Access and comprehend grade-level literature (Inclusive Big Idea #10)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 8: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #10: Access and comprehend grade-level literature

Standard: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently. RL.8.10

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Anchor Text: Use culturally relevant anchor texts such as The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake or What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum to connect with students who may have felt different. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Story Coding: Provide a copy of the text for the students to mark. Students should then create or follow a coding system to help them mark and understand the text. The coding system might look something like this:
    • (: I have a connection
    • ?: This part does not make sense
    • !: Wow! This was interesting
    • \#: This is an important part
  • Reflective Monitoring: As students read or listen to a text, they can record thoughts/questions/wonderings about the text in a reflective journal or audio file. After each day of reading or listening to the text, they should spend the last 5 minutes of the lesson doing a quick reflection about what they just read. This is a way for them to keep track of their thinking as they continue to read.
  • Book Clubs: Gather students in a small group to have a conversation about a common text. The group should determine what chapters will be read and when. Then, they gather periodically to share their thoughts about the book.
  • Use Technology. Use assistive technology devices and programs to provide access to texts, such as a big button to help turn the pages of an online book, Read&Write add-on to Google Chrome for text to speech, online dictionary, and highlighting key information.
  • Small Group Discussion: Students can participate in a teacher-led discussion about the story, more closely examining the themes presented in the story. Students could discuss how the characters feel about specific situations, citing examples from the text to support their thoughts. Ask higher level questions (whys and hows) to facilitate discussion. Students can ask each other questions about the story.
  • Model to Understand: Model using “key words” in a text to locate the information in the text. Make sure the key words are provided in a symbol or tactile format for students who are learning a communication system. Example: given “Why did the character feel isolated?”, highlight that it’s a “cause and effect” question, meaning students should look for events or words that might make them feel sad or alone in the text. Reference the text and look for the part that talks about key feeling words or actions. Highlight key information in text and write the answer. 

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is if the design of the lesson does not support students’ understanding of the main ideas.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • use peer interviews and KWL charts to build background knowledge
  • bridge concepts with relevant analogies and metaphors
  • use an experience book or student journal to bridge concepts
  • pre-teach vocabulary and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies needed to participate 

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • What are the types of narrative structures?
    • Prose:
      • chapters- a section of a book usually containing a main event or idea for the story
    • Poetry:
      • verse- a line of writing where words are arranged in a rhythmic pattern
      • rhythm- a flow of rising and falling sounds in language that is produced in verse by a regular repeating of stressed and unstressed syllables
      • meter- a systematic rhythm in poetry that is usually repeated
      • stanza- a division of a poem consisting of a series of lines arranged together in usually repeating patterns
    • Drama:
      • scene- where the action is occurring
      • cast of characters- people in the play
      • setting- place where the story happens
      • dialogue- conversation between two or more people
      • stage directions- provide actors with information about where to stand, how to move, or how to react


Looking for more suggestions?  Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

  • Dramatic Arts: Have the students put on a play, a storytelling day for younger students, or a poetry recital. Ask students to share their favorite books, plays or poetry. 

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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