Whether you are working with young children at the elementary level or upper grades, many students come to formal education with reading struggles. Fortunately, there are many strategies and tools that can be used to address reading difficulties in school-aged children. You could fill hundreds of books with reading strategies for vocabulary instruction and fluency assistance, but for numerous children, reading comprehension is the most confusing.
Reading Comprehension Strategies for Struggling Readers
Becoming a better reader is a process that is individual to every student. These tips and strategies may help students who struggle with reading to participate in reading comprehension activities in class.
Scaffolding: Simple & Complex Questions
For elementary aged children, one comprehension strategy is to provide scaffolded questions to help support understanding. Scaffolding means that the instructor uses simpler questions to develop understanding before increasing complexity to harder comprehension or analysis questions. For elementary school children, these questions might start as simple who, what, when, where, and why questions that allow children to identify key concepts in the story or article. These basic questions also provide a scaffold for older students and can be used either in list form or as part of a graphic organizer. For complex texts with difficult words or topic specific vocabulary, a brief word list of important key terms might help struggling students.
Tools for Reading Comprehension Assistance
For more complex comprehension assistance, teachers may wish to provide more detailed questions that allow students to dig into various aspects of the text. Various texts may already have comprehension questions provided as part of the teacher’s material. However, generic comprehension questions can help students determine major ideas, major events, and major characters or figures in a piece of literature or non-fiction.
Items such as comprehension question cards can be used for students to help support understanding during post-reading discussion. For small groups or a more hands-on activity, comprehension question cubes provide a similar review of the story’s main elements in a more interactive form. The key factor behind these question strategies is to provide students with a basic understanding of what they read through the use of re-reading, summary, and key idea identification.
Basic Reading Comprehension Tips to Benefit Any Reader
Regardless of the style of comprehension question, teachers should focus on a few key elements. First, children should be asked to read and re-read texts to develop habits of referring back to the text. Students should be asked and be able to point out where in the story they identified a particular element, event, or character. As children become more accomplished at basic “who, what, when, where” questions, teachers may wish to introduce different organizer elements.
Plot or event timelines can sequentially track the sequence of important events in the story, providing students with a quick synopsis to improve comprehension. Gallery walk style posters can also be used to allow students to identify important details in small groups and share out in a larger class discussion; in this format students write important details about a specific element or question on a poster and then rotate to a new poster to add additional information to a new question. By the end of the activity, all students have added to each poster, providing a comprehensive overview of the reading selection.
More Ideas for Helping Struggling Readers
Whichever method an educator chooses to use to improve comprehension in their students, the basic scaffold of finding the main concepts in a reading selection is a critical foundation to deeper understanding. Check out the Reading & Literacy category on the blog to find more ideas and inspiration for encouraging your students to get excited about reading. Also follow the link below to check out the Struggling Readers tag page for more specific posts on reading intervention.