Supporting Struggling Readers: in 3 Easy Steps!

Struggling readerswe all have them!  You may have a handful (or more) in your classroom or you may work with them all day long (like  myself). Either way, here are some tips to support them!

In room 11 we never read a book until I ask the question, “What does a good reader do when they come to a word they do not know?”  Students are typically so eager to share strategies.  However, it took a lot of work to get them to this point!

This is where you will explicitly teach students which strategies they can use and what that looks like.  The strategies we use are:

-point to each word
-look at the picture
-get my mouth ready
-look for a chunk
-look for a big word in a little word
-stretch it out
-go back and reread
-Does it look right?
-Does it sound right?
-Does it make sense?

I have each strategy on display, as well as on small cards. I typically start with one or two strategies and build from there as they become more competent.

Teaching students these strategies often involves using a book at their reading level and guessing the covered or highlighted word.  I will model the strategy first walking them through what I am thinking.  

Now it is time for readers to try out these strategies while reading, but providing them support based on their need.

I always take turns listening to them whisper read.  It is important to give students A LOT of feedback while they are reading at this step.  I often say things like:

“I heard you (whatever strategy they used)”
“I see that you (whatever strategy they used)”
When they make a mistake I often say:
“That’s a great guess.  Let’s try (name a strategy)”
“You said _________ does that sound right?”

This step often involves telling them which strategy they need to use if they are just staring at a word or encouraging them to try another strategy when the first one doesn’t work.  I often put my fingers right in their books, pointing to letters, covering letters to isolate a chunk -  whatever it takes to help them get started with a strategy.

These Reading Strategy Boards {Primary} are a great resource for students learning to read as well as struggling readers. An easy way to monitor reading strategies.

We also use these Strategy Boards which are a huge motivator!  We use magnetic bingo chips and a magnetic wand.  When I am listening to students read and I see/hear them use a strategy, I put a chip on their board.  Even if it is a strategy I had to help with, they get a chip! 

This is a great way for both you and your students to see what strategies they are relying on, and which strategies they should try to use more.

Time to step back and watch your readers use these strategies independently!  This step by far requires the most patience!  It is hard to watch kids struggle. I want to just jump right in and give them a hint, but that is not going to help them become a better reader!

I may still ask, “What strategy are you trying” if I see them struggling with a word but do not see/hear them trying something.  Next, I might suggest a strategy.  If they have tried a couple strategies and are still not getting the word, I will help them!

These Reading Strategy Boards {Primary} are a great resource for students learning to read as well as struggling readers. An easy way to monitor reading strategies.

Strategy boards are still a great motivator at this point too!  I also let them give themselves their own chips.  When we start each book I give them a pile and a board.  If I am listening to them I will still give them a chip, but they have free reign - especially if I am listening to someone else read!

OK I said there were only three steps but it is so important to celebrate every step of the way!  We celebrate all the small victories!  There are so many ways we celebrate here are just a few: a lot of enthusiasm from yours truly, an extra sticker, brag tag, mini award, having a student model their strategy to  the group, a brief note to their teacher or parent-the list is really endless.

I hope that you found this post to be helpful!  This is just my two cents on how I teach reading in room 11!

The strategy posters I mentioned can be found {here}

The strategy boards I mentioned can be found {here}

These items are also bundled {here}