In the elementary grades, teachers focus on helping students develop basic reading skills such as word recognition, spelling and grammar. By middle school, students begin to work on more complex reading skills, such as critical thinking, essay writing and research. Teachers continue lessons in basic grammar and spelling, but after middle school, students should have a much stronger grasp of the English language and a more finely-tuned ability to critically read.
During middle school, teachers begin to expect much higher level reading comprehension skills. As part of the push toward better reading comprehension, students continue to develop their vocabularies and may have entire classes or units devoted to vocabulary development. Learning about suffixes, prefixes and word roots can help improve vocabulary. Students also read longer and more complex books and should be able to read, report on and analyze novels during middle school.
Middle school reading moves beyond basic comprehension into analytical and critical thinking skills. Students may be required to analyze the elements of a book plot, critically evaluate essays and books, clearly express their opinions in writing and develop characters in creative writing classes. The ability to assess writing is an important component of middle school reading development and students may be required to evaluate their own writing as well as that of their peers.
The five-paragraph essay is a standard in middle school, and students will learn the basics of writing a thesis, developing an argument and drafting a conclusion. Paragraph and essay organization are key in middle school, and teachers emphasize not only proper grammar, but also well-organized ideas. Middle school writing looks much more like adult writing but may still have some awkward phrasing or underdeveloped ideas.
Research skills -- including computer-based research, selecting proper sources and properly attributing ideas -- are key components of middle school reading and writing. Students may be required to write research papers on books, novels and nonfiction essays. The research focus of middle school reading extends to most classes. Students may have to research scientific ideas, historical events and political ideas.
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