Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strategies to Help the Struggling Reader

We all have had the student (or students!) who refuse to read, are frustrated by even the simplest task, and labor over every assignment. It's impossible to know all of the put-downs from other students this child has endured, or get into their head to know what they are thinking, but we can get a clue from their behavior. Poor reading skills impacts all areas of a child's life. When you think about struggling readers, usually the first thing that comes to mind is trouble with reading...right?  But other behaviors are just as likely to signify a reader who is struggling. Have you ever had a student who showed these behaviors?

What Does It Look Like?

Misbehavior...often students who struggle with reading revert to misbehavior as a cover. If they misbehave they won't have to read, if they misbehave no one will know.

Thinks he/she is stupid...This student thinks the assignment is stupid, the reading is stupid, and you're stupid.  What he/she is really afraid of is that they are stupid.

Says it is boring...If it's boring and he/she struggles reading, maybe you'll think they just don't care, not that they just can't?

Confused, says he/she cannot understand...This student is showing exactly what is going on, he or she really doesn't understand at all.

Things to Keep in Mind:

First, evaluate the student for his/her listening comprehension level to asses the actual comprehension skill level. If there is a big gap between the listening comprehension score and the silent reading comprehension score, then strategies need to kick in quickly to help with reading skills.

NEVER force the student to read aloud in front of the he/she feels more confident this will happen.

Use oral or video learning activities to supplement at least some of the written work.

Provide books for the reader that are easy for him/her to read regardless of grade level. My experience has been that reading easy material helps not only to decrease the stress of reading, but improves fluency. I tell my students that reading easy books will help them read harder books more quickly. The key is to read a lot, a whole lot!

Which brings me to...Reinforce that the only way to become a better reader is to read more. Then make sure books the student can read and enjoy are available.

Arrange for the student to read easy books to younger students. It makes him/her the "expert".

There are lots of web sites that students can use to help increase reading skills. Once you diagnose a skill need, google the skill to find a game/site that helps the student work on it. Games work a whole lot better than drill, drill, drill!

Ask students to draw simple stick figures to show information/ flow of the story rather than words all of the time.

Make use of reader's theater. Practicing a reader's theater part that is on the student's reading level gives him/her the opportunity to be excited about learning new words/strategies for a preformance. Doing this in guided reading is especially helpful, then present to the whole class.

In the Guided Reading Group:

1. Word work, word work, word work! With this group of students it is imperitive to make sure they know how the letters work together. I have had third graders who have missed this entirely. Check to make sure they know when vowels are long and short, know letter blend sounds, prefixes and suffixes and how they impact words and also understand homophones. If you teach third grade or higher you may be thinking this is silly, but believe me it is not. Some students have missed the basic phonics skills and need to have direct instruction to learn them. Direct lessons on these skills can easily be included in guided reading using the selected text.

2. Work on new content words for any new selection. Don't skimp on this step, for the struggling reader it is vital. Ask students to write new words down, and discuss the meaning. Get with a partner and read the words to each other. Ask students to make up sentences using the word and/or draw a picture to show what the word means. This step will take more time with struggling readers than with competent readers. Rather than using multiple choice tests with these students, use short writing, drawings and verbal discussion which are much more effective.  When finished reading ask students to write a very short summary of the text using at least one of the new words.

3. When you teach skills and strategies. Don't just "cover" them with this group. Make sure they really know each one through lots of practice and teacher assessment. Keep in mind that this group needs lots of structure and support at this point. Practice is imperitive as each skill/strategy is taught.

4. Prediction is very important with this group of students. It helps students use their own schema and share ideas with the whole group, rather than alone. This gives needed support to struggling readers. Ask students what words they would expect to find in the selection. Ask students to skim the selection to find any bold faced words, or titles that may include ideas/words that will be covered in the selection. Predict throughout the reading.

5. Read the selection silently. I use the sticky note flags (small, thin, comes in many colors, sticky on one end) and allow students to put them by any word that causes difficulty in the text. These sticky note flags are reusable. Mine are good for at least a month of use. After silent reading go back and discuss any of these words with the group. Click here to see what I'm talking about.

6. Read the selection orally as a group (you might choose to read it to students on occasion as they follow along). Choral reading is a good way to support the struggling reader as they know if they "flub up" no one will notice.  Then allow students to get a buddy and read a chosen paragraph to each other.  When guided reading is finished I usually tell students to go back to their seats and choose one page to really practice and get perfect, then find a buddy and read that page to them orally.

7. The selection will then go into the review reading basket of past guided reading materials that are kept for rereading before each guided reading session begins. All guided reading groups should start with at least 5 minutes of rereading of past guided reading materials.


Get in touch with parents and impress upon them the importance of ready easy-to-read books at home daily. The best readers, are readers who have read more. It's not magic, it's persistance.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Maps! Videos, Freebies and More!

I love to teach about maps! It's hands-on, requires LOTS of pictures and kids love it! I've got a great map freebie just for your classroom, plus videos, name it! If it helps teach kids about maps, it's here!

This is great to begin and end a map unit...quickly goes over the main terms in song. Fun

Need a good video on latitude and longitude?  Don't miss this one! It's very clear and easy to understand.


This is a great includes videos for the use of color on a map, parts of a map, and so much more.

AND....a few games!

Learn about map features and play a game at the same time! Love this one called "Adventure Island" by National Geographic!!!

This great game reinforces longitude and latitude skills.

Do you have a SmartBoard? Don't miss this free activity! It is about symbols and keys.

Now for that FREEBIE!

If you are about to teach about map grids don't miss this freebie! It includes one teaching sheet and two student worksheets with grading keys! Click on the link below the picture!

To look over the resource the freebie comes from, check out:

If you want TONS of great ideas and freebies for your classroom, be sure to follow me at: