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Before struggling readers begin reading a text, here are some ways they can use this instructional strategy:
- The teacher gives the students a purpose for reading such as, "When you are finished reading this text, you should be able to tell me the steps of the scientific method." Students skim the text, looking for places where they might find this information. For example, based on prior knowledge, students know to read the sub-headings in text books. If they find a sub-heading that says, "Steps of the Scientific Method," then they'll know to read that section to find the answer to their teacher's question.
- The teacher should also talk to students about any science experiments that they have done in the past. Students can recall these experiments and some of the steps they went through when they were completing the experiment. Recalling this prior knowledge will help struggling readers comprehend the section when they are reading the text about the scientific method.
Instructional strategies that are based on prior knowledge are especially useful for students reading below grade level.
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What struggling readers need to learn to do during reading is what good readers naturally do. It will be important for you to model these behaviors and strategies for remedial reading students, so they can understand the thought processes during reading. During reading, students should be:
- Thinking about their predictions and early ideas about the text. Is the text confirming that their ideas are correct, or are they learning new information that they didn't know before?
- Asking themselves if they understand the material. Is the process they are using to read the text working for them? Do they need to re-read? Are they finding the answer to the teacher's question?
- Maintaining an active interaction with the text. Experienced readers are always thinking about what they are reading. Struggling readers often just read without any thought. They are just trying to get through the text; and when they are finished, they have no idea what they read. An experienced reader is constantly asking himself questions such as, "Do I agree with this information?" "Where can I find out more about this?" "What does this text remind me of?"
Instructional strategies will need to be modeled and practiced in order for them to become natural and helpful.
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Struggling readers should learn how to summarize new information after they are finished reading a text. They should also link it to prior knowledge. Finally, they should be able to apply the information they learned to a new situation. With the scientific method example, students should be able to identify steps they used in previous experiments and apply the method to a new experiment when they are finished reading.
Instructional Strategies: Before, During, After to Help Struggling Readers
Many teachers use instructional strategies, such as reciprocal teaching or think-pair-share, with their students. But sometimes with students reading below grade level, it is hard for them to read the text AND use a strategy to help them comprehend. Instructional strategies can benefit all.