Students really thrive when they are put to a challenge. It is common for students who are dealing with a reading lag to be questioning within themselves and doubting their abilities. Perhaps simple tasks have been set before them and “and” gets exchanged for “the”, or the word “sat” needs to be sounded out. This can be extremely embarrassing to them. If these simple missteps are couched within the context of a greater challenge their confidence increases tremendously.
What I mean is that if we put easy-peasy, back to square one, basic reading tasks in front of a middle school student, they automatically feel that they are less intelligent. If we set before them a hard task, a challenging word with multiple and differentiated syllables, or a long sentence, their self-doubt is overcome as they experience repeated success.
Teach the basics in a simple manner with consistently challenging overall tasks. As the student experiences personal success with these difficult tasks, their self-assurance will build and they will soar.