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Teacher Tips & Strategies for Reaching Struggling Readers

written by: Michelle McFarland-McDaniels • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Do you have some struggling readers in your classroom? These strategies will help you turn these students into strong readers, with a passionate lifelong love of reading.

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    Scrambling for ways to motivate and encourage your struggling readers? Building their confidence and getting them excited about reading will be two of your biggest challenges.

    In order to help struggling students develop a passion for reading, and transform them in to strong readers, it is crucial that you do three things:

    1. Make them want to practice reading
    2. Create opportunities for them to read with a purpose
    3. Make reading fun and engaging.

    These three elements are combined in the powerful strategies outlined below.

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    Teaching Strategies To Employ

    High Frequency Word Activities

    Help struggling readers build their vocabulary by mastering high frequency word lists such as those compiled by Dolch and Fry. Use lists of high frequency words to teach sight vocabulary in isolation and in context and help students develop oral fluency. These words can also be used to create simple books and stories for struggling readers.

    Choral Reading

    Choral reading involves a group of students reading a text in unison. This fun, incredibly flexible activity can be used with the whole class, small groups and pairs. Some fun variations could involve dividing the text into parts to be read by boys and girls, assigning portions of text to various reading groups to be read separately and/or as part of a whole class activity, and assembling a reading “choir” and assigning sections of text be read by “soloists,” “duets,” “trios” and “quartets.” This strategy helps student s learn to decode, improve sight word recognition and develop oral fluency. Choral reading leverages the power of social interaction into a powerful learning tool.

    Reader’s Theater

    Reader’s Theater enables students to improve comprehension, analysis and fluency skills by transforming texts into scripts to be read aloud during simple staged readings. Like choral reading, reader’s theater uses the magic of group dynamics to motivate students to practice reading.

    Reading Teams

    Reading teams can consist of as few as two students to as many as four. Students work together to divide, decode, analyze and discuss text. This strategy works best when students of mixed abilities are given an opportunity to work together.

    Pairing Audio Books with Text

    Allowing struggling readers to read along with audio versions of a text is an excellent strategy for teaching them phonemic and graphophonemic awareness, as well as reinforcing sight word identification.

    Tracking Text

    Tracking text using highlighters, their fingers, bookmarks or index cards will help struggling readers navigate text and break it into smaller, less intimidating chunks.

    Reading Aloud to Younger Students

    Allowing struggling readers to read aloud to younger students motivates them to practice reading and helps build their confidence. Colleagues who teach pre-K, kindergarten and first grade are usually happy to work with you to develop these win-win reading ambassador programs.