State Test Prep Reading Strategy for Middle School


Give your middle school students this 7 step process to use when taking the state tests in reading.

When state testing comes around, I find that many of my students and their parents become anxious and want a way to review at home.  I used to just say things like "You are a good reader.  You know how to think things through.  You'll be fine."  But then I got to thinking, what if they are not "fine" because their anxious mind begins to overthink things? So that's why I decided to break down this process.

Reading Process

Just like there is a writing process, there is also a reading process that people use when reading texts. They may not even realize they are using a process because it's something that most people do naturally once they reach middle school.  

Notice I said "most".  There are some students who have never thought about this before and once they do, it unlocks a new way of thinking and these students have a "eureka moment" that knocks their socks off!  :)

So what is this process?
1.  Read the directions, text features, and captions.
2.  Establish a purpose for reading based on the questions
3.  Read the text and identify clue words
4.  Determine if the text is fiction or nonfiction.
5.  Slash the trash
6.  Select/Write the Best Answer
7.  Review Answers

I like to give my students a text with some questions and then go through each step using a flipbook so I can stop and explain things as I go.  We refresh our memories on what text features are, how we can read the questions and get a kind of preview of the text, and even what the idea of clue words means.  

Then we get to step 4, I am always asked "Why does it matter if it's fiction or nonfiction?"  To which I answer "Because there are different kinds of structure based on that.  If it's fiction, then think plot diagram.  If it's nonfiction think about the 5 types of structure."  And this, of course, affects the way one might answer the questions too.

The last 3 steps are probably pretty much expected steps but I think students have to be explicitly taught to do these things and practice them so that when they get to the test, they have a frame of reference.

Finally, after we've gone though all the steps, we have a conversation goes something like this:

Me:  "So this process is what readers use when they read anything - fiction or nonfiction."

Them:  Incredulous looks

Me:  Grabs book (Tangerine by Edward Bloor) - 
"Think about it.  When we read this book in class, we first looked at the pictures and read the back - that's step #1.  Then we decided why were were reading this book - we knew we wanted to determine what?  

Them:  Offer ideas 

Me:  (If needing follow up:  What did we put in our double-entry journals?  Evidence for...)  Right - we wanted to trace character development and determine the theme.  That's step #2.  Then we read the book.  As we read it we found keywords, we knew it was fiction but we compared it to what we know real life is like, right? That's steps #3 and 4.  Because we're in class, you used the rest of the steps for various activities but even if you weren't in class, you would use steps 1-4.  Be honest, how many of you "judge a book by its cover" when you pick out one for yourself?

Them:  Raise hands and comment that the back of the book helps them know if the book sounds interesting.

Me:  Of course!  And then you have a purpose for reading - maybe it's because someone recommended the book and wants to talk about it with you or maybe you like the genre or topic, or maybe you're in Battle of the Books, or maybe you just like a good dystopian fiction book.  Any way you look at it those are the first 2 steps!  But then as you read, you notice important things and you compare them to what you know.  That's how readers make meaning of what they read and that's called comprehension.  Pretty cool, right?  How many of you have just realized this for the first time?

Them:  Most of the class.

Me:  And now you have learned a new reading "secret".

It's like teaching magic when I can get through to my students on a level like this!

If you'd like to use this process with your students, my flipbook is all ready to go in both printable and digital formats.  The idea is that students read the included text and then need to place all the pieces for the flipbook onto the correct tab.  It's highly interactive and students get a lot out of it.  The digital version requires the same piece placement but in a digital environment using Google Slides.

This printable and digital flipbook gives middle school students a chance to interactively practice with using the reading process to prepare for state tests in reading.

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Use this 7-step process with your middle school students to help them practice working through the material found in a state test for reading.


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