Working with older, struggling readers can be exceptionally challenging. They have an enormous well of “coping” strategies. In other words, they have learned a million ways to NOT read while reading. Using Structures, and forcing students to unlearn these bad habits, is frequently met with resistance. So, here are a few tips for getting buy-in and making the most of your short time with these kids.
Focus on what they need.
Many of my students this year are pretty good at reading skills in isolation. During the Visual and Auditory parts of the 3-Part-Drill with skills, my students become quickly bored. However, blending words into syllables, both real and nonsense, is a difficulty. So, we will frequently do Blending (I call it speed-reading syllables) without having done the other parts of the drill. My students all struggle with spelling and applying newly taught skills, so we do dictation on most days.
Encourage word building.
Throughout Structures, there are opportunities for students to “play” with words: Word Ladders, the Invention Convention, etc. Take these opportunities to have students play with the language. While fun and challenging, it also has the benefit of helping students to understand how English works.
Use Syllabication strategies.
Before reading text, have students decode the words using Syllabication strategies and then read them aloud. Quickly discuss the meaning and relate the words to other, more common words they know. Then, have students read the words in context. This will help students to understand and apply decoding strategies when reading text that is not being taught in the Reading Classroom.
Tell kids the why.
I have spent a great deal of time with my students this year earning buy-in. many of them have had years of intervention, and yet, are still struggling. I talk to students about how the brain learns to read and how these multisensory strategies are impacting the brain’s retention of information. My students were really reluctant, at the start of the year, to engage in multisensory tactile trays or air write. Now that they know the impact on their brains and long-term storage of words, they are less reluctant (they are middle-schoolers, so nothing is easy!)
Don’t give up!
Older students who have struggled to read have been climbing this hill for years to no avail. Keep in mind that the strategies are impactful and can make a difference, even to those reluctant students.
Written by Cheryl Garner
Cheryl is a Brainspring Master Instructor, Certified Dyslexia Specialist, and Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school level, and was most recently an Elementary School Reading Coach.
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