Supporting Our Upper Level Readers


So often we’re so focused on those sweet students in our class that struggle. They take up so much of our minds and hearts.

We think about them at night, on the weekends, during our own kids’ soccer practices…constantly. We think about what else we can do for them to help them become successful. We think about additional accommodations or modifications we can offer. We think about what areas they really do well in and how we can replicate that. We think about what other strategies we can incorporate in hopes of starting to see them thrive.

Unfortunately, our higher achieving students don’t always get the same amount of thought that the others do. We know they’re doing fine, and they’ll probably continue to do fine, without us constantly thinking about them. While working in the middle school gifted world, I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can support our striving, upper-level readers.

Just like our struggling students, they need our attention too, just in a different way. We want to keep seeing them continue to grow and develop their literacy skills, even if they’re already a higher-level student.

Get to know all aspects of the reader

In order to support your higher readers, you need to understand them! Take the time to sit with them and talk about their reading habits, including types of books they enjoy, strategies they use when they’re reading, and what makes them abandon a book. Finding out this information is crucial to supporting them with higher thinking and skills.

Plan to accelerate, not just grow

Oftentimes when we think about our higher students, we think about how we can make them grow even more. Honestly, these are the type of kids that are going to make growth regardless of how much, or how little, we push them. What we should be doing is thinking about how we can accelerate things for them. Introduce them to a new series; reading a series builds motivation to keep going and to make meaning from an author’s words over a period of time. These students need MORE time on independent reading, not less!

Assess well to teach well

We can’t waste our time with assessments that only fulfill the “check-it-off-the-list” purpose. In order to provide them with quality instruction, we need to spend the time with quality assessments. Think about and consider many different methods for assessment. Maybe one day it’s an oral presentation to the class, and another day it’s a journal entry written from the perspective of the main character in the book they’re reading. Use the information gained from the assessments to allow them to practice skills needed.

Consider unit goals vs. skills needed

We all have unit goals that we hope to accomplish throughout the year. With evaluations and state testing hanging over our heads, it’s easy to make those unit goals the priority. However, these kids probably have skill areas that may take precedent in some cases. There will be instances where they already have mastered the unit goals, and could start engaging with the next grade level standards, with individualized instruction from the teacher.

Provide access to practice

I will forever be a proponent of read alouds in the classroom, regardless of the age of the students. Choosing a picture book that is above grade level, allows these higher-level students to practice skills in a challenging book. Additionally, put them in partners or triads where they can work with others working on the same skills. Being able to share ideas and talk through any problems that may arise, are incredible ways to help build autonomy.

I hope these ideas are helpful in supporting your upper-level readers. If you have any tips and tricks of your own I encourage you to share/leave a comment on the @SavvasLearning social media post of this blog.

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Liz Janusz

ELA Instructional Coach