I teach middle school students with a variety of reading problems often causing behavior issues as well. Their life experiences/vocabulary are very limited, as is their self-confidence. Most students are on free or reduced lunches, live in the projects and come from minority backgrounds. Few have traveled or participated in extracurricular activities.
Many of my students work extraordinarly hard to overcome multiple disadvantages.
Several participate in our classes' weekly after school Bike and Book Club. We read and then ride on donated/repaired bicycles. Through their special efforts, my students often earn community trips to plays, poetry readings, museum programs, "real" restaurants, farmers market, etc.---bringing back new experiences for our class to discuss, read and write about. This often results in major improvements in self-confidence, reading levels and behavior.
Several of my middle school students have been unable to read for most of their lives, consequently they have hated reading for many years. Because they are now beginning to learn to read, they require lower level books primarily made up of basic sight words and words they can phonemically decode. The vast majority of these books are of interest to young children, not middle schoolers so they are easily bored. But they love the Tom and Ricky Mystery series which are appropriate high interest low reading lexile chapter books. We need class sets to continue to inspire their reading.
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