middle, and then radiates out from there. In the case of a book, the central hub could be the main theme or the main character (protagonist) of the book. From there, each “spoke” of the wheel could relate to a tangential character or sub-theme. Encourage the kids to get as creative and descriptive as possible. They can draw pictures on it or even “collage” their mind map. Ask them to make connections and draw conclusions about the story, characters and themes as they create their mind map.
The “Who Am I” game
For this fun and creative game, write the names of people, places, ideas, objects and vocabulary words from the book on pieces of paper. Randomly tape them to students’ backs without them knowing their word/concept. Then have the students mingle with one another in the classroom. Have them ask one another questions to help each student guess what word they might be wearing. Any student may answer the questions asked. With each correct answer and guess, discuss what the person, idea or word means to the story. This is an engaging and memorable way for students to remember and comprehend what they’ve read.
When it comes to improving reading comprehension middle school students really appreciate a break from the norm. Try and inject some fun and creativity whenever possible into their school day. Just about any book or reading material comprehension exercise can be made into a game. Even traditional worksheets and quizzes can be creative.
The most important thing is that your students become better readers and better able to comprehend what they are reading. Reading comprehension ability sets the stage for success in many other areas of education, so this is one area where success is crucial. Use your imagination and be on the lookout for creative ways to help students better comprehend what they are reading.