How often do you search for ways to help your students with overcoming reading comprehension challenges? You may be thinking: “I’ve tried everything, followed the curriculum guide and program resources, given students articles to read and assigned homework, worked with the students in small groups. . . and the list goes on.”
However, there are so many needs in my class that I need more support, time, and resources to help students in overcoming reading comprehension challenges.
My friend, do not worry! In this article, I am going to share with you some tips, strategies, and resources to support you in helping your students. Grab your notebook and pencil and jot down some key points to assist you when you teach your next lesson.
Alright . . . are you ready to scale your student’s comprehension? Let’s get started!
Students practice strategy #8 in the picture above.
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Problems & Feelings About Reading Challenges
I know exactly how you feel because I was that teacher, too.
I was frustrated that my students were not comprehending the text, even though we spent so much time reading and discussing it. Is this you?
Then I became disappointed that students did not find the same joy in reading that I found, and if they did, they would have comprehended better. At least, this is what I thought.
Then I assigned high and low grades to the same students every week. Some students received high grades, and the same students received low grades. I found those students who were avid readers scored great, and those who were not, scored low. What could I do to motivate my non-readers?
This was so disappointing, I felt like a teacher failure. I knew I needed to do something to reach these kids, and I spent countless nights thinking about what I could do differently.
Well, those sleepless nights allowed me to do more research, find answers, and then put my research into action. What I found made a huge difference! Not just with one student, but with every single student! The results . . . not just one year, but every year since! I felt like I finally found the answers to support my students in overcoming reading comprehension challenges!! Yes!!
Results: My 10 Tips for Reading Instruction Revealed!
I am so excited about the progress my students made, I thought I would share with you some tips and some strategies that were implemented to reap these results. If you’ve been hearing and learning about the “Science of Reading”, you’ll notice everything I am going to share is aligned with the research. BONUS!! Yes, I did the research, too. Here we go . . . my 10 tips!
Create a Print-Rich Environment
Surround your students with a variety of reading materials, including books, magazines, posters, and labels. A print-rich environment helps develop a positive attitude towards reading. From the classroom library and anchor charts to the environmental print, providing opportunities to read various genres and texts inspires children to read resulting in understanding its’ purpose.
Not only do I have a well-stocked classroom library, but my classroom walls drip with literacy, content, and student learning. My chalk ledges feature books to support the learning or theme we focus on for the week or month. It is NO SECRET when anyone walks into my classroom, they see literacy everywhere and know how important this is to our learning.
Use Phonics and Decoding Strategies
Teach phonics skills and decoding strategies to help students break down words into individual sounds. Understanding the relationship between letters and sounds is critical for early readers.
Yes, in a picture book, children can consult the picture for support, but learning the phonemic system and practicing word decoding strategies will support developing literacy strategies. A program that I love to use when teaching phonics is the Spalding Education International program. This is a research-based, multisensory literacy approach and has great results!
Explicitly teaching phonics is important. Students will not obtain this knowledge by looking at letters. Take time to help students segment sounds, blend sounds, and play with sounds creating new words.
Did you know an effective way to work on phonics and decoding strategies is through handwriting lessons? Students should say the sound(s) of the letter when writing the letter. Teaching handwriting with a literacy focus creates more opportunities to practice and use developing literacy skills.
Afterward, students can practice decoding skills with sentences and paragraphs when writing extended text through the handwriting lesson.
Offer a diverse range of reading materials to cater to different interests and reading levels. This includes fiction and non-fiction books, poetry, articles, and digital resources. Even graphic novels are great books to get students engaged in reading.
This objective can be achieved when you know your student’s interests. At the beginning of the year survey your student’s interests. This information will provide lots of great information that you can use to structure your lessons, provide learning opportunities, and suggest books to read and topics to write about. Always take time to ask questions, learn about your students, and develop a relationship while you continue to learn about your students.
Encourage Daily Reading
How do you encourage reading? Start by establishing a daily reading routine, encouraging students to read independently for a set amount of time each day, and setting a specific time during the day such as when students arrive at school, during snack break, after recess, or at the end of the day, and providing an opportunity for students to self-select their texts to read is an important step in establishing a daily routine.
Encourage parents to read with their children at home. Some families read together and enjoy sharing about what they are reading during dinner. The most important thing to remember is to maintain a specific time when the classroom or home is quiet and everyone is reading. This reading habit helps improve fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary over time.
Some fun acronyms for reading include WEIRD (We Enjoy Independent Reading Daily), DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), OTTER (Our Time to Enjoy Reading). SSR (Silent Sustained Reading), and SQUIRT (Super Quiet Uniterrupted Independent Reading Time) are just some of the fun acronyms that can be used to indicate silent, independent reading. Although a “reading title” is not necessary . . . it can be more fun with a title.
Why are these points important? Daily reading allows your students the opportunity to practice the reading skills and strategies learned in class and plant seeds for further learning and reading.
Model Reading Aloud
Model fluent reading by reading aloud to the class. The read-aloud time should occur daily by teachers and parents. Anytime I read a picture book for a lesson (reading, writing, SEL), I place the book in a tub titled “Dr. Durbin’s Hot Picks” and allow my students to choose books from this tub to read throughout the week. My students LOVE this tub!
This strategy, modeling read-aloud, not only provides opportunities to demonstrate proper pronunciation and expression for early and emergent readers, but also instills a love for storytelling and literature. When reading aloud, use gestures, voice, and tone to communicate the various thoughts the characters are communicating. Who doesn’t love listening to another person read and “act out” the story along the way?
