About Texts for Middle Schoolers

Education has moved beyond a textbook for science, one for social studies, another for math, and a novel for ELA. And we should have! Students are now being exposed to rich and varied texts from a young age. That’s a good thing! But, as a middle school teacher, finding texts that are useful to teaching my students is always a challenge. The texts freely available on the internet weren’t written with middle schoolers in mind.

 

What’s wrong with the texts for middle schoolers?

 

  • Too many references - An article about a contested Spelling Bee will end on a joke about hanging chads or an essay about the bus boycotts will use the phrase ‘economic impact’ and assume readers know what that means. Reading is a knowledge driven activity and sometimes kids just don’t have the knowledge foundation to understand references, comparisons, or asides. Can you blame them? Just think about everything that has happened in 2020 alone! I hope to teach children to have curious minds -- telling them when they ask me what a reference in an article means to ‘just ignore it’ doesn’t allow me to do so.

 

  • Too long - Short stories and longform essays are frequently just so….long. Reluctant middle school readers strongly prefer less paragraphs. But, teachers do too! In depth, close reads of texts in class don’t work well if the first read takes over twenty minutes. Lengthy texts sometimes distract students from comprehension work because they get tangled up in extraneous details or dialogue. Learning to wade through these author quirks is part of becoming a strong reader, but it's usually a part that is mastered after comprehension of shorted texts is mastered.

 

  • Too much journalism -- Many of the freely available texts on the web are news articles. That’s great for having a well-informed citizenry! But a heavy diet of news articles isn’t always the best for teaching young readers to comprehend and analyze a variety of texts. Journalists use an inverted pyramid style and strive for an objective voice. Having students read so many articles that do both can be challenging when you then ask them to find the central idea or to analyze the author’s point of view.

 

  • Not demonstrative enough -- Freely available texts on the web aren’t usually written with the goal of demonstrating an aspect of writing. Why would they be? But I find that it is difficult to ask students to, look at a text and, for example, separate claims that are supported by evidence from claims that are not when there are no claims that are unsupported. Because there aren’t usually blatantly unsupported claims. Why would there be? Long before my students got there an editor highlighted that section and commented something like ‘Proof?!’ and then evidence was added.

 

My aim with this website is to provide free texts that rectify these issues. The texts on this website:

  • Do not make references to events or concepts a middle schooler likely wouldn’t understand

  • Are usually under 100 paragraphs long

  • Showcase a variety of writing styles

  • Clearly demonstrate the aspects of writing identified in the 6-8 band

 

In addition, the texts have a detailed description of their text complexity, comprehension questions, and grade-level standards aligned questions. If you have a topic or a theme you are interested in me writing about, please reach out!

 

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