The number one struggle teachers face when teaching reading is finding ways to motivate struggling readers. Without a plan, it can be such a frustrating process for both you and the student.
Struggling readers are not excited to grab a book because it’s not an enjoyable experience. When they avoid diving into text, then we know their fluency, their vocabulary and their comprehension will all suffer.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this hard. If you have a plan, it’s easy to shift the focus to celebrating progress and building confidence. Here is a three-step process you can take to motivate struggling readers in your classroom.
1 – Let Students Know You Have a Plan
Students need to know that you understand that they need extra support and that it’s nothing they need to worry about. Let’s say that you notice that a student is struggling with basic fluency. The first step would be administering a fluency assessment. This will give you more clues if you need to dig deeper. Where are their gaps? Are they in the skills-based on phonological awareness or phonics?
Once you are able to pinpoint the skills you need to teach, you can make a plan to motivate struggling readers. Have a conversation with the student and let them know what you are going to be working on together and how it’s going to make them feel about themselves and reading when they reach their goal.
Assure the student that as their teacher, you are going to do your very best to give them all the tools they need. Then ask them if they can commit to doing their very best as a learner. This conversation is important in creating ownership and buy-in for the work that both of you get to do.
2 – Set Goals With Students
Too often we don’t involve students when we are setting goals for students. Any time we set goals, we need to break them down into benchmarks that will show us that we are moving in the right direction. These benchmarks need to have dates attached to them too.
You can say to the student, “By May 12, you are going to be able to read short /a/ and short /e/ words all by yourself! When you do, we’re going to celebrate!”.
After that conversation, it’s going to be up to you, the teacher to get that student to the goal you just mapped out. This is not complicated if you stick to your plan of giving students focused intervention.
That means that you are not sprinkling in any other skill practice. You are only working on those short vowel sounds and consistently getting them into decodable text. If you want to learn more about the importance of decodable text, click here!
3 – Monitor Progress & Always Celebrate
If you’ve taken the time to map out the benchmarks of your goal for a student, then there’s only one way to know if they are meeting them – progress monitoring. This should be a super quick assessment.
For example, if a student needs to master the short /a/ and short /e/ sound by a given date, then all you have to do is give them a list of five real and nonsense words for each sound. Generally, students either have them or they don’t. If they haven’t reached mastery, then it’s just time to make some adjustments and keep going!
When students have lots of gaps in their reading early on, it can be really easy to feel stressed and feel the pressure of making up for lost time. When we see student progress, we might be tempted to dive straight into teaching the next skill for that student.
But we have to stop and celebrate. For a struggling reader, just recognizing them in front of the entire class can often be enough. I know you are super creative, so make it fun! Whatever you do, just don’t skip this step in motivating struggling readers!
Motivate Struggling Readers By Taking Time to Focus on What Counts
Struggling readers need to know that success is possible for them, not just the rest of the class. Their growing confidence is the fuel for all their future success, not to mention their willingness to take risks with you.
When you map out the plan, they feel safe, and they know that making mistakes is just a part of the process. But so is success!