Provide Just-right Challenges

Reading challenges that are “just right” are those that encourage students to grow and struggle productively, while avoiding levels of frustration that will turn learners off. Just right reading challenges help students stay engaged and motivated with texts that are interesting and accessible, and will vary depending on the instructional goal. When reading comprehension rather than decoding is the goal, text-to-speech (TTS) is an example of a support that eliminates decoding barriers so that students can have access to grade appropriate content, making the ideas and debates of texts the “just right” component of a text. This is an example of how providing supports can make age-relevant, high-interest texts “just right” for students who might typically read lower level material.

Build student confidence and self-efficacy


To become successful readers, it is important for students to develop a sense of self-efficacy about reading. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) emphasizes that there is no one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential to build student confidence and self-efficacy.

How you can help students build confidence and self-efficacy

Empower students with ongoing and varied opportunities to discover and pursue the ideas that interest them.Provide options for recruiting students’ interests and to support individual self-regulation.

Teaching tips
  1. Think aloud or prompt students to discuss their interests and how they use these to choose reading materials. Model how you use your understanding of your personal interests to decide what to read or do next.
  2. Ask students to reflect on what they think are the best ways for them to show what they understand. Some will say writing, drawing, or talking, and others may say they prefer to physically act or demonstrate what they know. As students read various high-interests texts, have them try out different types of activities that demonstrate what they know about the texts they have read.
Lesson: You’re the Expert! (Relates to teaching tip 1)

To increase student self-efficacy in reading by highlighting topics in which students have read deeply.


Self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s own capabilities to achieve an outcome, is critical for successful reading. When a student reads deeply in a single topic, this can be viewed as following a personal interest in order to achieve expertise in that arena. Give students an opportunity to share their growing expertise by showcasing class experts in different fields.

  1. Model: Discuss a topic that you wanted to learn more about. Show students how you filter different options for reading in order to focus on that topic, how you choose what to read, and ways you read, listen (TTS), clarify (dictionary lookup), and take notes on parts of the texts that you wanted to remember.
  2. Model: Give a quick presentation about what you learned about your topic, being mindful about bringing information together across two or more readings.
  3. Guided Practice: Ask students to select an area where they want to build expertise. Have them filter, select, and read stories related to this area. Check in with students as they work through this process.
  4. Guided Practice: As a classroom activity or for homework, have students create a summary of what they have learned about their chosen topic. Include guiding questions such as “What is the topic?” “What is something I already knew about this?” “What is something new I learned?” “What do I want to learn next?” and “What is my recommendation to others?” to support students as they create their topic summaries.
  5. Showcase: Have students share their summaries.

Gee, J. P. (2001). Reading as situated language: A sociocognitive perspective. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 44, 714-725.

Swafford, D. J., Durrington, V. A. (2010). Middle school students’ perceptions: What teachers can do to support reading self-efficacy. In S. Szabo, T. Morrison, M. Boggs, & L. Martin (Eds.), Building Literacy Communities: Vol. 32. Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers Yearbook. Arlington, TX: Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (2005). The hidden dimension of personal competence: Self regulated learning and practice. In A. J. Elliot, & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 509-526). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Common core standards

Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

In the beginning of the year, I was kind of lazy. But now that I’ve been [in a supported reading environment] and I actually started reading, I feel like I wanted to read more and I didn’t want to stop.

~ Student