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5 Tips to Diagnose and Motivate Struggling Readers

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by , 10-24-2012 at 10:57 AM (5532 Views)
5 Tips to Diagnose and Motivate Struggling Readers
by Jamie

I think we would all agree that reading is fundamentally the most important skill we teach our children. Yet, there are so many children that struggle everyday with reading – in comprehension, pronunciation, or just lack of motivation. In any case, it can affect how a child learns in all subjects, and can be detrimental to their overall education. If you are wondering if your child is in this place, let me take a minute to give you a few tips to diagnose and possibly help them overcome this hurdle.
1) One of the first things that can be done to help a student with their reading is to determine if they are reading at their independent level, instructional level, or at their frustration level. If they are reading at their frustration level, there will be very little learning taking place. An easy “homemade” way to diagnose where your child’s reading level is located is to administer a cloze test. Sure there are fancy tests and even expensive software out there designed to do this, but on a shoe string budget the old fashion way can give you the same answers. To construct a cloze test select a passage of 250 consecutive words ( a snippet out of your child’s science, history or reading text would work!) This should be a selection that your student has never read before. Next, you will retype the selection leaving the first sentence intact and replacing every fifth word with a blank/and number them consecutively. Give the child the test and ask them to fill in the blanks, grade for EXACT matches to the words that had blanks. If you child scores less than 44% then they are reading at their frustration level and should be moved to a lower reading level. If your child scored between 44-57% the material is probably at your child’s instructional level and your child should be able to learn with assistance. If your child’s score was 57% or above then your child is reading at their independent level and should be learning and achieving at a normal rate. If there is still a problem, then it could be lack of motivation.

2) If your student scored below 57% on the cloze test then you may want to consider going back and reviewing basic phonics, blends, prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Going back and reviewing the foundational principles of reading can more than likely find the area that they have missed and give them the foundation they need to read successfully.
3) If your student seems to have the phonics down, but still struggles with the act of reading… all I can say is “the more they read, the better they read!”
4) If the problem seems to be one of motivation, there are many ways for you to encourage them. First, try getting them hooked on reading for pleasure. Go to the library and find books that totally excite them. My son was a reluctant reader, and every week we would go to the library and find books on his favorite sport… baseball. This got him reading although still reluctantly until we found a few series that really caught his adventurous spirit on fire. He enjoyed the Terrestria Chronicles so much that he read through the series of seven books without me telling him to.
5) Another teaching method to help with motivation is to use twin texts. Don’t just stick with your textbook for learning. Use a fiction and non-fiction trade book to get across the same information. You see, trade books are written in a more personable style, are less information dense, and are just easier to read than a textbook.
If you find yourself in a situation with a struggling reader, don’t despair. Some children just aren’t ready to read until later in life…just keep trying!
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