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In a special education context, teachers sometimes struggle for new and exciting strategies for struggling readers. Helping teenagers can be a particular challenge, and it is sometimes put to one side as more pressing, physical or behavioural problems are addressed.
Often your students who still find reading difficult will have had excellent teaching and have participated in a wide variety of regular and specialist reading programs specifically designed for helping struggling readers. By their teen years however, some have become turned off reading entirely, as they experience frequent failure and become aware that their peers are reading at a much higher level than they are.
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Use Classroom Magazines for Reading Activities
Classroom magazines have a lot to offer as a tool for helping struggling readers within the special education program. They can be used in a variety of ways and for individual and group based activities. Here are a few ideas that may work for you and your students:
- Make folders of interesting articles on a related topic or theme, and place the folders on an easily accessible shelf in the classroom or library.
- Assist students in locating interesting magazines online, using adaptive technology such as a Web page reading program if needed. This is a great strategy as it promotes online research independence via an interesting and appealing mechanism.
- Take a visit to the local community library so students can practise the skill of finding magazines in a public library setting. Remember that for some special needs learners, skills are not readily transferred from one location to another, so the opportunity to practice skills where they will ultimately be needed is a valuable one. This also helps from a community perspective, as it encourages venues such as libraries to become more proactive in helping literacy efforts within the broader community.
- Be a role model to your students by being obvious in your own interest in magazines. Leave favorite magazines on your desk, participate in quiet reading time by enjoying a magazine yourself, and talk about interesting articles you have read.
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Link Different Media and Genres
If you are doing work on a particular theme, try bringing in resources from a range of genres on that theme. This gives students the opportunity to enjoy gaining their information in a way which is meaningful for them. For some students, this will mean reading a fiction story, for others perhaps an audio book via an iPod or other MP3 device, and for others it may mean looking through a non-fiction classroom magazine.
You may find that some of your learners are better able to grasp the concepts you are teaching if they are able to learn the material through a number of different genres, and to make choices and express preferences about their own learning styles and approaches which best suit their needs.
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Share and Pool Resources
Get together with other teachers to talk about using non-fiction magazines as a way of helping struggling readers at your school. You may find that other teachers welcome sharing ideas and strategies for these students, and are willing to pool resources such as classroom magazines, teaching aids, lesson plans and research findings that are relevant to helping teens who are still struggle to read.