How to Get the Most Out of Middle School Textbooks

Middle school students are expected to learn from textbooks but rarely learn the tricks and tips to get the most out of these dry and dense books. Learn how to help your middle schooler absorb all of the pertinent information supplied in their textbook readings.

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Middle school teachers rely on textbooks to teach English, history, science, and mathematics lessons. These reading assignments, however, are usually ineffective for seventh and eighth graders because as elementary school students they were never taught how to properly read and understand a textbook.


Instruct your child to look at headings and boldface words to see what will be discussed. They can also look up the definitions of any words printed in bold in the textbook glossary. This ensures they know all of the important vocabulary words in the assigned section or chapter before they even begin reading. You may also want to remind them to pay close attention to illustrations, photographs, charts and sidebars. Even though these are not part of the main text, they do contain important information. Remind them to read the captions to pictures as well. The more information they skim, the more likely they will retain the main subjects of the chapter.


Take notes while reading. Textbooks are designed to present maximum information with few wasted words and it can be difficult to remember all of it. Show your child how to organize their notes by chapter or section. Writing page numbers in their notes makes for an easy reference. If your child is confused about any of their notes they can find the page where the information came from for clarification.


After your child has read their textbook assignment, ask them questions about what they read. This will help them see if they comprehended and retained the information included in the text. If your child does not remember the important information, encourage them to reread the actual textbook and look through their notes. Many middle school textbooks will also have quizzes at the end of chapters. If your child completes these sample tests they will know which sections they need to reread.

Some textbooks also have websites and other suggested books or articles. If your child is having an tough time comprehending and understanding the subject they are reading, these supplemental resources could be what they need to fully grasp their assignments. Help your middle school student find these resources on the computer or in a library.

Pre-reading, note taking and post-reading activities will help your seventh and eighth grade children succeed in all of their classes. If your child still has comprehension problems after implementing the suggestions outlined above, it may be an indication that they have more severe reading problems. If you feel that this may be the case, contact your child's teacher or guidance counselor.

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