This past year, I have had many moments when I was not sure of myself as a reading coach. The struggles our readers have are vast and sometimes mindboggling. We needed to develop our students’ foundational reading skills before building onto that foundation. The risk I was taking was backed by scientific research, but I was still feeling very vulnerable with the decision I was making for my team because it was a change. Recently, I was reassured that our focus was setting our students up for reading success this year and (even more important) in their future. My ultimate goal as a reading specialist/coach is to prepare our students for independence as readers and to look at struggles as an opportunity to try a little harder.
The key is in the foundations of reading; phonological and phonemic awareness.
The following areas are the 7 most common reading roadblocks and the interventions that a teacher/parent can put into place to support reading success.
(in no particular order)
- Poor phonics skills
The primary focus of phonics instruction is to help beginning readers understand how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes) to form letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns and to help them learn how to apply this knowledge in their reading.
Intervention: Letter/sounds Focused – Write letters on pieces of paper and put them in a paper bag. Let your children reach into the bag and take out letters. Have them say the sounds that match the letters. Teach your children to match the letters in their names with the sounds in their names. Write the first letter of your child’s name on a piece of cardstock, and have them search through magazines for objects that start with that same sound, Cut and paste- make a placemat.
2. Poor Decoding Skills (A great link to some wonderful strategies)
3. Poor Reading Accuracy (reading the words correctly)
Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven’t seen before.
Intervention: Explicit instruction is a must when it comes to decoding and student reading accuracy.
Why do I put these together? They are cut from the same cloth. Teaching decoding skills should be done in isolation, while reading accuracy is using those decoding skills in context of a sentence or story a student is reading.
4. Poor sight word vocabulary
Sight words, often called high frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognize these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode.
Intervention: A good way to help your reader with sight words is using flash cards. My child currently has Sight Words taped to his bathroom mirror and to our front door. We practice his memorization during teeth brushing, bath time and on our way out of the door in the morning.
The BEST way to help your child with these sight words is through the previous intervention (decoding) and Phonemic awareness practice. Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. We know that a student’s skill in phonemic awareness is a good predictor of later reading success or difficulty.
Intervention: Have your reader take the word apart or segment the word (for example ‘frog’ turns into ‘f” ‘r’ ‘o’ ‘g’) Have them say each sound, then blend the sounds together. This basic Phonemic awareness is a tool a student will continue to use throughout their reading life.
5. Poor Reading Rate (speed)
Reading speed is encouraged in the first and second grades, but it is not as important in the upper grades (as long as the student isn’t reading too slow to stay ‘in’ the text.)
Intervention: It is important for students to have a large sight word vocabulary. By the time a student leaves 2nd grade, they should have over 300 sight words memorized. The key to this intervention is the connected text that the student is using to place the sight words into context. If you are teaching your reader the first 40 sight words, their books should include those or as many of those words as possible. WARNING: Don’t overwhelm them. Students can handle about 5 sight words at a time.
6. Poor Comprehension
This is vital for a reader’s success. Reading comprehension is the ability to process text, understand its meaning, and to integrate with what the reader already knows.
Intervention: Students should focus on metacognitive skills – thinking about their thinking/reading; Visualize, Connect to background knowledge, Make Inferences, Ask questions, and Summarize. The best way to help your reader is by developing their oral language skills. The more you talk with your reader, the more your reader talks about what they are reading- the better they will be at comprehension. Focus on the vocabulary of the text and develop their understanding of context clues.
7. Poor Spelling
Spelling and reading go hand in hand. The more a student reads, the better speller they will become. The better speller the student is, the better a student’s comprehension will be.
Intervention: Help your child/reader become a stronger speller through segmentation (pulling the word into its sounds) and their letter/sound – (phonics skills) practice. Try not to intervene when they are struggling with the spelling of a difficult word. Practice sounding out the word and having them match the letter to the sound. Invented spelling (phonemic spelling) is encouraged in grades k and 1. As an upper grade teacher, I always encouraged invented spelling rather than having the writer choose a less desirable word that they know how to spell.
A sight linked throughout this post is fcrr.org. The Florida Center for Reading Research has great resources for hands-on, tactile interventions for everyone of these areas.