Supporting the Struggling Reader
by Chase Young
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Struggling readers need expert instructors. Students struggle for a variety of reasons, but fortunately there are a variety of strategies to supplement and turn deficiencies into successful reading techniques. Readers may struggle because of limited English proficiency, attention deficit disorders, lack of motivation, and poverty. Students may also become a struggling reader because of a crucial element of an elementary classroom, because of the type of instruction a student is receiving. Although pre-school and current home environments may not be able to change, teachers have the power to alter instruction to better fit the needs of struggling readers (Laureate Education, 2002). 
 
In the classroom, I have dealt with each of the aforementioned causes for a student to struggle with reading. The school has a large bilingual population, some students do not see the value of reading, and is classified as title 1 because of the high percentage of free or reduced lunch. A large percentage of the struggling readers in my class struggle because they are impoverished and lack motivation to become successful readers. 
 
The goal for my students has always been the same, however, due to new strategies and ideas, the goal can be shaped by researched based methods for improving struggling readers. The goals is for all students to have a general love for reading. Students who love to read ultimately become good readers (Rasinski & Padak, 2000). The key to creating these successful lifelong readers was illustrated by Dr. Allington (Laureate Education, 2002) with the notion of thoughtful literacy. Students need extensive successful reading in “just right” books, have an expert teacher that can model strategic reading, and a transference of comprehension monitoring to the student rather than the teacher. 
 
The current reading program used in the classroom is quite successful, and has been birthed directly from the balanced literacy program. It incorporates reading demonstration, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, and word study (Tompkins, 2006). Although there are a few additions to the program, it is often successful to create a language arts smorgasbord in order to meet the needs of individual kids in the classroom (Duffy-Hester, 1999). 
 
The students, thus far, have not always been given ample opportunity to self-monitor. Some have developed a dependency on the teacher for support. An attempt to eliminate this will be transpired by a few suggested activities by Dr. Allington (Laureate Education, 2002) such as the four color pen, the skittles, and the close book strategy. Furthermore, I will consistently monitor myself and remember to only interrupt at the end of a sentence, or more favorably, the end of the page. 
 
In addition to current strategies that are working in the classroom, I plan on carefully analyzing the think-alouds used daily for modeling. I will adhere to Dr. Strickland’s (Laureate Education, 2002) guidelines of making sure texts are easy, there are a variety, proper scaffolding in order to make the tasks transparent, strategies are applied, and that proper intensity and duration of instruction is used to support all readers when needed. 
 
To motivate students I will continue to give them choice, allow opportunities for students to talk about what they are reading, and reward good reading with more reading. Specific strategies that I will draw from this course include the blessing of the books, quick shares, and more opportunities to read. Although these strategies were already implemented in the classroom, they will be used more as the course emphasized their ability to increase the motivation of struggling readers (Laureate Education, 2002).
 
Finally, guided reading groups need a new flavor. Through observation, the students are getting beat down by the consistency of the groups and their structure. Students need novel and creative ways to engage in guided reading groups. Although this was not discussed specifically in the course, the contents of the course made me carefully analyze the mood of the guided reading groups, and realized they needed a change. Each meeting should be presented in a variety of different learning styles, and strategies should be monitored from a variety of intellengences (Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2000). 
 
The students will most definitely respond positively to the new changes (especially the skittles) as they have already as strategies were implemented throughout the course. Reading instruction is a science, and strategies are founded in research. Every teacher should possess the expertise in this critical area (Laureate Education, 2002). 
 
It is easy to watch successful students with high literate backgrounds grow exponentially on data charts, but it is glorifying to see a struggling reader make progress when all the odds were against them. The proper education of teachers, the purposeful assessment of students, and the resulting implementation of instruction takes the takes the mystery out of moving a struggling reader, but it will never take away the new born lifelong reader. 


References

Duffy-Hester, A. M. (1999). Teaching struggling readers in elementary school classrooms: A review of classroom reading programs and principles for instruction. The Reading Teacher, 52(5), 480–495. 
 
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2002). Supporting the Struggling Reader. [Video Recording]. Baltimore: Author. 

Rasinski, T., & Padak, N. (2000). Early Intervention. Effective reading strategies: Teaching children who find reading difficult (2nd ed., pp. 55–61). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Silver, H., Strong, R., & Perini, M. (2000). So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multpile Intelligences. Trenton, NJ: Silver Strong & Associates.


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