Avid readers realize how a great book can transport you to another world. Elementary age students can gain approximately 3,000 new words per year. Unfortunately struggling readers do not make those same gains and are faced with the ongoing struggle of catching up to their peers.
We have all asked the same question. What can I do as a teacher to make a difference? Research based strategies are the first step. Students must be exposed to daily interventions which include: word building, sight words, encoding, decoding and fluency. In addition, students should be afforded opportunities to read leveled books that are engaging, high-interest and on their independent reading level. I have found the following to be helpful:
1. Listen to the experts. Making Sense of Phonics by Isabel Beck is a wonderful resource for all. The book offers insight as to the research behind reading and links teachers to prepared activities.
2. Build a leveled library. Pioneer Valley Books has many collections that include a variety of genres and themes.
3. Offer students activities they perceive as breaks, but are cleverly incorporating reading skills within the instructional time. A few rewards I have found to be purposeful are Education City, Starfall and ABC Mouse.
4. Be Consistent, Keep lessons structured and predictable. The routine helps students to focus their attention on the reading.
5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your struggling readers. Picture books are a favorite of most students because of the colorful pictures that support their reading. Emerging readers feel safe when presented with a picture book, but it is our job to strategically nudge students outside of their comfort zone. Novels allow students to dig deeper into their comprehension. With appropriate support, students can read grade level novels that challenge their abilities in a safe setting. These opportunities allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much fun it is to be a part of a “book club”.
6. Keep Parents Informed! Using technology such as Remind allows teachers to share messages with parents throughout the day or on a scheduled basis. Good news notices can be sent to congratulate a child on extra effort. A free and interesting site is Wonderopolis! http://wonderopolis.org/ Children can explore wonders and submit their wonders to the site to be answered too.
7. Connect with the world. Through the use of Skype technology students can connect with other classrooms around the world. Renowned teacher, Pernille Ripp created the Global Read Aloud in 2010 and her 6 week project continues to be a motivation to teachers all over the world. Sign-up for the 2016 project at: http://theglobalreadaloud.com/category/2016/
Maintaining effective practices for struggling readers is a necessary component, but motivation to read is also key in making a change. Make books readily accessible, high-interest and connect reading to the real-world when possible.