You’ve read the blog series about strategies to help struggling readers. Now what? Now, you synthesize the information.
Synthesizing is pulling all of the strategies together and using them to aid with comprehension. Synthesizing strategies is advanced work! When kids start to put the strategies together in a way that aids in their comprehension, it means they are aware of their own thinking process.
It is a good sign when the struggling reader recognizes when the reading becomes challenging and then thinks of a strategy that can help. Once kids use the strategies and see that they work, they’ll keep using them until they do it without thinking. It will become a natural part of the reading process.
As a refresher, here are the nine strategies we covered:
- Make connections / background knowledge
- Ask questions
- Drawing inferences
- Determining importance
- Creating mental pictures
- Repairing understanding
- Checking in
What to do to help your reader:
Pick the one or two strategies you think will be the most helpful for your child and try it for at least a week. If you introduce too many strategies at once, it will be overwhelming and confusing. Remember: your child is already struggling with reading. Introduce too many new tools at once and they will be more likely to shut down than improve their reading skills.
If your child is someone who struggles with reading, then introducing new strategies can be stressful for them. Be prepared for them to not want to read, to try to read books that are easy, and to get frustrated when trying new things. Some strategies may come easier to your young reader than others.
Not every strategy will work for every reader
I have worked with kids who, for whatever reason, cannot create mental pictures in their heads. Yet, they are great at stopping to ask questions of the text, especially, “I wonder.” Others are really good at making predictions. If you find a strategy that works for your child, stick with it for a while to give them confidence.
Notice the wins
It’s important to use and encourage the strategies that work for your child. It will give them confidence in their reading. When you notice that your child asked a question or made a prediction, stop for a moment to notice it. If they make a prediction and it then comes true, notice that too! Once they are aware of the wins, it will make reading more fun and when that happens, their reading skills will improve.
Real World Examples
One of the kids who came to our reading help program struggled with comprehension. He preferred to read informational books, so we worked on two strategies:
- activating his background knowledge
Before we read a book, I would ask him what he already knew about the topic and what he thought he would learn in the book. As we read the book, we would stop to notice when the background knowledge he listed before reading matched with what he read. Making connections between what he knew and what he read aided in his comprehension, as did making predictions about what he expected to find in the text.
When we took the time before reading to activate background knowledge and ask questions, his mind was primed to look for and discover those clues during reading. These were small wins and every one of them helped his confidence.
Another young reader in our reading help program struggled with decoding words. She could read enough words for her comprehension to be fairly good, but she would often get stuck on individual words. The strategy that worked best for her was to skip words that troubled her and to read ahead. When she skipped a word and finished the next sentence or two, she could usually figure out the word she had skipped. She needed context clues.
At first, I had to ask her to stop and skip the word. After a while, she did it on her own, checking-in with her own understanding. That was a big win!
The final example from our reading help program was a young reader who used the strategies we mentioned in the blog about determining importance. When she had homework in which she had to read passages and then answer questions, she used these techniques:
- she read the questions before reading the passage;
- she highlighted sentences or words in the text that answered the questions; and
- she even numbered the answers to the questions within the text.
In short, she directly engaged with the text.
One thing to remember…
The strategies explained in this blog series are what confident readers do automatically. For many of us, we do not even realize we’re doing it!
For example, I have always created mental pictures when reading, and I believed everyone did that. It wasn’t until I talked to reluctant readers that I understood not everyone does that! I have also employed all the other strategies without conscious knowledge of them. When I get confused in a novel or an informative text (like an article), I stop and re-read. If I don’t know a particular word, I’ll skip it to see if there are any context clues in the rest of the sentence or paragraph. I make predictions and ask questions. I also constantly connect my reading to my life and bring in background knowledge.
I didn’t know these were strategies; I’d always believed this was just the way reading worked.
Whenever and however your reader can get themselves into the text—asking questions, making connections, predicting, or creating mental pictures—is a good thing. The more they are engaged in the text, the better the comprehension.
One day a strategy will work and you will both be proud of the accomplishment!
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