Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Issues Within the Standards

Within the realm of teaching, grades and subject areas are divided into state standards that outline the basic topics and skills each student should learn for that subject and grade level. The standards range from state to state, but most categories still cover many of the same issues.

For language arts in middle school, which is grades 6, 7 and 8, there are many important issues within these standards of which you, as the teacher, should be aware. Looking at middle school as a whole, this lesson will outline some of the issues students face within the categories of the standards. In particular, we will focus on issues within the three general topics of reading, writing/speaking and listening.


In general, the reading standards focus on reading comprehension and analysis.

One issue that middle school students face with this overall topic is learning to use direct quotes or citations to provide specific evidence to support or answer whatever question is being asked. Students need to be able to do this to show they were able to grasp the key ideas and details from what they just read.

This means you must force your students to explain the why of their answers and not let them get away with a simple one word answer. For example, imagine you have read the fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in class and posed this question to your students: Which character shows the most empathy for others? For whatever answer a student gives, ask them to return to the story and find a specific action the character did that shows empathy. So, if the student answered Belle, he could argue that it was because she traded places with her father as a prisoner of the Beast to save her father’s life.

A second issue within reading deals with having students infer or draw a conclusion. Middle school students often struggle with coming to conclusions that are not directly stated in the reading selection. For example, say you are teaching the concept of theme, which is the main idea or underlying meaning in a literary work. Theme is one of those ideas that students need to infer, as it is usually not directly stated in literature. Help students make this inference by asking them what it is that they can learn from the story. That will be the author’s true message, or theme.

For ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ the moral of the story could be not to judge someone only by their outward appearance. Students can relate to the idea of a moral of the story, so when teaching students to make inferences, connect it to something they are already familiar with.

Another issue middle school students tend to have deals with vocabulary acquisition. As the reading material students are exposed to becomes more challenging, they will come across more challenging and unfamiliar words. The most helpful skill to teach your students to deal with this issue is to use context clues to define unfamiliar words. Practice analyzing the sentence containing the word and circling the context clues that give hints towards the word’s meaning.

A final issue with reading is identifying how a reading selection is organized. Most students have a tough time identifying any structure that is not chronological, since they are so used to reading stories. As their teacher, you need to expose them to a wider variety of writing and practice identifying the key characteristics of different organizational patterns. The more you do so, the more students will start to notice on their own the differences between structures.


The second category within Language Arts standards is writing. The most common issue middle school students face under this category is using proper mechanics and language conventions. Ideally, conventions like punctuation, spelling and transitions should be referred to throughout every lesson or activity that involves writing. These skills are necessary for students to develop strong writing skills. A great way to help students work on flow in their writing is to focus on proper organization and logical order of ideas. Have students map out their writing before they begin. Show them how to use different writing plans, not only to brainstorm for ideas but to place those ideas in a logical order.

A final issue for middle school writing focuses on crafting supportive persuasive pieces. Most students know how to take a side, but few naturally construct a solid argument as support for that side. Work on developing appropriate reasons for their argument and providing evidence and real world examples for support. Students need to become adept at using technology to research any topic and pull out material that is relevant to their specific argument.

Speaking and Listening

The final broad category for language arts is speaking and listening. The biggest issue for middle school students with this category is making verbal presentations. To function in the modern world students need to be able to present ideas logically and creatively. Have your students practice using visuals like PowerPoint slideshows, Prezi presentations or self-made posters or charts. Teach your students how to use these visuals to provide support and structure to their presentations.

A second issue deals with students’ ability to listen and respond to other students’ ideas. Students need to be able to not only form their own opinions but to listen to other viewpoints and respond accordingly. The best way to approach these skills in your classroom is to provide many opportunities for discussions. These can be one-on-one, as a group or as a whole class. Ideally, students should be able to participate in discussions and respond to various opinions.

Lesson Summary

To review, there are many skills covered in every state’s middle school language arts standards. However, most middle school students have similar issues with the curricula.

For reading comprehension, the major issues are citing specific evidence from the reading material, inferring or drawing conclusions, vocabulary acquisition and identifying how a reading selection is organized.

Under the writing category, the issues facing middle school students include proper mechanics and language conventions and crafting supportive persuasive pieces.

Lastly, the speaking and listening issues include making verbal presentations and listening and responding to others’ ideas.

Keep these issues in mind as you proceed through the standards of your language arts classroom.

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