Group 3 Reading
The goals for intermediate grade readers are to expand their abilities to comprehend more advanced text forms, to examine ideas set forth in both fiction and nonfiction texts, and to develop a community of active readers.
During the regular, scheduled Reading classes both assigned book and independent choice books are read. A work of fiction may be assigned to the whole class to allow a common reference point for discussing literary elements and devices such as plot structure, character development, and theme. These common texts are chosen from the many exemplary books that have been written for intermediate and middle school students with an eye to the interests of the particular class. At other times students will form small reading groups dependent on a book they all want to read. Students in this age group are beginning to grapple with who they are in relation to others. Many of the novels that we read are about characters who are facing the same issues. It is a wonderful way for students to get a glimpse of tween and adolescent life, identify with characters and think about the choices that character makes.
Whole class and small group discussions are the heart of the reading class. Students are supported as they learn how to hold meaningful book discussions. This takes time. Most students want to talk about their ideas but have a more difficult time listening to and reflecting on what others have to say. These discussions are very important in laying the foundation for effective essay writing.
Nonfiction texts are chosen to support our science and history units. With these books, the focus is on how factual information is structured, how to read for information, the need to be aware of things like author bias and publication dates, the importance of a table of contents to understanding the focus and structure of the book, and the use of indexes and glossaries. Students learn how to take effective and efficient notes, how to summarize both orally and in written form.
Students are asked to write in response to what they have read. The writing takes several forms. Each class is part of a Reading Class Blog where the teachers and students can pose questions or comments and respond to each other. There are also longer writing assignments where students learn to write well-formed responses to questions, write summaries, reviews, and essays.
The students will also have a more formal assignment at the end of each book. For fiction, students will, at first, be asked to respond to questions or to write a summary. The questions asked often have to do with character development and conflict identification. Effective summary writing is often elusive to students of this age. It takes time for students to identify the main ideas which drive the plot. Then there is the job of writing concisely about these ideas. Over the course of the year, we help students hone these skills.
As the students develop more sophisticated constructs about what they read we expect to see them expand on the questions we ask and begin to write about their personal ideas. Toward the end of the year, some of the students will be directing the topics of their essays.
For nonfiction, the focus is on note-taking and summarizing, two skills essential for future academics. Students are facing, often for the first time, the need to be able to put an authority’s words into their own words. For most students, the first step is to be able to orally summarize what is said before writing anything down.
In addition to assigned reading, we expect that students are choosing independent material to read. For some, this will be exclusively fiction and for others, nothing but facts will do. In reading class students discuss their independent choices and make suggestions of good reads to their peers. This helps to build a community of readers and moves everyone along.