Reading Strategies For Struggling Readers

Reading Strategies For Struggling Readers

Struggling readers are simply individuals who have not learned effective reading strategies. Don't be too concerned if​ you aren't familiar with the​ term, "reading strategies;" most good readers never had to​ learn them; instead, they just use them naturally. Struggling readers, on the​ other hand, have no idea how their friends can finish their work before they make it​ through the​ first paragraph. Why is​ it​ that their friends are reading "Lord of​ the​ Rings" and​ they are still reading "Magic Tree House" books? How do their friends manage to​ read those really long and​ unfamiliar words with ease?

Reading strategies can be organized into two distinct groups: decoding strategies and​ comprehension strategies.

Decoding Strategies

Without getting into a​ long debate over whether children should learn to​ read through phonics or​ whole language, the​ fact is​ that some students need to​ be taught explicitly phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is​ basically being able to​ pronounce the​ bits and​ pieces of​ words to​ turn them into words that the​ student knows or​ has heard. Even if​ the​ word is​ unfamiliar, students with good phonemic awareness can usually pronounce a​ reasonable representation of​ the​ word. Struggling readers need to​ be taught the​ sounds of​ the​ language--the phonemes--and to​ be given plenty of​ opportunity and​ coaching in​ their use.

Some indicators that a​ student needs explicit instruction in​ phonemic awareness include: skipping words while reading, "sounding out" words incorrectly, attempting a​ pronunciation that doesn't make sense, and​ avoiding reading.

It is​ helpful if​ students are able to​ recognize and​ spell a​ number of​ simple words. Dolch vocabulary words are great for​ younger students. for​ older students, try to​ get a​ list of​ the​ 1000 most common words in​ the​ English language. Phonemic awareness starts with letter sounds. Students learn how to​ pronounce various combinations of​ letters, and​ they learn that letters are not always pronounced the​ way they should be. Consider a​ simple example: the​ word, "the," is​ pronounced with a​ short u sound. Students compare unfamiliar words with words that they know; thus the​ necessity for​ a​ good repertoire of​ sight words.

A common decoding strategy that is​ taught to​ struggling readers is​ called chunking. if​ students have developed some proficiency with phonemes, they can begin chunking unfamiliar words. Using their finger, they cover all but a​ chunk of​ the​ unfamiliar word. They pronounce it​ then move onto the​ next chunk. Once the​ student has pronounced all of​ the​ chunks, they try to​ put the​ chunks together and​ make it​ sound like a​ word they know or​ have heard. This strategy, again, requires a​ significant amount of​ practice and​ coaching.

One school of​ thought considers the​ ability to​ decode words a​ precursor to​ reading comprehension. After all, if​ you can't understand the​ individual words, how can you understand the​ whole sentence? Often, a​ struggling reader will cope with their abilities by getting answers from other students, answering the​ text explicit questions (e.g. "The girl's red hair blew in​ the​ breeze." What color was the​ girl's hair?), or​ making excuses for​ not getting their work done--avoidance behaviors.

Comprehension Strategies

Good readers regularly re-read, predict, infer, conclude, question, compare, contrast; and​ the​ list goes on. Good readers don't usually realize what they were doing while reading unless someone forces them to​ reflect on it. Struggling readers do few of​ the​ things that good readers do. They generally have only one goal in​ reading--to get it​ over with. Understanding what was read is​ called comprehension. Comprehension strategies are those things that a​ reader does to​ understand a​ text.

There is​ one main indicator that a​ student needs explicit instruction in​ comprehension strategies--they are good decoders, but they can't answer higher level questions about the​ text. Higher level questions are ones that involve more than just extracting words from the​ text. for​ example, a​ higher level question related to​ the​ last paragraph is, "What goals do good readers have in​ reading?" a​ reasonable answer would involve contrasting the​ goal that struggling readers have in​ reading, using the​ information about what good readers regularly do, and​ using prior knowledge or​ experience.

There are many comprehension strategies that can be taught to​ struggling readers. Telling a​ struggling reader to​ just read it​ again won't cut it. They need direct support, explicit instruction, a​ lot of​ practice and​ coaching and​ many opportunities to​ experience success. Searching the​ Internet for​ reading strategies should garner a​ description of​ at​ least a​ dozen different tried and​ true strategies. Following is​ a​ brief description of​ just a​ few of​ them.

Re-Reading - Not to​ be confused with "just read it​ again," re-reading is​ a​ deliberate attempt to​ find information. With the​ question in​ mind, students attempt to​ find relevant sections of​ the​ text to​ re-read. Once they zero in​ on a​ relevant section, they usually read a​ few sentences or​ paragraphs before and​ a​ few sentences or​ paragraphs after. Sometimes, it​ is​ necessary to​ re-read the​ entire text to​ get the​ desired information.

Predicting - Using titles, pictures, or​ key words, students attempt to​ predict the​ content of​ a​ text. When the​ student reads the​ text, they make comparisons to​ what they predicted and​ what they read.

Re-Stating - This strategy encourages students to​ look at​ main ideas. They re-state what they read in​ a​ shorter version. Sometimes this strategy involves restricting how long the​ summary can be. for​ example, can you re-state the​ description of​ predicting in​ only two words?

The best support for​ struggling readers is​ individual and​ intensive. in​ my opinion, struggling readers make the​ most progress when they are given one-on-one support outside of​ the​ regular classroom. Individual support allows them to​ receive frequent and​ timely feedback on their efforts. Outside of​ the​ classroom means that the​ support is​ extra-curricular and​ does not interfere with their regular work. if​ you are a​ parent or​ a​ teacher of​ a​ struggling reader, find out what support is​ available at​ your school. Use the​ terms phonemic awareness and​ reading comprehension strategies to​ communicate what your child needs. if​ your school can't offer the​ support, look for​ commercial services. Even though it​ might cost money, the​ benefits will be outstanding; spend the​ money.

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