For the next few weeks, I’d like to focus on struggling readers. Struggling readers are a passion of mine. I’ve tutored many of them, from K through 5th grades, and have seen them become confident and capable readers (who actually enjoy reading).
Part of why I love working with them is that I used to be one. I can remember being in the lowest reading group, mispronouncing words while other students giggled, and hating (and I mean HATING) to read out loud; even in high school! The sweaty palms, my heart beating out of my chest, the butterflies raging war in my stomach, serious doubts in my head…the emotional scars of a struggling reader. I can so relate to the students I’ve tutored.
Where do you start with a struggling reader?
When a child is struggling to read, the first thing I do as a tutor is try to pinpoint the root of the reading problem. Is he struggling with basic phonemic & phonological awareness, phonics skills, decoding, word recognition, fluency, or comprehension? Perhaps the student is even dealing with other issues such as ADD, difficulty processing, difficult circumstances at home, lack of motivation or self-esteem. These other issues can have a negative impact on reading as well.
As a reading tutor, I gather as much information as I can through a series of assessments and surveys, some of which you can view here.
- parent survey
- teacher survey
- student reading questionnaire
- reading attitude questionnaire
- Primary or Elementary Spelling Inventory (from Words Their Way)
- phonological or phonemic awareness assessment (for younger students)
- various leveled fiction and non-fiction texts read aloud by the student, followed by comprehension questions
- a listening comprehension assessment done on the student’s actual grade level
It’s quite an extensive assessment…I’d venture to say more extensive than most schools have time to do for individual students. The report I typed up for the parents was usually 12-14 pages long! Needless to say, it was (I am not doing these currently with 3 young ones at home!) very time consuming. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was similar to putting a puzzle together without knowing exactly what the picture would look like.
It would take me many, long hours to explain how to do all those assessments, surveys, and questionnaires; so I won’t. I’d probably bore you anyway! If you’d like the “cliff notes”, Reading Rockets has several great articles about struggling readers. I hope you’ll check them out.
What I’d like to zero in on are the teaching practices in regards to reading that are almost universal for all struggling readers. I hope you’ll join this reading mama tomorrow and for the next few weeks as we explore these 10 topics:
Struggling Readers Need…
- Specific Reading Encouragement
- Texts They Can Read
- Texts They WANT to Read
- Uninterrupted Blocks of Time to Read (and Re-read)
- To Learn to Read with Fluency
- A Reading Model
- To Develop “Thoughtful Literacy”
- Phonics Instruction That Goes Beyond “Sound it Out” to Reading by Analogy
- To be Scaffolded (Supported)
- To be Exposed to Different Kinds of Texts, Especially Nonfiction
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