Slay all of the Dragons: Top five ways to be a literacy hero for your middle school students

Because integrating language arts into any subject is a critical cross-curricular skill, we need students to master non-fiction reading comprehension strategies to be able to learn, innovate, and think creatively. How can we, as teachers, support this by teaching strong nonfiction reading skills?

This is the final blog entry of a five-part series on supporting your middle school students in improving nonfiction reading skills: The Top Five Ways You can be a Literacy Hero for your Students!

ONE: How will you integrate literacy standards into your content area lesson plans? This is a basic but critical self-reflection question that you need to keep on a mental loop each day you are teaching. You might be thinking, “Really, she’s posting this idea in February?” But it’s never too early (or late!) to plan how you’ll support student growth in the following year. Ask yourself as you are teaching-what is working this year? What do students need support with this year? What do you wish you’d done differently? Grab your sword and put on your hero pants. You can create an overview of your literacy lessons by quarter, semester, or trimester that will amp up your confidence and effectiveness in teaching language arts standards. 

TWO: You’ve undoubtedly noticed how varied students’ abilities are to write a coherent sentence. Battling through the first few months of school feels like wandering the countryside on an epic quest, only to be thwarted by dragons (or orcs or evil magicians…). Students seem like broken robots, throwing out random comments and half-completed sentences to just finish the assignment. With intentionality, you can plan out lessons that gradually build their understanding of basic sentence structure, complete sentences vs. sentence fragments, and more complex sentences. Use daily warm-ups (or bell-ringers) as a vehicle for daily practice. One way to make this a low prep endeavor is to create questions on your Learning Management System, such as Google Classroom. Then, quickly survey the students’ answers. You can even tie the answers to both literacy and science (or other content areas) standards to gauge students’ progress towards proficiency. This consistent practice will lead to improved reading and writing skills and you’ll be able to see results from your MAP or other literacy assessments within a few months!

THREE: Every year, you have the power to hook students with engaging literacy lessons. You can get your students fired up about learning by choosing provocative or interesting texts. Setting up Groundhog Day centers? Throw in a claim, evidence, and reasoning reading that asks kids to scrutinize the claim that groundhogs can predict the weather. Ask students to think about the human impacts on ecosystems by asking them to use evidence to create a claim about the impact of property development on deer and bees.

FOUR: One of the most efficient ways to create instructional plans is to teach cross-curricular lessons. You can write lesson plans that integrate graphing activities, your current science (or other content areas) standards, and a nonfiction reading. In one thirty-minute lesson, your students will use nonfiction skills such as analyzing evidence, connecting data to a claim, and determining vocabulary definitions using context clues. Teaching nonfiction reading strategies using cross-curricular activities can be an engaging and streamlined way to plan for your middle school classroom.

FIVE: Over the last decade and a half of teaching elementary and middle school classes, I’ve developed my own style of integrating literacy into other lessons and I love sharing these efficient and effective strategies. You can use my experience and insights to improve literacy learning outcomes in your classroom. Try the ideas above when you are creating an overview of your school year. Even picking one area of professional growth, such as focusing on teaching sentence skills, will give you confidence as you start a new school year or unit. 

Two years ago, I began designing resources to support teachers in teaching with cross-curricular lesson sets. This is a passion-based endeavor that hits two important professional goals: 1. act in the capacity of an instructional coach in sharing what I know with educators in their first three years of teaching, and 2. using my creativity and experience to create resources that make an impact. Through practice, revision, and reflection, I have developed cross-curricular resources that will help you build literacy skills with your students.

Help your students flex their deductive reasoning muscles with this bundle. This resource includes nonfiction texts, claim, evidence, and argument (and CER Science) activities, and nonfiction lessons. Click on the image to purchase this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Elementary teachers, I have cross-curricular resources for you, too! Check out this science and literacy bundle that supports NGSS elementary life science, earth science, and chemistry standards.

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