Independent Reading Tasks to Get Your Students Thinking

As secondary ELA teachers, most of our readers can read texts independently. Their levels may be varied, but giving your students ownership over what they read and the tasks they choose can help them go deeper when it comes to analyzing and understanding what they read. Whether your students are reading fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, you can try these independent reading tasks to get your students thinking.


When it comes to reading novels, let your students try some independent tasks that help with exploring characters in the book. Young adult novels often focus on dynamic characters, characters that change throughout the novel. Coming of age stories are particularly popular in YA lit. Use fiction task cards to have your students focus on character elements like realism, how the characters are involved in conflicts, and which characters are their favorites or least favorites. 


In addition, fiction task cards also explore elements of the setting. The time and place of a story can influence so many other elements, such as theme, character, conflict, and plot. Have your students explain why they would not (or would) like to live during the time and in the place of their book. Also, have them describe the setting. Get them thinking about descriptive words and phrases they can use to evoke powerful imagery.

Autobiography, Biography

Explore informational text through nonfiction task cards. Nonfiction texts are as varied as fiction. Your students may read autobiographies or biographies. Have your students think about questions they may ask the subject of the book or a gift they would give the person.  

Author’s Purpose

Is the text your students are reading meant to inform, entertain, or persuade? The author’s purpose is an important part of comprehending and analyzing text. Have your students reflect on why the author wrote the nonfiction text with nonfiction task cards.

Poetry can be a difficult genre for middle school students to dissect. First, start by expanding your students’ ideas of what poetry is. Poetry can include songs and verse novels. Give them a choice in their poems and have them think about poetry in a new way with poetry task cards. Your students can answer questions about the meaning of the poems by reflecting on the author’s particular choices. Think about the time period the poem is set (if applicable), the details the poet includes or leaves out, and the use of figurative language. Poetry is a powerful genre when it comes to independent reading.

Thinking About Reading

Your readers are ready to explore their own book choices. Let your students choose fiction, nonfiction, or poetry texts and think about what they are reading with independent reading task cards. Use the cards in small groups or for early finishers. The independent reading task cards bundle comes with cards for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. With 140 task cards and 67 pages, these standard-based question cards will help your students think about what they are reading every day! Try these independent reading tasks to get your students thinking in your secondary ELA classroom. 


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