It’s kind of like the story of the three bears – some seem a bit too big, some seem a bit too small, and some are just right!
But actually, at least when we are talking about reading comprehension passages, any size can work for a great lesson. Longer readings (even a novel!) can be used for a single lesson – keep reading for ideas on how. Really short passages can work too – with a little organizing. And then there are those articles that are the perfect size for a one day lesson, the ones that teachers save and reuse from year to year because they just work so well!
Finding those handy one pagers
The best of these have reading comprehension questions included and many even come with other follow-up activities. The follow-up activities might focus on the vocabulary or maybe work on a reading skill using a graphic organizer. You can find these articles under a number of headings.
- Close Reading Activities
Close reading activities often have lots of attached activities because the idea with close reading is to read the passage several times and get more out of it with each reading. I organize mine with three readings in mind.
- Informational Text Lessons
Informational text lessons come in all shapes and sizes. Some begin with an article found by the teacher on a topic of interest to her class. The reading response activity might be questions or a graphic organizer prepared in advance by the teacher, or it might involve something like questions and a vocabulary list generated by the class after reading.
- Content Area Passages
When you want a lesson that supports your colleagues in another subject area, content area passages are the way to go. Short readings can be found in textbooks, supplemental materials, and student magazines. Sometimes you will find vocabulary already highlighted in the passages. Headings and subheadings provide ideas for questions or maybe even for an outline or a written summary.
Using what you have – selections from longer readings
Even a novel can be the basis for a one-day reading comprehension lesson, either a novel that you are reading in class or even one that the class has never read! It just takes a little prep work.
To begin, take some time to select your reading passage, maybe a one to three page section. And you’ll need to plan your questions and follow-up activities as well. The bonus here is that this is also a great way to preview a new novel with your class.
Working with really short passages
Sometimes you just want to work on a particular skill, such as identifying cause and effect in a passage. Sure you’ll want to have students use their new skill on longer readings later on, but for teaching the skill, using passages that are just long enough to provide an example means that your kids will have time for more practice. And by short passages, I mean really short here – maybe just a paragraph or sometimes even a single sentence!
I love task cards for practicing these specific skills, and I’ve made lots of sets for things like individual story elements and text structures.
There are so many sources for readings now, that sometimes it just depends on how much time you have to devote to a particular lesson. When you have plenty (hardly ever, I know), spend the time to find an article that you love and to create a lesson that is just perfect for your class. But when you don’t (a much more common situation for teachers, unfortunately) grab a ready-to-use lesson from a reliable source. You’ll have a passage of just the right length and just what you need to get teaching.