Differentiated Instruction

7 strategies to use with struggling readers

January 13, 2015

Have a struggling reader in your class? Not too sure how to cater for his/her needs? Here are seven ways to assist them. 


For any struggling reading, the feeling of being able to achieve success is key. Set the bar to high and there's no success. Set the bar too low and it's belittling. The student needs an appropriate challenge that he/she can overcome with little assistance. This doesn't necessarily mean that the text needs to be different. Perhaps they need multiple readings of the same text. Maybe they need a partner to discuss their reading with. Developing a reader's self esteem is the most important facet here. 


It is crucial to encourage as much success as possible when children are learning to read. The teacher should take as many steps necessary, discreetly and sensitive, to enable to the struggling reader to participate in classroom discussions about stories. How can we encourage this? Allowing children to listen to the text beforehand will increase their familiarity with the text and give them time to process the events in the story independently and without pressure. This will enable the struggling reader to respond to questions about the text alongside their peers.


Oral reading is often a struggling reader’s greatest fear, as it publicises his/her weakness. To enable students to achieve success, allow time to practice with a voice recorder, teacher or buddy until they are confident to present it.


Include a range of reading material in your classroom for independent reading. Fiction novels don’t suit everyone. Comics, magazines and non-fiction books are all kinds of print/visual texts that can engage a reluctant reader.


Using cloze activities with struggling readers alters the process of reading from identify printed words to using meaning for making sense. Leave the first few lines of the text intact and blank out one of the words. Students needs to use their understand of the text and the sentence structure to identify the words. The student does not need to identify the specific word, rather a word that makes contextual sense. One letter can be revealed from the cloze word at a time to narrow down the possibilities of the word. Continue this process intermittently throughout the text. Struggling readers should pre-read the text and skip over the cloze words. This could be done with another student, a pre-recording or a teacher.


Students who are able to read a ‘pharmacy’ sign walking down the street will often find difficulty when presented with the same word on a sheet of paper. Giving individual words context enables students to engage in more complex language than what would be possible out of context. Add keywords around the room can assist in contextualising words. Students could also take photos of words in the environment and add them to a word wall.


Shared reading is a great method for boosting the confidence of struggling readers. As the teacher activates knowledge, the readers are beginning to identify potential vocabulary that may be used in the text. Students can join in when they are ready to participate. Multiple readings mean multiple opportunities for success.

How do you help struggling readers in your class? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Filed Under

  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Teaching Strategies
  • English Language Arts
  • K-2 Primary
  • 3-5 Upper Elementary

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