Supporting the Struggling Reader: The Skittle Strategy
by Chase Young

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Every student has a right to an equal education and access to curriculum (Gordon, 2002). Therefore, teachers should have access to the necessary tools to enable every student to learn. In addition to expert teaching in the classroom, teachers and students need further support in regards to struggling readers. Teachers need to utilize parents, specialists, and technology to support the struggling reader (Laureate Education, 2002). 

Parents need to be partnered in the education of their child. Teachers need to make conscious efforts to support parents at home with their struggling reader. Parents often want to help, but lack the knowledge to be effective. Teachers need to instill this valuable knowledge through literature and conferencing. During conferences, the student should be present, and a reading conference should be modeled for the parent. Also, the deep conversations required in higher-order thinking and interacting with text need to be modeled. Once the interaction has been modeled, parents should walk away with a packet to remind parents of their role with their struggling reader (Laureate Education, 2002). Parents need to become the tutor at home, and need to be able to point out good use of strategies, and follow a guide while working with their child (Allington & Cunningham, 2007).  Teachers need to avoid the alienation of the parent, and take on the parent as an educational partner (Laureate Education, 2002).

Reading support specialists are very common in elementary schools. Burks Elementary in McKinney ISD brags two reading specialists. However, the communication between the specialists and the teacher is very minimal. It is extremely important that the specialists is supporting the teacher with similar content, building on discussed strengths, and shattering weaknesses. A traveling notebook should be a good way to reopen the lines of communication in such a busy environment. Also, the lesson plans will now be sent to the reading specialists to keep her/him up to date on current curricula (Laureate Education, 2002).

The final resource for the struggling reader should incorporate the use of technology. Dr. Donald Leu (Laureate Education, 2002) argues the validity of the internet with struggling readers. He believes that access to the new environment will benefit the struggling reader. He also mentioned a fantastic idea for ESL learners that should be implemented soon. Allowing the ESL learner to become the interpreter makes the student the most important person in the classroom. In addition to this great way of involving the native language of ESL learners, it also has a variation that gives importance to the struggling reader. The student receives brief instruction on a technological task, and they are made into the expert. Any student that has questions will seek out the new expert.

Every student deserves access to a quality education. David T. Gordon (2002) writes about a strategy entitled the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) where it becomes standard for differentiation among learning styles as a means to provide an equal opportunity for education. He makes a strong point when noting the differences in learning styles and denying access to education if the instruction does not cater to each of the styles. During the course of Supporting the Struggling Reader, there have been many opportunities to exhibit the UDL. The use of a think aloud makes mental processes transparent. This strategy caters to all the learning styles. Think-alouds should have a permanent place in the UDL. However, the new wave of education has an uncanny ability to work all three brain networks, and cater to various learning styles. The notion of read-write-talk is an excellent strategy to ensure deeper understanding occurs by differing learners. Reading uses the recognition network, the strategic network is utilized in the writing, and the affective network occurs when students are talking about the book with friends.

Using all of your resources to help a struggling reader is necessary for success. It is also extremely important that a teacher has a handle on networks and learning styles because many times the struggling reader struggles because a teacher has been unable to reach them. There are many reasons for struggling readers, but a main intervention is expert instruction (Laureate Education, 2002).


Cunningham, P. M., & Allington, R. L. (2007). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Gordon, D. T. (2002, January/February). Curriculum access in the digital age [Electronic version]. Harvard Education Letter, 18(1), 1–5.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2002). Supporting the Struggling Reader. [Video Recording]. Baltimore: Author.

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