Educational research states that struggling readers growth in literacy could be linked to their levels of motivation. Literacy Teachers are charged with the task of utilizing strategies that will not only motivate students to participate in reading activities but also support them in reading on their current grade levels. To be successful in accomplishing this dual goal, Literacy Teachers will need specified ideas or strategies that will promote student success. The ideas that I am explaining below include three approaches that I find effective while working with students who struggle with reading.
Reading Choice Boards- Research centered on reading skills asserts that students who are provided with choices in the classroom become more actively engaged and motivated. Therefore, choice boards are a great option for teachers who may teach students who have an adverse relationship with reading. While creating a Reading Choice Board, a teacher might include a list of high interest texts on their students reading levels that students could then select from during independent reading times. A reading choice board gives students control over some of their in class reading selections, which could motivate them to read more actively.
Classroom Reading Challenges and Reading Incentive Programs- In class reading challenges and rewards programs could also motivate struggling readers during reading tasks. Positive recognition has long been acknowledged in education as an approach to encourage students within the classroom. Teachers could work with students to establish reading goals and as they are accomplished provide incentives for their effort. Please note incentives should not be used to bribe students to read but instead help students track their progress and positive gains. Additionally, students of all ages enjoy competitions. Therefore, creating structured in class reading challenges could motivate students to read more.
Tiered Reading Groups- Students learn greatly when working in collaboration with their peers. Furthermore, students look forward to and value these types of in class interactions. Tiered reading groups are an effective way to heighten students’ levels of motivation during reading tasks. Please be reminded that when creating tiered reading groups, student data should be consulted. Also, groups should include students of different ability levels to ensure that students are able to learn from one another.
During my earlier years as a Literacy Coach, I had the opportunity to work closely with a Literacy Expert from Johns Hopkins University who created an impactful program, titled Student Team Literature. As a key part of my coaching role, I modeled the program’s vocabulary acquisition strategies and supported middle school teachers in implementing the program within their classrooms. Together, we observed students learn vocabulary words at a faster rate, use the vocabulary words in the correct context and adopt the words as parts of their everyday vocabularies. The below strategies for teaching vocabulary words are geared toward middle school students but could also be adopted at the high school level.
Resource Reference 1: Leslie Jones, Student Team Literature Curriculum, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-2015
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of the strategy is to help students create definitions for new words based on their prior knowledge and use of context clues. This strategy is implemented at the start of a lesson and can be used to introduce words that may be observed in literature or trade books. To introduce new vocabulary words found in a reading selections, teachers use a “call and response” approach encouraging students to use decoding strategies, Latin roots, suffixes and prefixes, and prior knowledge to “build” definitions and/or synonyms. No more than 5 words should be reviewed at a time with this strategy.
Timing: This strategy could be implemented in 15-25 minute timeframe.
Resources Needed: Chalk Board/ Dry Erase Board/ Projector/ Student Notebooks
Steps to Implementation:
Step 1: Read aloud the list of words in the order in which they appear.
Step 2: Reread the words and have students repeat each one after you. If students' decoding skills are below level, stress at this time the sounds of syllables.
Step 3: Ask students if they know the definitions of any of the words. Confirm and record correct definitions, or, in the case of multiple meaning words, identify definitions that match the context in which the words are used in the text.
Step 4: Ask students if they recognize parts of remaining unfamiliar words.
Step 5: Where all students are concerned, use this time to focus on identifying the meaning of any prefixes, suffixes or roots that are contained in unfamiliar words.
Step 6: Lead students to formulate definitions of remaining undefined words based upon the meanings of their roots and affixes.
Step 7: Provide definitions for any words left undefined.
Step 8: Reread the list again, in random order, and have students repeat each word after you.
Step 9: Point to the words in random order and without your assistance, have the students pronounce each one.
Step 10: Return to any words that students have difficulty pronouncing until you are satisfied that they can pronounce them correctly.
