Struggling Readers

Shannon Ferris

Struggling readers... Why help them?

  • “The ability to read is an important precondition for much of what makes a person successful in modern life. Reading is necessary to get most jobs; to pass a test, to get a coveted license to drive; to access menus, contracts, transit schedules, and more” (Mahdavi & Tensfeldt, 2013).
  • Park and Lombardino (2013) state that “according to the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment, about two-thirds (67%) of all fourth-graders are currently reading at or below basic level, and only one-third (34%) are reading at the proficient or advanced level”.
  • Unfortunately, there are still many students that are struggling readers. If two-thirds of fourth graders are just barely reading on or below grade level, what are some things teachers can do to help our struggling readers?

Interactive Strategies Approach / Interactive Strategies Approach-Extended

  • The ISA is “comprehensive and highly responsive approach to instruction and intervention designed for use in the primary grades…A central feature of the ISA is teaching students to be independent users of code and meaning-based strategies for word identification” (Gelzheiser, Scanlon, Vellutino, Hallgren-Flynn, & Schatschneider, 2011). Some of the goals being met by using this approach are increased motivation to read, an increased knowledge of the alphabetic code, higher level vocabulary, and increased comprehension.
  • This is used to help students decode words.
  • The ISA-X is different from the ISA due to the fact that it has increased emphasis on the development of comprehension.
  • Word Solving: meaning-based strategy where students think of words that might make sense, reread the sentence, or look at pictures to help solve the unfamiliar word. Or a code-based strategy when the student thinks about the sounds in the word, breaks the word down to smaller parts, looks for known parts in the word, or tries a different way of pronouncing the word.
  • The goal is for students to be able to identify unfamiliar words on their own without having to stop reading and ask for assistance.
Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers - Decoding Skill #1
Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers - Decoding Skill #2

Visualization/ Reading with an Inner Voice

  • reading comprehension is an ongoing process of evolving thinking. When readers read and construct meaning, they carry on an inner conversation with the text.
  • While reading, students should be able to visualize what is going on in the book and have an inner conversation with the text.
  • Inner conversations can include: when we do not understand something, when something is relate-able or a connection is being made, or when a part of the story is finally understood.
  • Struggling readers stray away from this inner voice. When this happens students are reading without comprehending the text.
  • Some ways to get students back on track: annotations with sticky notes, marking the exact spot where they lost focus while reading, this way the teacher is able to help figure out why the student lost interest and can create solutions.
  • Some reasons students might lose comprehension: tired, not enough background knowledge of the text, thirsty, hungry, stressed, they just don't like the book, book is too hard, or the book is too boring.

The Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy (VSS)

  • helps students acquire and remember content are language for specific subjects… Students decide the importance of particular concepts and use contextual clues to establish meaning.
  • Step one: Students must have read and discussed the reading before using VSS
  • Step two: the teacher would begin by modeling the procedures for the students. Then teams would be set up either by the teacher or the students and have about two to five students per group.
  • Step three: the teams would chose a word from the text that they believe is important enough to share with the class.
  • Step four: each team will present their word. A spokesperson should be assigned and they will present to the rest of the class where the word was found in the text, the meaning of the word, and why the word is important to learn.
  • Step five: Students should be recording each word in their notebook and the vocabulary list should be review and studied even after the lesson is over.

SRA- Reading Program

  • There are two components to this program:
  • Open Court Reading and the Corrective Reading Program.
  • Open Court Reading is “a systematic method balancing literature and phonics instruction designed to improve both reading fluency and comprehension” (Bender & Larkin, 2009). Open Court Reading is a program that does not take into account prior student knowledge. Each skill that is taught in this program is taught in a logical progression to ensure each student understands and masters the content.
  • Scaffolding is used to build upon skills and the reading materials are authentic. Students receive instruction in decoding letter sounds, comprehension and inquiry.
  • Corrective Reading allows students to work in a decoding program, a comprehension program, or both. Each skill is made to be broken down into subskills taught through direct instruction and practiced until mastered..
  • The program includes field-tested in reading, spelling, language arts, and math problems, tightly scripted lesson plans, interactive lessons, the teacher constantly monitoring, lessons are presented to small groups, students are grouped based on performance level, frequent assessments, and integrated skill book, textbooks, and literature support.


  • DIBELS is short for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills
  • DIBELS is an informal assessment that checks early literacy skills.
  • Each section of the assessment only takes a few minutes to complete
  • There are four different stepping stones within this assessment program
  • First step: to teach and test onset fluency
  • Step two: teach and test phoneme segmentation fluency
  • Step three :teach and test nonsense words fluency
  • Step four: and teach and test oral reading fluency
  • DIBELS assesses students based on different benchmarks
  • DIBELS can also be used alongside of the RTI program to help the early screening of struggling readers.