Methods for Helping Struggling Readers

Instructor: Melissa Iturralde

Melissa is an elementary/middle school teacher and has a master's degree in educational leadership.

Reading can be a difficult subject for students, and at times their frustrations can get lost in a large classroom. This lesson will discuss helpful methods to provide support for struggling readers. These methods can be used at home, for private tutoring or in a classroom setting.


It is no secret that literacy is crucial to succeed and thrive in our society. Parents, educators and mentors need to be vigilant in ensuring that language development skills are addressed in our classrooms, especially for those who find reading difficult. If we see children are struggling to read, they need us to act as advocates for them to work towards remedial actions.

Literacy Affects Learning

If children struggle with reading, they will struggle in other academic areas and in life. School becomes a burden for these students, and a general negative feeling about being there takes over. If students who clearly need help with reading are overlooked, they will start to give up or even act out. Early intervention is the key to students building confidence, feeling successful and enjoying reading. Teachers, parents and mentors need tools and strategies to intervene and address reading struggles early on. Progress and growth can take place by trying these methods and utilizing the resources provided in this lesson.


Assess Regularly

The first step in pinpointing reading struggles is to assess. Assessments allow teachers to determine a student's reading level, and gauge improvement over a period of time. Teachers can either make up their own assessment or use the blackline pretests that generally accompany reading curriculums. A pretest is helpful at the beginning of the year to find ''just right'' reading material for each individual student, often called the ''Goldilocks Method''. This test also lets teachers, parents and students set realistic goals for the school year. Administering mid-year and end of year tests show progress and give teachers valuable information to pass along to the next year's teacher. Informal assessment for student learning styles, their interaction with other students, home environment, and other factors will help target a student's needs in the classroom.

Differentiate Instruction

In a perfect world, every student in every class is reading at the same level and learns the same way. News flash. Our world is far from perfect, and our children demand their own needs in order to find success academically. Differentiated Instruction is a process in which instruction is based on the same standard but in a variety of means for each individual student. A teacher can differentiate by teaching reading in small-leveled groups, providing student choice on assignments, or modifying reading assessments to test at student levels. Here are some other ways to differentiate reading instruction.

Teach To Your Audience

Deliver lessons or practice sessions in a variety of modes. Set up centers to generate movement within a group to target a variety of skills. Allow students to set up their own reading goals and provide the means to achieve them. Set up a space for students to play with letters to practice spelling and phonics skills. Modifying assignments or tests will also help students feel successful while cutting out the frustration factor.

Allow Student Choice

Students like to feel like they are in charge of their learning. Provide them with choices on how they will report on a book or answer questions to a story to help them feel in charge of their learning. Provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively with their peers or independently. Students may perform better alone, without pressure, or they may push themselves to stay at the same level as their peers. Keep in mind individual student levels so each child feels confident and successful with the work they do. The key is to keep them comfortable and confident in their work.

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