Today’s post is all about our struggling readers. We’ve all had them. We all want to do our best to help them. But sometimes, that is easier said than done. To begin to help our struggling readers, we have to begin by identifying their greatest need. For most readers, they are struggling in one of three areas.
Struggle #1: Sight Words
One of the most common struggles that students have lies in their ability to recall basic sight words. We have students begin memorizing words in primary grades, because we all know that some words just cannot be stretched out. No matter how long you spend stretching out the word WAS, you are never ever going to get it right. Because of this, we have to help our students memorize those dreaded words.
As you likely already know, your brain has two hemispheres. Each side of the brain has its own role while reading. The right side of the brain houses the visual aspect of reading, such as seeing a word and realizing that it is familiar. The left side of the brain controls the auditory functions, which is where the name of the word is stored. If these two portions of the brain are not connecting and functioning simultaneously, students will struggle to recall or verbalize the word.
Ideas for helping students who struggle with sight words:
Struggle #2: Decoding
Decoding difficulties are the mystery of the learning disability area. At this time, the reason or cause of this struggle is unknown. However, the effects on reading are huge. I love this exercise from Misunderstood Minds
that allows you to experience the effects of decoding struggles. Wow! I was able to decode it, but geeez! It took me forever. I was constantly stretch, stretch, stretching each word. I had to go back and restretch many of the words to ensure my accuracy. I had a hard time recalling the sounds and would have to look at the key. In real life, there would likely NOT be a key to help guide me.
Ideas for helping students who struggle with decode:
Struggle #3: Reading Comprehension
We all have those readers that read fluently. Their reading sounds so beautiful. They can read every word on the page with ease. Then, you ask them a comprehension question. You have to try to hide your shock at their seemingly random answer. You want to ask, “Ummm, did we read the same passage?” Sadly, they aren’t being silly. They truly struggled to actually comprehend the passage that they read so beautifully.
There are MANY factors that impact reading comprehension. This is actually one of my favorite areas to address. Struggles in reading comprehension occur typically because of an inability to naturally do one or more of the comprehension skills that we routinely teach. Visualizing is the number one comprehension strategy that students are unable to do. For me, I visualize like no other. If I’m reading a novel, I become the main character. I dream about what I believe will happen in the next chapter. I can’t get “out” of the story. Maybe that’s why I love to read so much. However, some of our kids are not able to visualize at all. Can you imagine why they hate to read?!
In addition to visualization difficulties, students could be struggling with unfamiliar vocabulary, figurative language, the ability to multitask (thinking while reading), or poor working memory.
Ideas for helping students who struggle with reading comprehension:
If you’re looking at assess the comprehension of your students, check out this FREEBIE! I have two versions for upper and lower elementary. You can choose the one that fits your classroom needs!
I also use these progress monitoring forms to assess the three areas of struggling readers that I described above. In this set, I have forms for assessing both Dolch and Fry sight words as well as decoding CVC, CVCe, and long vowel teams. All of these printables will help you assess your struggling readers and their most common reading challenges.
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