Helping Special Education Students Learn Through Reading

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning to read can make a huge difference in the acquisition of new knowledge. In this lesson, you will develop some strategies for helping students with disabilities continue their learning through reading.

Learning Through Reading

Ms. Allen is a fifth grade teacher in a public school. Most of her students have been independent readers, who can approach text on their own with solid decoding, fluency and comprehension, since at least the end of second grade. Because of this, Ms. Allen's instruction depends a great deal on reading. Whether she is teaching in science, math, social studies or language arts, Ms. Allen uses the written word to stretch students' awareness, expose them to different perspectives, and help them develop ever more complex literacy skills.

Lately, though, Ms. Allen has become increasingly aware that using reading to increase learning does not work well for all students. In particular, her students with diagnosed learning disabilities, or neurologically-based challenges assimilating new information in spite of overall cognitive strengths, struggle with learning through reading. Even those students who can read independently might not readily transfer their hard-won reading skills to reading text in the content areas. Ms. Allen begins exploring ways she can explicitly teach her students with disabilities to use reading as a way to learn. She finds it most helpful to break strategies down in terms of what she wants students to do before, during, and after reading a content-area text.

Pre-Reading Strategies

Ms. Allen understands that what a student does to get ready to approach a new text will impact their engagement and comprehension. Because students with disabilities might have to expend extra cognitive energy to enact the various skill that are part of reading, it is particularly important to help them prepare to make sense of the text. Ms. Allen finds the following pre-reading strategies especially helpful for these students:

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