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What is a reading passage?

Let me set the scene for you. I had recently attended a fabulous PD conference and got some amazing lesson ideas. In particular, there was one in which I would have my students read portions of accounts about one historical event and then compare the accounts to decide what really happened.

I was so excited about what a fantastic learning experience this activity was going to be. After passing out all the materials, I gave my students simple directions that went something like this, “With your group, read your assigned reading passage, then answer the questions on your graphic organizer.”

I was all pumped about how much they were going to learn until a student raised her hand and asked, “What is a reading passage?”

Please tell me I’m not the only teacher who has forgotten to explain the simple things.

Three kids reading- What is a reading passage?

What is a reading passage?

So that I don’t make the same mistake again, let us start with defining what we are talking about.“Technically, a passage is simply a portion or section of a written work, either fiction or non-fiction. Some hold that a passage can be as short as a sentence, but most consist of at least one paragraph and usually several (Chariot Learning, “What is a reading passage?”).”

Reading passages are handy teaching tools that I’m sure we all use all the time because they can be used for so many purposes.

Ways to use reading passages

Target specific reading skills

Use a mix of fiction and nonfiction passages to practice targeting skills that you want your students to master. Summarizing, identifying the main idea, questioning, visualizing, and making inferences are all skills that you can target by using reading passages.

Bonus: you can use the same passage multiple times and target different skills. Doing so will help your students see the difference between the skills you are teaching them.

Compare and contrast points of view

Like the activity I mentioned above, I like to use reading passages to compare and contrast points of view, particularly when teaching about a historical event. It is a great strategy to integrate social studies and language arts.

Using short passages from both primary and secondary sources helps students to see the similarities and differences of those accounts. I add in a graphic organizer to help students track what they read.

When pulling reading passages for this activity, I make sure to find accounts at different reading levels (or level them myself using a site like Lexile).

Instead of having each student read every passage, I assign students specific passages based on their reading level and then re-group students to have them share what they read with others in the class.

Turn reading passages into a gallery walk

Get your kids up and moving around the room by dividing up a text into smaller sections and using those as a gallery walk. Your students will appreciate being able to move around the room and consume the text in short pieces.

Supplement your gallery walk with paintings, photos, or cartoons that go along with the topic.

Track reading fluency

Reading fluency is the ability of students to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. It can be tracked two ways while using reading passages, words per minute, or words correct per minute.

As students read through a reading passage, you will track the total number of words they read and how many errors they make. I like to have my students track this for themselves, in addition to my tracker so that they can see their progress over time.

If you want to learn more about using reading passages for reading fluency, check out my post Reading Fluency, the Key Skill You Should Be Teaching.

Practice reading comprehension

Reading passages are the perfect way to practice reading comprehension. We want our students to not only be able to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression but also to understand and interpret what they read.

When teaching reading comprehension there are 3 types of questions you should always ask.

First, activate background knowledge. Before your students dive into a text, it’s important for them to show what they know about a topic. Making connections before reading a text help students get engaged and retain what they’re reading. This is why activating background knowledge (also known as schema) is such an important reading comprehension skill.

Second, ask direct comprehension questions from the text so that students have to refer directly back to the text to find their answers. These types of questions should be basic who, what, where, when, why, and how questions. Students need the practice of referring back to the source to answer questions.

Third, deeper thinking questions. The answers to these questions aren’t given directly in the text but will require students to reflect on the text and dig deeper. Asking “Deeper Thinking Questions” is also a great way to integrate other grade-level standards into your reading lessons by asking questions that will practice those skills.

Are you looking for reading passages to help you practice skills like comprehension and fluency? Instead of scouring the web, check out all the reading passages Wife Teacher Mommy offers!

Monthly Themed Reading Comprehension Passages Growing Bundle

We know it’s tough creating and searching for reading comprehension content– then figuring out how to make it work for each of your students. Give yourself a break! There’s everything you need here in this bundle. Differentiate with ease with these 44 monthly-themed reading passages (4 for each month– June and July combined). Each of the 44 topics includes three levels that are relevant for the same answer sheet. That’s a total of 132 passage options! You’ll get both digital and print versions for added versatility. Grab the bundle today while it is still growing to get it at its lowest possible price. 

