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Strategies for Scaffolding Reading Instruction

Instructor: Marquis Grant
Ever heard the phrase 'reading is gateway to all learning'? Reading is one of the areas targeted by most states for assessment because it not only is a critical area in academics, but also an area where most students were not showing gains. This lesson will highlight strategies to help struggling readers develop skills to be successful in the classroom.

Scaffolding Reading Instruction

Reading has been described as the central foundation for both learning and achievement. Difficulties with reading typically begin in the primary grades (K-3) and become more profound by the time a child reaches high school. Poor reading ability can significantly impact an individual throughout their life. No Child Left Behind prompted states to look into their methods and resources for teaching in order to close achievement gaps for all students.

Educators have debated for decades about the best way to teach reading. Scaffolding reading instruction models have been proven to work for children who have demonstrated difficulties in reading comprehension and can involve a variety of teaching methods depending on the needs of the students and available resources. The phrase itself originates with the image of physical scaffolding - supportive structures designed to assist in the construction of a building. Similarly, scaffolding reading instruction is a means by which teachers can support a student as they develop fundamental reading skills, one by one.

When teachers scaffold reading instruction, they break the reading activity down into smaller parts in order to facilitate comprehension. This can be done by focusing on context-based vocabulary, using graphic organizers, small group instruction, or by introducing background information. Once assistance in an area is no longer needed, the 'scaffolding' or assistance, is removed, allowing the student to continue building more advanced skills on their own.

This lesson will outline some strategies used in scaffolding reading instruction.

Word Study

The importance of word study has long since been recognized as a required component when developing foundational reading skills. Further, explicit instruction also requires that the meanings of words be directly taught and practiced so that they are accessible when children are reading text. It is important to pre-teach unknown vocabulary prior to reading a selection. This will prevent students from stumbling over words they do not know or miss the overall meaning of a text because of an unfamiliar word.

Introducing Background Information

Since the goal of reading instruction is to develop comprehension, it is useful to spend some time introducing background information. There may be subject matter with which students are not familiar, which could possibly prevent them from understanding what they are reading. Giving them information ahead of the reading assignment will allow them build a foundation for the subject. For example, if students are reading about Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, the teacher could have students research ravens or view a video about ravens prior to the reading. Afterwards, students could list characteristics that are common among ravens and chart responses as to why they think Poe used a raven as the focus of his work.

Using Graphic Organizers

Visual aids, including graphic organizers, can be used throughout the reading of a passage or story. 'Visuals' is a term often used for students who learn better by seeing things in action rather than simply reading them. Graphic organizers are also good tools to use to keep students engaged in the reading and assess their comprehension as they navigate through the text. Graphic organizers for young children should be kept as simple as possible so that the students' focus does not shift from the primary purpose, which is to understand what she is reading.

Read Aloud/Think Aloud

The strategy Read Aloud/Think Aloud allows teachers to demonstrate reading fluency while also modeling specific behaviors that are common to good readers. The method asks teachers to read portions of the text out loud to their students, stopping every couple of sentences to ask the class for feedback.

When using the Read Aloud/Think Aloud strategy, teachers should initially use shorter passages and gradually build towards longer pieces of literature so students will be more likely to remain engaged in the reading and not become frustrated by the number of words or length of text. Each student should have a copy of the text to follow along with the teacher. During the Think Aloud portion, the teacher may offer both verbal and written responses to what was read, having the students make notes of their own from the discussion their copies of the reading. As students become more proficient, they will be able to ask questions and use critical thinking skills to work their way through reading tasks independently.

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