Promoting Young Adolescent Readers

By: AMLE


Literacy initiatives have led to a steady increase in fourth grade reading scores since 1999, but according to research, the literacy levels of 13- and 17-year-olds have remained static for almost 40 years. Why do middle school readers continue to struggle?

According to a new white paper from Generation Ready, “Adolescent Readers in Middle School,” the problem isn’t students’ lack of ability to read, it’s their struggle to comprehend text that is increasingly complex and discipline-specific. The introduction of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, with its focus on deeper understanding and critical thinking, may compound their struggles, says author Sheena Hervey, chief academic officer for Generation Ready.

The report, which looks at some lessons learned from the New York City Department of Education’s Middle School Quality Initiative, suggests professional development for middle grades teachers that helps them implement several strategies focused on improving literacy and achievement among young adolescents:

  1. Give students extended time to engage with text across the curriculum. Rather than summarizing difficult content for students, teachers should give them more time to fully comprehend what they are reading. Some of that extended time will take place in English classes; the rest must be included in other subject areas such as science and history.
  2. Explicitly teach comprehension strategies. That includes modeling comprehension strategies, providing guided or scaffolded practices with complex texts, and providing students with opportunities to practice comprehension strategies independently.
  3. Introduce students to academic and domain-specific vocabulary in meaningful contexts rather than in isolation.
  4. Work in teams to collaborate across disciplines. Common planning time can help create consistency of instruction.
  5. Provide students with opportunities to collaborate around complex texts. Rich and rigorous conversations with peers helps students synthesize material, integrate new learning, share ideas, and seek clarification.
  6. Develop an assessment strategy that tracks student reading growth and identifies strengths and learning needs. The strategy should include summative and formative assessments and should emphasize progress over achievement.

“Our challenge is to ensure our students have the skills they need to be literate in a rapidly changing world. The stakes are high both in terms of individual quality of life and national economic competitiveness,” according to Hervey.

Read the white paper at http://www.generationready.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Adolescent-Readers-in-Middle-School.pdf


4 Comments
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4 comments on article "Promoting Young Adolescent Readers"

I love that this article is about improving students literacy levels but can also be applied to help them succeed academically in any are. Some great points that I gained from this article is that adequate time should be given to the students to learn tough material, allow students to collaborate with their classrooms and learn from each other that way, and assessments also need to be formatted in such a way that can identify both strengths and needs of each individual student. I think that all these points are very helpful and would help any classroom to be a successful one.

—Madison
10/13/2014 1:02 AM

What I liked most about this post is how it explains that students who aren't understanding their readings don't need an easy way out such as summarizing of the text, they need additional time to fully understand and comprehend what they are reading. My favorite quote- "Give students extended time to engage with text across the curriculum. Rather than summarizing difficult content for students, teachers should give them more time to fully comprehend what they are reading. Some of that extended time will take place in English classes; the rest must be included in other subject areas such as science and history". Not only is it important to give students mre time if they need it, it is essential. If they o not have reading comprehension, it is not just a Enlgish/Language Arts problem, it begins to affect their other classes as well due to text processing.

—Helene
10/13/2014 5:16 PM

As a future English teacher, I really enjoyed this article. I am starting to think about how my students will be able to get the most out of my class. Obviously, a large portion of what I will cover in my class will involve reading skills, but improving the literacy levels of my students will not only affect their time in my class, but for the rest of their lives. This can be a huge burden to bear, but I thought it was really interesting that it was crucial for different disciplines to work together to help students reach their full potential when it comes to their reading ability.

--Johanna

—Johanna
3/9/2015 11:48 AM

As a future Agricultural Education instructor, I really enjoyed the idea of giving students extended time to learn across the curriculum. It would be very interesting to see the amount of students benefit from applying what was read in English to what they are learning in Science, or even in my shop classes someday. I think it is important for educators to realize that the importance of literacy isn't solely based on English instruction. It is up to us as a whole to collaborate and think of ways to connect all curriculum for students to benefit greatly.

—Alicia
3/9/2015 12:41 PM

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