Resource Reference 2: Leslie Jones, Student Team Literature Curriculum, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-2015
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of meaningful sentences is to teach students how to use vocabulary in the correct context. In a meaningful sentence the writer embeds words, phrases, etc., that convey to the reader his/her knowledge of the meaning of a vocabulary word. Initially, students will need much modeling of the skill of writing meaningful sentences for each vocabulary word but gradually they will begin to master it. When students are ready to write meaningful sentences for key vocabulary words, meaningful sentence composition becomes a post-reading activity.
Timing: Class Period (45-90 minute block)
Resources Needed: Meaningful Sentence Graphic Organizers, Smart Board/White Board/Black Board, Meaningful Sentence Rubric
Steps to Implementation:
Step 1: Teach the concept before asking students to compose meaningful sentences for new words by:
(2) Can the key word be replaced only by synonyms?
Step 3. Use teacher-led, whole-class direct instruction in composing meaningful sentences, again using familiar words as key words.
Step 4. As you sense that students are beginning to understand the concept, begin to allow them to work in teams or partnerships before gradually moving them toward individual composition of meaningful sentences with familiar key words. Encourage teammates or partners to revise and polish their sentences before sharing them with the whole class.
Step 5. Once students have grasped the concept, follow the same process to lead them to compose meaningful sentences for unfamiliar words.
As new standards and initiatives are implemented in literacy classrooms, it is believed that more innovative strategies or pedagogy need to be shared that will help educators meet academic goals while teaching reading and writing. Educators often observe this trend as their schools or districts provide them with different curricula resources as standards and literacy programs are changed on the state level. Through my teaching and coaching experiences, I have observed that some of the more traditional strategies for reading and writing instruction are still effective and could support teachers in helping students develop their literacy skills. There is no need for teachers to spend additional money on programs that may not be useful after their current school year. Instead, teachers can rely on proven best practices that help support their instruction. Below you will find two strategies that may have been forgotten in classrooms but could still be modeled by literacy teachers seeking instructional soundness during reading and writing lessons. The below strategies can be used at any grade level.
Strategy 1: Robert Marzano Strategy
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of the strategy is to deepen students understanding of vocabulary words. The strategy was derived from Robert Marzano, a well-known education researcher and educator. Marzano believes that spending time teaching vocabulary could promote students making connections between vocabulary words and meanings. This method is described as one that could be fun and engaging for students.
Timing: This strategy could be implemented over the course of a few days.
Resources Needed: Chalk Board/Projector/Dry Erase Board
Steps to Implementation:
Step One: The new word is introduced to students. The teacher asks students questions related to their prior knowledge.
Step Two: The teacher tells students to explain the meaning of the new word in their own terms. This could be done either in writing or verbally.
Step Three: The teacher has students create a non-linguistic representation of the word. This could be a picture or some form of other symbolic image.
Step Four: The teacher has students complete activities that make them strengthen their understanding of the word. These activities could involve students creating analogies to express the meaning of the word, creating metaphors, or participating in comparing and contrasting exercises using the word.
Step Five: Teachers encourage students to have a discussion with a classmate about the new vocabulary words. They could discuss the meanings of the words, how to use it in context, or other meanings of the word.
Step Six: Teachers engage students in games to help them review the new vocabulary words.
Strategy 2: Think-Aloud
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of the think-aloud strategy is to have students observe a proficient reader/writer (i.e.-their teacher) share what happens in their mind during reading tasks. This strategy is effective while working with students who may be reading below their current grade level, because it shows struggling readers how to gain meaning from texts they may not understand. Teachers can engage in think-aloud exercises during modeled instruction, shared reading times, or during the teaching of reading based skills.
Timing: Time depends on the literacy block pacing. Think-alouds can occur at different sections of the literacy block.
Resources Needed: Instructional resources that are being used during the given lesson (i.e.-workbooks, reading books, etc.).
Steps To Implementation:
Step One: The teacher could read a few lines from a text. The teacher should pause at different parts of the reading to literally think aloud. During the think aloud the teacher could ask questions about text, describe how the read section made him/her feel, or even make an inference or prediction based on what was read.
Step Two: After reading the lines, the teacher could ask students a question based on what was read. The teacher could ask students how they came to their answer or what evidence supported their answers.
Step Three: The teacher will then share his/her answer to the given question and provide students with the evidence or support for the answer.