What makes these Reading Comprehension Passages so unique?


This product includes four reading passage topics per month (June and July are combined into one summer set). Each topic includes three leveled passages (high, medium, and low) for a total of 132 passage options! 

The passages have been carefully leveled, and the levels are subtly marked with a small icon in the corner. No child will feel left out since the mark is only a small symbol. Because the 3 levels of passages will use the same reading comprehension question page, you can assign each child the page that is most appropriate for their level while still discussing the same topics and questions with the full class.

Differentiation made simple! Alternatively, you can always assign the full class the same level.


Yes, the differentiation provides versatility, but more options are included, as well. Print and digital options are in this bundle (and it’s so handy to have both during these academic times when many schools are shifting here and there to accommodate for COVID). You’ll also find versatility in the passages themselves.

Within these 44 passages, you’ll find all four main writing types: expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative.

Fictional passages include multiple points of view and a wide variety of genres including historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary fiction, mystery, etc.

Nonfiction passages encompass historical nonfiction accounts, biographies, self-help, academic texts, how-to instructions, and even a recipe! If you want to expose your students to a world of versatile writing and reading, these monthly differentiated reading comprehension passages are your ticket! 

Comprehension Questions

Every passage includes a full page of comprehension questions. The first question on every page will help students activate their background knowledge about the passage topic. This skill helps students make connections and retain what they are learning.

This question is followed by comprehension questions from the text (multiple choice and free response). These questions invite students to cite textual evidence for their answers using colored writing utensils (printable version) or movable clipart pieces (digital version), a skill that increases readers’ confidence.

Last, there is a deeper thinking question on each question page to encourage critical thinking and hit a variety of grade-level language arts standards. 

BONUS! A half-page answer sheet option is also included for each passage (not pictured) This is a GREAT option if you want to save on paper while printing

Monthly themes

Relevant content sparks students’ interest and increases engagement. Not only do these passages include a variety of nonfiction and fiction stories, but your students will also be excited to study topics like holidays and seasons that are part of their present environment.

Differentiated Reading Comprehension & Fluency Passages

Our comprehensive set of differentiated reading passages includes EVERYTHING you need for reading comprehension and fluency, with leveled versions of passages from Kindergarten through 6th grades! There are 32 passage titles included in each set that we kept as consistent as possible as we carefully leveled these passages.

Please note while there will be some overlap between subsequent grade levels since each grade includes multiple leveled versions for each passage, purchasing this bundle you’ll get the FULL range of leveling! We even have a full bundle that is perfect for teachers with students at a variety of levels and homeschool parents with multiple children or who want something to grow with their child.

36 Weeks of Reading Comprehension Strategies

Looking for explicit reading comprehension strategy support for your students during the school year? Our 36 Weeks of Reading Comprehension Strategies will help keep kids’ skills fresh by reviewing one each week! They should take no longer than a few minutes, so they are easy to fit into your schedule while packing a powerful punch.

These reading comprehension strategies, available for Pre-K through 6th Grade, can be used as homework, no-prep warm-ups, quick reviews, fast finisher practice, and more! This is also a great purchase for parents and homeschoolers who want explicit reading comprehension strategy practice at home.

Each of the comprehension strategy graphic organizers can be completed throughout the week. However, you may choose to complete the strategy in one day if you prefer.

Strategies include:

  • Prediction
  • Visualization
  • Questioning
  • Making Connections
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Summarizing
  • Main Idea

Want to try out our reading passages before you buy?

Grab our Differentiated Reading Comprehension & Fluency Passages for K-6 Freebie! We’ve created this freebie for you that includes 2 of the passages (with all three levels) from each grade level so you can try them out in your own classroom or homeschool.

What other ways do you use reading passages in your classroom? I want to know!

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kelsey sorenson

Hey there, new teacher bestie! I’m Kelsey, and I created Wife Teacher Mommy just for YOU! I blog about teaching and create elementary school and homeschooling resources to make your life easier. Be sure to sign up for my FREE email newsletter!

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