Reading is the key for every door that leads to positive growth for students, but what happens when a student is struggling? Comprehension and fluency are two of the trickiest traits when it comes to literacy, and sometimes kids fall through the cracks and miss out on important skills to bridge gaps. Here are a few tips to help out your struggling readers in the classroom!
Guided reading groups For most teachers, guided reading groups are common practice. One of the most important parts of guided reading is to ensure that you break down your class into appropriate small groups so you can focus on the specific needs of each child. If you have a few students struggling with their fluency, bring them together in a guided reading group so that you can give each student the individual attention he or she needs. With guided reading groups, you can model effective and positive reading skills while simultaneously monitoring student progress and developing reading proficiency!
Partner reading Kids love working together, especially with a friend! If the student is struggling, he may not feel as confident reading out loud in a “round robin” setting or in a large group. Have the student pair with a friend, though, and magic can happen! Students can work together to pick out words that are tricky and provide definitions. They can help one another clarify the meaning o f a paragraph, which encourages comprehension skills. With a partner, your struggling reader will feel more comfortable reading aloud, which is a positive step towards fluency and CONFIDENCE!
Connect to the real world Students love it when they can connect what they are reading to what’s going on outside of school walls, or what’s going on in their lives. If the story is about fishing and you have a student who loves to fish, don’t turn him away—involve him! Ask him to share some of his knowledge with his classmates. Ask for clarification on jargon. On the other hand, if the story relates to current events, let the students do some independent or partner research and present to the class. Keep your students “in the loop” to get them “in the zone” for reading!
Level for success Quite often, we think that a student’s reading level is the same as his grade level. Remember: fluency and comprehension are NOT the same thing! Find a system that works for you, whether it be the Independent Reading Level Assessment (IRLA), Accelerated Reader (AR), or another assessment tool. Make sure that the student is leveled properly, meaning that he is given books that are appropriate for his current reading abilities. If the student is in fifth grade, he may not be ready for fifth grade books and materials, but instead needs to show that he can complete chapter books at a third grade level. It’s okay if your students are on different levels!
Conference with your students A conference can take three to five minutes and be highly effective for your students! Meet with the child once a week, and have the child bring along the book he is reading at the moment. Ask the child to read maybe a paragraph or a page from it, and then develop a short-term goal. For example, ask the child to summarize the paragraph. If he struggles, set that as his goal for next week. If he succeeds with that, ask him to make predictions about what could happen next. Keep building on goals for success! Conferences also help you as a teacher to see the progress a student is making.
I CAN! Statements These statements are aligned to the Common Core and are just plain awesome. Each statement pertains to a specific standard within the grade-appropriate curriculum, and they are all positive! Have a student uses these statements during their reading and language arts time to promote a “can-do” attitude that encourages a growth mindset. It’s important to always build on the students’ strengths, and these statements are a great place to start! Check out the link at the end of this post for more!
Keep the students engaged! Most importantly, always keep the students engaged during reading time. A student who is not focused is a student who will not make gains in comprehension or fluency. Provide hands-on activities that encourage students to ask questions while they work. Let the students constantly interact with the materials instead of just reading from a textbook or listening to the teacher lecture! Get them involved and watch them grow!
To get students really interacting with their ELA curriculum, one of the most invaluable resources is an interactive reading notebook! These notebooks keep the students consistently engaged with fun activities while promoting a positive attitude towards learning (like using I CAN! Statements). It holds the student accountable for his/her reading gains and growth in an enjoyable way, and the notebooks are awesome to share with friends or family! Follow the link below for interactive reading notebooks for grades 1st through 4th.