Finding patterns and honing in on struggling readers’ skill deficits will quickly point educators to the appropriate intervention.
In “Timesaving Strategies for Selecting Interventions for Struggling Readers,” Cindy Kanuch, reading specialist at Calhan Elementary School, presented tips on working to address skill deficits in the most efficient and effective manner, which in some situations can help students improve in as soon as one to two weeks.
Start with the Foundation
The various components of reading—oral language, phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, background knowledge, comprehension, and comprehension for cognitive processing—relate in that they all build upon each other. When testing for a skill deficit, is it important to identify the precise lowest skill level with which a student struggles, and begin remediation from there.
“Just as you would never build a house on an unstable foundation, you can’t build reading without stable foundational skills,” Kanuch said. She also noted that it saves time to narrow interventions to focus on a single skill at a time, otherwise it may be too much for the student to take on.
Each deficit requires a different remediation; by taking the time to determine the underlying cause, efficiency can be increased and faster results achieved.
Incorporate Robust Classroom Language
For troubles with oral language, educators can make sure the language used in the classroom is robust and plentiful so students can hear and use informal and academic language as much as possible. They can do this by listening to audiobooks, such as those from Learning Ally, or by participating in “turn and talks” and answering discussion questions with partners, which gets all students involved.
For interventions in phonics, Kanuch recommended syllable coding. For older students she makes up complicated nonsense words for syllable coding to ensure her students don’t just happen to know the words from memory.
Use Chunking and Phrasing
Students struggling with fluency can do chunking and phrasing exercises with cards that contain phrases to learn to read multiple words at a time, instead of word by word. They can also do exercises that involve reading with expression, like playing “read it like a…” where students must read text like different characters (vampire, pirate, etc.).
They can also play “guess my punctuation,” where one student reads a text and the rest of the class should be able to correctly guess the punctuation in the sentence.
To boost students’ vocabulary, educators can teach roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Students can also play games like the “multiple meaning web” and “shades of meaning” to become more familiar with synonyms and similar words.
Out of the many intervention strategies she provided, Kanuch concluded with four important takeaways to keep in mind:
- Save valuable instructional time by analyzing your struggling students’ assessment data and error patterns to determine the most foundational skill deficits, and build up from there.
- Focus your interventions on a precise skill deficit for maximum instructional efficiency.
- Teach strategies and skills that can be widely applied, like phonics expectations, syllable types, roots, and affixes.
- Make sure the intervention you choose is remediating the desired deficit.
Find all of Cindy’s tips and time-saving strategies here.
About the Presenter
Cindy Kanuch is the reading interventionist at Calhan Elementary School. She has provided literacy interventions for K-12 students for over 10 years. Cindy is on the board of the Rocky Mountain Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, a member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham at the Associate level and is a Certified Academic Language Practitioner (working to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist). She is the 2016 recipient of the inaugural Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award. Cindy’s current concentration is training teachers to efficiently and effectively identify and remediate reading and spelling deficiencies for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students.
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