Teaching Common Core RI (Reading Informational Text) Standards in Middle School

The RI standards for Common Core and TNReady are easily broken down and taught in isolation, but this is not the way they were intended to be taught & this is not the way students will be assessed on these standards.

However, when these standards are introduced, I believe they should be taught in isolation as separate lessons & should be spiraled together in the format of the lesson described below before teaching students to synthesize their findings in an essay format.

Students need to be experts in doing the following with reference to informational texts for TNReady:

  • Read and annotate for Main Idea
  • Explain the Central Idea of an informational text in their own words
  • Identify different Rhetorical Devices, or types of evidence, an author uses to develop and argue his/her Central Idea
    • I initially introduce rhetorical devices through the Rhetorical Triangle because it’s initially easier for students to bucket evidence into 3 categories.
  • Analyze how effective the Central Idea was developed throughout the text
    • This specifically requires students to look at the types of evidence the author uses & analyze why the evidence is/ isn’t persuasive. 
    • In addition to analyzing evidence, students must also think about how/ why the author’s elaboration (explanation of key points) is/ isn’t effective.

All of the cognitive work described above is synthesized in an essay format in about an hour and a half on the TNReady test. The bullet pointed list are the foundational skills & ways students must be able to interact with an informational text. This isn’t going to happen overnight & will take a lot of planning on your part & cognitive work from your students.

In my experience, students become most lost within analytical informational text standards in the process of turning their findings into an essay after learning the skills (standards) in isolation.

This lesson is the analytical synthesis students need BEFORE learning to writing an analytical essay.

This lesson requires students to read and annotate a text. Then, they complete a graphic organizer where they identify each text “structure” and analyze how or why it is effective. There are guiding questions for students to reference within each structure.

This is a lesson bundle with three separate opportunities to practice; a guided release of responsibility is embedded in the bundle. The graphic organizers are the same throughout the lesson; the only difference is that the sentence starters are removed from graphic organizers 2 and 3.


After reading each text and annotating for main idea, students begin the graphic organizer. The graphic organizer features two columns: identify and analyze. The distinction trains students to better understand what the text says & what they are inferring about the text. Every middle schooler I’ve taught has struggled with this distinction, and it typically causes students to make unfounded inferences.

Within the graphic organizer, student identify and analyze the following informational text structures: central idea, introductory paragraph, pathos, ethos, logos, transition words, and concluding paragraph. These structures ensure students are thinking about the central idea & how the author uses evidence, elaboration, and his/her writing craft to create a cohesive storyline.


The lesson also has a quick reference notes page for students for Main Idea, Central Idea, and the Rhetorical Triangle. By the time students get this lesson, they should have some experience/ exposure to MI, CI, and the Rhetorical Triangle.


The concept of analyzing what an author says AND how the author says it is difficult for anyone; it is especially challenging for a middle schooler who has NEVER before learned that authors convey messages differently & readers can use tools to analyze how authors convey messages differently. 

To that end, the lesson bundle also includes extensive teaching notes in Microsoft Comments & a comprehensive answer key.


This is a CRITICAL lesson for students to have before you have them practice writing for the TNReady Writing Test. For the last two years, I’ve focused on these standards for several months in a pilot unit at my school. This is a lesson I’ve written after reflecting on what I could have done differently to set my students up for success. Their #1 struggle was effectively analyzing the text before writing an analytical essay. If you work with students to refine and organize their thinking on the front end, you won’t have to go back & remediate.

Get the lesson pack here!

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