Magic of Story for Middle Grade Students
Sadly, for some readers the joy of reading appears to taper off in middle school.
How can the magic of story and books be shared with middle school students?
One summer I was asked to work with a group of middle grade students who were struggling to achieve a passing grade in Language Arts. Because it was apparent that the traditional teaching tactics were less effective and because it was summer, I decided to try some alternative techniques.
Among other class experiences, I concluded each day with a read aloud.
Here's what I did:
Read aloud one chapter from an exciting adventure book. Each student had his/her own paperback copy of the book and was welcome to either listen as I read or follow along with the text. After a few days, I stopped reading the final paragraph. Students were given a few minutes to read the final paragraph to learn how the chapter concludes.
In the succeeding days, I continued this practice, gradually decreasing the amount of text I read aloud. However I always began reading each chapter aloud.
A few important tips:
- Select a story with lots of entertainment value, i.e. action, adventure, humor, mystery.
- Look for books with relatively short chapters, fairly large font, and an ample amount of "white space" on the page.
- Make sure that the author uses a "cliff-hanger" conclusion for many of the chapters.
- Find books that promote discussion and engagement among students. If students want to talk about what they read, it naturally engenders higher interest among all students who want to know more of what "everyone is talking about".
- Obtain a paperback copy for each student.
- Select the first book in a series. This gives students a natural launch to continue reading after finishing the book.
- Always provide reading support by reading aloud a part of each chapter. If students want to read ahead, that is fine. But continue to offer this support for students who need encouragement to continue reading. The amount of text you read aloud each day is determined by the student interest/need not by a preset number of pages.
The Story Thieves by James Riley
I recently read Story Thieves and Story Thieves: The Stolen Chapters by James Riley, a fast-paced wild adventure series with a slightly sardonic voice.
These books immediately struck me as an excellent series for a middle grade read aloud experience.
Young readers will want to snatch up a gobstopper and join in the adventure.
Readers can look forward to:
- A totally new way to time travel
- The possibility of a fantastic new world(s)
- Magic: What happens when "good" magic goes horribly wrong?
- Messing with minds: Memory is lost, found, and lost again
- Craziness: Hopping in and out of books, including becoming a cartoon character
- Identity crisis: Exactly who is real? Who is a clone? Who are the good guys?
- What to worry about in a crisis
'That's all well and good, but what about bathroom breaks?!' Owen shouted."
- Danger Defined
- Life vs. Life Choices
"Breaking the law?" Moira said. "I'm trying, Dad. I really am. I know it doesn't look like it --"
"You just robbed four banks--"