Students who struggle in reading tend to fall into a few categories. Students who are struggling at the word level (decoding) need a structured literacy approach which is systematic, direct, multisensory, prescriptive, and repetitive among other traits. Lessons should look like this in general:
- Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Activities: from simplest to more complex--in this case, students need to be taught how to identify words in sentences, syllables in words, and sounds in words and the location of those sounds. Having good phonemic awareness skills is the single most accurate prediction of future reading success.
- Alphabetic Principle: Students should know the alphabet so that they have a frame of reference of what the letter looks like and its associated sound. Many students don't know their letters and therefore become letter blind in some instances.
- Phoneme, Grapheme or Morpheme Lessons: Students need to be taught single letters, letter teams, and word parts: affixes and roots in order to learn and overlearn these ideas. Students need to be aware of how their mouth feels and what it looks like as well when making these sounds. They should have practice reading word lists, phrases, and sentences with the target concept. Lessons should also include review of previously learned material as well. It is helpful when a student uses a multisensory methods to process segmenting and blending words (tracing the sounds/touching fingers etc.) to provide more input.
- Syllable Types, Syllable Division Rules, Orthographic Rules--there are 6 syllable types and multiple ways to divide syllables. Students learn the patterns and use strategies to analyze and break words into parts so that they can learn to automatically read those words. They need to understand the orthographic rules as well so that they figure out the "tricks" in English. For example the FLOSS rule teaches students do add another f, l, s (and z) to a word that ends in one of these consonants.
- In order to teach the the last two bullets, students need to read many words and sentences as well as spell sounds, spell words, phrases, and sentences. Using methods to have students tap out the sounds and letters helps provide both kinesethic and auditory feedback to the learner. Students also learn how to spell a word by breaking it into syllables.
- Reading Decodable (controlled) Text: Students need opportunities to practice their decoding skills with carefully controlled text. The text should reflect what was previously learned. In addition some simple comprehension and vocabulary lessons can follow this.
- Learning Nonphonetic Words: Those tricky rule breakers, outlaws, red words--whatever people call them--they tend not to follow normal phonics rules so they pose problems. Students need to analyze what they already know about the words and then have to memorize those parts that are unusual. There are different strategies and techniques for this as well.
If students are not struggling with decoding or spelling, they may be struggling with the text as a whole. Many students struggle with comprehension due to attention problems or the ability to remember longer passages. Part of the goal is to motivate and engage readers: these students need highly motivating books written at their instructional reading level so that they can read with teacher help and on their own. They need to be exposed to lots of different types of reading (fiction/nonfiction/poetry/scripts etc) and taught how to:
- Make predictions/check predictions
- Ask questions as they are reading
- Indicate and remediate where they are confused in the text
- Summarize what they have read and learned
- Be able to locate information in the text
- Use graphic organizers to map out concepts or map the text
- Write about the text using textual references for support
- Answering questions about the text--being able to locate and provide evidence for information.
In addition, any students lack good vocabulary development and benefit from adding words to their lexicon through various activities. It is best to teach vocabulary words within the context of a book and not teach every single word. Concentrating on 5-6 words at a time per passage depending on the length is a good start (depending on the age group as well). Word walls and games are great ways to help students learn words and make connections to their own lives.