5 Classroom Strategies for Early Reading Intervention
Today’s students and teachers are under increasing pressure to show early progress and success in reading. Not all of this can be attributed to a desire to increase standardized test scores, as some may fear; it also has to do with a concern that kids will be “left behind” if they are not reading independently by at least third grade. This situation often leads to intervention as a strategy for boosting the skills of slow or reluctant readers. But is intervention a one-dimensional tool?
In recent years, the practice of intervention—where a trained reading specialist provides small-group or personalized instruction to students considered to be behind the curve—has been elevated to must-have status. In 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even listed early literacy intervention (done before students reach third or fourth grade) as a key high school dropout prevention strategy. This makes sense, as students whose needs are addressed early on are more likely to feel supported and stay engaged in school.
Casting a wide net through intervention, however, could unintentionally put pressure on students who may simply need more time to learn to read. In April 2016, a popular Canadian parenting magazine, Today’s Parent, ran an article called, “The Right Age to Read.” The main point of the article, which included interviews with university researchers, was this: “There simply isn’t one age where kids can or should be reading, despite the deeply ingrained North American ideal that children learn to read in first grade, around age six.”
The article goes on to explain that while a percentage of children can learn to read with little adult guidance and through immersion in a literacy-rich environment, many more students require direct instruction and early intervention as they find their way to literacy. This support often includes phonics lessons so that children can explicitly learn how to decode words. For some students, such as non-native English speakers, this can be an essential survival skill.
Beyond phonics, there are key intervention strategies that do not necessarily isolate students from one another by sorting them into leveled groups. For example, choral reading is a much-loved way to get the whole class reading along together, which may help less confident readers learn to recognize frequently used words in a more relaxed and community-based manner. A 2014 post in the online journal Edutopia, “11 Alternatives to 'Round Robin' (and 'Popcorn') Reading,” shares a variety of other ways to make learning to read a shared activity. A few highlights include:
Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) exercises pair strong and weak readers who take turns reading, rereading, and retelling.
2. Teacher Read-Aloud
This activity, says Julie Adams of Adams Educational Consulting, is "perhaps one of the most effective methods for improving student fluency and comprehension, as the teacher is the expert in reading the text and models how a skilled reader reads using appropriate pacing and prosody (inflection)." Playing an audiobook achieves similar results.
3. Shared Reading/Modeling
By reading aloud while students follow along in their own books, the instructor models fluency, pausing occasionally to demonstrate comprehension strategies.
4. The Crazy Professor Reading Game
According to the article, to bring the text to life, students will:
Read orally with hysterical enthusiasm
Reread with dramatic hand gestures
Partner up with a super-stoked question-asker and -answerer
Play "crazy professor" and "eager student" in a hyped-up overview of the text
With Fluency-Oriented Reading Instruction (FORI), primary students read the same section of a text many times over the course of a week. Here are the steps:
The teacher reads aloud while students follow along in their books.
The text is taken home if more practice is required, and extension activities can be integrated during the week.
There is a great deal of evidence to support the idea that students who cannot read well by the time they are eight or nine years old—when the emphasis in school becomes reading to learn and not learning to read—often struggle to catch up both academically and socially with their peers. Fortunately, research and shared best practices available today help teachers develop many different paths to intervention, from creating literacy-rich classrooms to utilizing essential whole group and direct instruction strategies, which can help students become confident, capable, independent readers.
Featured White Paper:
To learn about the methodologies for monitoring student progress and targeting skill gaps, and the elements of high-quality instruction that accelerate skill development, click the link to read the white paper, “Three Critical Success Factors for Reading Intervention and Effective Prevention,” by Lexia’s Chief Education Officer, Elizabeth Brooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.