From our Guest Blogger Sara Heintzelman
As we approach a new school year, we are likely to interact with students who struggle with reading. If you can understand why your students are struggling, chances are you will be able to find ways to help these resistant readers.
Understanding why students struggle
Although it may seem obvious, the best way to find out is to ask your students. Older students may have very specific answers such as, “I get made fun of when I read,” or “I get embarrassed when I have to read aloud,” or “The books we read are boring.”
Another effective strategy to determine student struggles is to collect and carefully analyze data. Reading fluency probes, anecdotal notes, and classroom observations can be helpful when determining patterns in the student’s strengths and weaknesses. While it is common to collect these pieces of data, it is equally as important to look at the data and then use the data to make decisions.
Finally, communicate with your team of teachers to gain their feedback and input. A simple classroom observation from another teacher may give you a different perspective. For example, a teacher who observes a struggling reader may notice that the student will not volunteer to read to the whole group, but when a teacher is not directly with their group will read aloud with peers. As the primary teacher of a large group of students, this may have gone unnoticed without another teacher’s observation.
Ways of overcoming reading issues
Listen to your students: If a student perceives that they get made fun of when they read, encourage all students in your classroom to praise each other after reading aloud. Allow that student to read passages you are confident they can successfully read aloud. Older students sometimes communicate that they are bored by the selections within reading curriculum. Do you give your students free time to read their own choice of books?
Share your own experiences: Talk about the books you personally read with your students; engage in meaningful conversations with students about how to find books that meet their interests. When you share your reading experiences, you may find that you have commonalities with your students and can make recommendations for their reading selections.
Provide choice: Give students a choice in reading materials whenever possible. Reading curriculum can be very scripted, but when the student has the choice to read about dogs or plants, often that choice alone can make the student feel in control and more willing to try their best.
Encourage discussion: Design your reading class in a way that students can engage with their peers about reading. Whether it is a structured conversation that you lead, or a time for students to recommend books to friends, this time to talk about reading is crucial to a child’s perception of reading.
Provide direct, explicit instruction: Teach the students how to read. Simple, but most commonly overlooked. Think about how the student best learns, and teach them through direct instruction.
Students resist reading for a reason. Talk to your students, teach your students, and ultimately, you will reach them.
Sara is a special education teacher and staff development facilitator at Centennial School of Lehigh University. She teaches upper elementary students with behavior disorders and mentors new teachers.
Thank you, Sara!