Visit my YouTube channel for instructional lessons using this book, All Are Welcome, and other picture books to teach literacy skills and strategies.
Additionally, a read-aloud is a perfect opportunity to engage in “think aloud”. A “think-aloud” is when the experienced reader shares his/her thoughts with the listeners.
As an experienced reader, students can learn what is happening in “your brain” (thought bubbles) while YOU read. YOUR metacognition is an important aspect of teaching children to read. Students can only experience THEIR metacognition reading strategies when an experienced reader articulates his/her thoughts about the story – interacting with text – while reading.
Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for additional resources to support literacy instruction. View my STEAM Literacy Resource collection along with several other resources using picture books to teach reading and writing.
Do all of your students learn the same way? Do they all have the same interests? Do they all have the same literacy skills? Most likely the answer is no. Therefore, recognize and accommodate different learning styles and abilities in your classroom with instructional methods, lessons, and varied texts. Differentiated instruction and lessons ensure that all students receive the support they need to develop their reading skills.
Depending on the needs of the learner, reading a nonfiction or fiction book, picture or chapter book can provide a plethora of literacy lessons. Whether the lessons are reading skills and strategies or writing skills and strategies, various lessons can be pulled from a text and structured to the needs of your student.
Why is this strategy important? Using the same book with various students saves teacher planning time. A sweet bonus with this “differentiated instructional strategy” is students are not embarrassed if they are not reading the same text as their peers. Now, if you’re wondering how various lessons can be pulled from one text, connect with me, and I’ll help you look at books with varied lenses.
Incorporate Reading Comprehension Strategies
Teach and reinforce comprehension strategies such as predicting, questioning, summarizing, and making connections. These strategies help students understand and retain what they read.
Do you want to know what I discovered, tried, tested, and found great results? Get my free resource, “Eight Comprehension Strategies” to try with your readers.
In this resource, I’ve included eight research-based strategies that can be implemented in reading instruction to develop critical thinking skills and begin reading with a reader’s mind. Don’t miss out on this great resource! When your readers struggle with comprehension, these eight strategies will support your readers’ developing skills and move them toward higher levels of cognitive thinking and growth.
Remember, the best way to teach these reading comprehension strategies is to model via think-aloud while modeling across genres.
Give constructive and specific feedback on students’ reading performance. Highlight strengths and offer guidance on areas that need improvement. Positive reinforcement is crucial for building confidence.
When providing opportunities for students to read, remember to consider their comfort level – reading in a large vs small group. While students want to know how to be better readers, they also want to know what they are doing correctly. I like to think of this as “bless and press” constructive feedback. When I provide constructive feedback, I always let the students know what they are doing that is great (bless), then follow up with an area to work on (press). We spend some time practicing the “press” skill or strategy, so the student is more successful with independent practice. Touching base with the student on the “press” lesson will highlight this practice until it becomes solidified.
Remember, the feedback should always be purposeful and specific to meet the student’s academic journey needs.
Integrate technology into reading instruction. Educational apps, online reading programs, and interactive e-books can engage students and provide additional resources for learning.
There are a plethora of online resources available to support early, emergent, intermediate, and advanced readers. Most programs do come with a fee; however, using technology is a great way to provide a “different” style of learning, while differentiating and personalizing instruction.
NOTE: When using technology, you’ll want to teach “internet safety” protocols, too. Teaching students how to use technology appropriately is a priority.
Another resource to note: check out my post about Digital Citizenship for more ideas and lessons about internet safety at the link below and then view my YouTube training session.
One of the things I love about books . . . you can find a book about ANY topic and use it as a teachable opportunity. I love this book, The Technology Tail, and how it uses figurative language (personification) to teach about safety. Check out the book below and then listen to my read-aloud.
Amazon quick link: https://amzn.to/47A39MS
This is another read-aloud opportunity to engage your learners and practice language and comprehension strategies.
Text summary: A cute, creative story about children and their texts, tweets, posts, and pictures. “Don’t be mean and irresponsible!” That’s the straight-to-the-point advice the character, Screen, has for young readers who are active on social media. Whether tapping out messages on computers, tablets, or phones, Screen wants kids to know their words will follow them for life, creating a digital trail that can’t be erased.
Foster a Love for Reading
Instill a love for reading by making it enjoyable and rewarding. Celebrate achievements, organize book-related events, and create a positive reading culture within the classroom. A genuine enthusiasm for reading can be contagious.
Remember, students love to share with others what they are reading. Provide opportunities throughout the day for students to share. You never know which student will want to pick up a peer-recommended book to begin reading and learning something new.
Reading Comprehension: Related Resources
As a seasoned educator and literacy expert, I put together some of my favorite posts, resources, and books linked within this article and shared below to support teachers and parents with instructional strategies to teach reading and writing.
If you are looking for additional instructional resources to support overcoming comprehension challenges, I highly recommend these professional books. These are my favorites!!
Reading Comprehension: Final Thoughts
When your readers struggle with comprehension, my 10 tips, strategies, and resources will support your readers’ developing skills and move them toward higher levels of cognitive growth.
Remember to get the free resources and check out my other literacy resources, so you have all the tools needed to support your readers and writers. Then visit my YouTube for model lessons to help you teach these reading comprehension strategies.
Annette has been an educator for more than 30 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, K-12 multi-language learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.