9-12 Resources: Reading like a Pro

Basic Skills

Reading begins by connecting printed symbols with sounds. Next, the reader applies the rules of letters and sounds to identify words. Older readers use these same skills to break down complicated vocabulary into understandable units or syllables. All these important skills help to “crack the code” of reading and writing for understanding. And it all begins with 26 letters and about 44 sounds. Amazing!


Many words are created in the English language by taking a simple (root) word and adding letters at the beginning (PREfixes) and/or letters at the end (SUFfixes). What we call them is not important. How they change the meaning of a word is extremely important. For example, FRIEND may become UNFRIENDLY. PORT may become IMPORT, PORTER, or IMPORTANTLY. Port means to carry, and you can see how the meaning is enhanced with affixes. Conduct a Word Search using the newspaper or a magazine. See how many words with affixes each member of the family can circle in a minute. Use the Master List of Morphemes to help define those words.

Root Words

Root words are much like the DNA of vocabulary. It is the beginning of the concept. It is the beginning of a very rich WORD. Let’s start with grace as a root word. We can fuse this to create gracious, or ungraceful or disgraceful. With just a few root words, our vocabulary is expanding exponentially! And exponent is my ROOT WORD! Use the Root Word List to see how many variations you can create from a single root word. Then discuss the definitions of your creations.

Reading Fluently: The Right Speed, Accuracy and Expression

Fluency--what is it? It is the ability to read quickly, accurately and with expression. It is the ability to make reading FLOW! We want our children to read fluently so that they understand what they read. How does one improve fluency? By reading! There are many things we can do to develop fluent readers.

General Resources

Looking for some general information on reading fluency? How about some great tips for building fluency at home? Look no further. You have come to the right spot!

Fluency Station

Choose a favorite book, a library book or a text book. Model fluent reading by reading aloud with expression to your child. Now it’s their turn! Repeated reading of the same book is quite all right. In fact, we LOVE repeated readings.

Track the number of words read, number of mistakes and evaluate how expressive the reader was with a Graphing Oral Reading teacher tool.

Building a Strong Vocabulary

Why is vocabulary important? Creating a home environment that is rich in both print and the spoken word is critical to your child’s language development. Help your child build a rich vocabulary to become an effective reader and writer.

Websites Worth Visiting

Save these great sites on your computer to help your child develop a strong vocabulary.

At Home Ideas

Looking for some great tips for building vocabulary at home? Look no further. You have come to the right spot!

Refrigerator Word Banks

The “fridge” is a great place to save words and phrases for developing stronger vocabulary. Develop One-Week Word Banks based on a theme. Why not collect science terms, math terms, words that make you angry or words of inspiration. Why not collect a list of all the ways one can say BIG?

Sensational Words

Use television news or commercials, newspapers or magazines to collect words that persuade you. Keep a journal of SENSATIONAL words that are used to influence you. Discuss the purpose of those sensational words and consider their effect. Words like “breaking news!,” “Gluten free” or “powerful” just to name a few. Will they get your attention or improve your looks? Will those words influence your vote or cause you to make a purchase? Sensational words are SENSATIONAL!

Connecting Real-World Experiences to What Your Child Is Reading

For children to truly understand what they read, they must have some experience with the topic to connect the new information to their understanding of the world. We can read a how-to manual on replacing a carburetor, but unless we have some basic understanding of car engines, we will never understand it. Likewise, children need many real-world experiences in order to understand what they are reading. Those experiences can be either real (trip to the zoo) or virtual (read a book about orangutans). It is essential that children build vast knowledge of the world around them in order to become great readers and writers.

Ways to Build Knowledge

Helping your child call to memory what he or she already knows about a topic before reading a text really helps your child connect the new learning to what is already known. Teachers call this activating prior knowledge.

Connect lessons from texts with experiences from your life:

  • Fables teach values and morals.
  • Cultural history and storytelling.
  • Scientific process as applied to recycling or space exploration.
  • Use the Internet to dig deeper.

Field Trips

Of course a trip to a museum or the zoo is an obvious way to build a child’s understanding of the world, but there are many ways to develop understanding right in your backyard! Share your hobby; use public transportation and explain how it works, take apart an old electronic device (anyone using telephones?), prepare a favorite recip,; listen to a genre of music—the sky is the limit. Just remember to ask questions, give explanations, write a review when the activity is complete or create a photo compilation of the event.

Brainstorming Sessions

What is brainstorming? It is bringing up a real-world problem (problems that are meaningful to younger children may include littering, messy bedroom, chores, forgetting to brush teeth, etc.) and trying to find solutions. However, there are some very important rules regarding the sharing of ideas and solutions. Most importantly, there is no such thing as a dumb idea! All ideas are welcome and encouraged. Out of someone’s zany idea might come a perfect solution to a problem. Take a look at the Rules for Brainstorming Sessions and try it at your next family dinner.

Understanding What Is Read

Reading the words and sentences in a text is only half the job. The other half requires understanding what is read. The purpose of reading is to get meaning from the written passage. Sometimes children learn to read the words of a text, without understanding the information within it. Comprehension is the ability to understand what is read and it is important to becoming an accomplished reader.


In middle school students have transitioned from learning to read to reading to learn. This requires them to develop more sophisticated reading skills in order to analyze texts when learning across all content areas. Read the to learn about the reading skills middle school students need to refine and strengthen.

Think Aloud

Students learn when they make connections between what they hear and what they know. One method parents can use to help make these connections is called a think aloud, where you talk through your thoughts as you read. Use the think aloud method with anything you read, but you can apply it to a television show, a play, or even a movie. Ask questions that encourage your student to draw conclusions, predict what happens next, or determine motivations. Watch the middle school teacher in this video demonstration how to do a think aloud and give it a try at home!

Concept Maps

Concept maps build off a student’s prior knowledge. They allow for connections to be visualized as seen in this concept map example. IT is helpful to understand a passage by drawing important concepts into a web or map. This helps your student see the relationships of concepts. Some concepts to map include: main idea, characters, sequencing of events, single character attributes, or major events leading to the climax.

Text Coding

Watch this to see how to help your student pull out important concepts when reading informational texts. Good tips like numbering paragraphs and highlighting repeated words will help guide reading for understanding.