Strategies for Struggling Readers
How to help struggling readers in upper elementary? By the time students get into the upper elementary grades they are expected to be able to read and comprehend at a certain level. In most states they are even expected to take and pass a state test. So what do you do when they are not where they are supposed to be? There is not enough time in the year to go back two to three years and reteach what they should have gotten I second or third grade. In 3rd-5th grades they should be reading to learn not learning to read. However, I have learned that that is not always the case. I have always had to close major gaps when teaching in the upper grades. It can be quite frustrating. Luckily the strategies I have used have helped close gaps and I have experienced growth from most of my students. Now that is a big part of keeping your sanity as a teacher, you have to realize that you may be able to have growth and not focusing on getting them on grade level, depending on where your students are. The steps to take to help you’re struggling readers is vocabulary instruction, word study and reading fluency. Your students cannot progress if they do not have those basic skills. Students cannot comprehend if they cannot read the words. And I am so surprised at how limited our students vocabulary is even for my on grade level readers.
Vocabulary instruction is so important to building and improving your students comprehension. When tutoring and small group instruction I find my students either guessing or just skipping words, which is hindering their comprehension. Prefix, suffix, and affix knowledge can open them up to thousands of new words so ensure they become proficient with this concept, as well as teaching multiple meaning words.
Word study is the students practicing these skills. I wrote a post on effective reading instruction where I stress practice, practice, practice. Vocabulary words, spelling activities, writing using new words, etc. can all help enhance their word knowledge.
And lastly, reading fluency is very important especially for us that have state test. Students need to be able to read quickly and fluently in order to be effective on these test. In our state the test are timed and this can cause anxiety, not possible finishing and most importantly loss of confidence when the students see other finishing before them. I recommend 6 minute fluency daily or at least 3 times a week, this is where students practice fluency daily for six minutes with a partner. They time each other do a word count and check for understanding during and after the reading. You can have questions that students can use to guide them. Of course, this has to be explicitly taught and practiced often until it is a routine.
Below is a list of sites I always go to for help with my reading instruction: