As a certified academic language therapist specializing in helping struggling readers with dyslexia, there are 5 essential strategies I suggest to parents and teachers to help struggling readers catch up!
It’s crucial to understand that with intensive instruction, children with dyslexia can and will learn to read.
It’s important to acknowledge their strengths and achievements, even as we work on their challenges with decoding, spelling, and handwriting.
By preparing children to navigate their disability, we can foster confidence and empower them to embrace a future where they fully understand their strengths and advocate for their own unique learning style.
1. Focus on Speech to Print
We know that the underlying weakness of all struggling readers is a lack of phonemic awareness. The best way to overcome this weakness is to integrate phonemic awareness, phonics, handwriting, and spelling instruction into one concise and efficient 5-10 minute instructional activity. Use the free word chains or word ladders available in the freebie library to help your students build sound-symbol relationships. For a comprehensive exploration of the advantages of this activity, I recommend reading an enlightening article by renowned experts Bruce McCandliss, Isabel Beck, Rebecca Sandak, and Charles Perfetti.
2. Use Simultaneous Processing
There is a lot of talk about using multisensory activities with struggling readers. The most helpful multisensory activity for struggling and beginning readers is not using sand or play dough but writing words as they say the sounds for those letters.
Help Students See, Hear, and Feel Sounds All At Once
This simultaneous processing gives students the chance to feel see and hear words at the same time. This allows students to cement the alphabetic principle in their minds. Writing while saying the sounds are incredibly important to reading success. With these word building activities students can make huge gains in a small amount of time. As in the video below.
3. Provide Struggling Readers with Explicit Instruction
Explain the Code
Struggling students must be introduced to phonics principles in a systematic way. For example, we need to teach children that long O is represented 5 ways.
<o> by itself as in go
o_e as in home
ow as in show
oa as in goat and
oe as in Moe (name)
We must give students careful explicit instruction that never assumes students will just pick up knowledge.
4. Give Struggling Readers lots of Fun practice but don’t go too slowly
Use Lots of Decodable Stories and Games
I have kids read lots of decodable stories and play lots of reading games because practice is so essential to success. However, I also think it is important not to insist on complete mastery before moving forward. Spelling comes more slowly than reading but we should not deny students the ability to continue moving forward with reading if they can’t spell as well as they can read.
5. Get Expert Help if your Students get “stuck.”
In an effective structured literacy program, all the materials build on the last concept so practice is built in. I am pained when I am told that a student is stuck on a level for months and months. If this happens please get help. Please do not keep doing the same intervention over and over hoping for a different result.
Contact me or another therapist trained in more than one way to teach students with dyslexia. Cross training helps a therapist to have a broad number of tools available to help students. Not every strategy or program works for every student. Children should never be “stuck” for long They can and need to move forward.
In my curriculum packs, I provide 7-10 stories for practice and several days’ worth of games and lesson plans. If your students need that practice then by all means use it but if they are reading somewhat fluently go on and add to what they know don’t stay at a level too long keep challenging your students and moving them forward.
Get A No Prep Curriculum to Help You
Many parents and teachers have asked me which curriculum I recommend to help students to read. There are many good options out there, but many are too pricey for parents and teachers to purchase. I created a curriculum that is easy to use with simple lesson plans how-to videos and activities. I made it with busy teachers and homeschooling parents in mind. In addition, I offered free consultations and training for anyone homeschooling who needs support using the curriculum.
Check out some of the materials I have created in the Freebie Library Sign UP Below!
With these five tips, parents and educators can help struggling readers catch up. If we focus on speech-to-print activities, use simultaneous processing strategies, provide explicit instruction on decoding skills, give students lots of fun practice with decodable stories and games, and get expert help if your students ever get stuck, we can foster confidence and empower our struggling readers to fully understand their strengths. With the right strategies and support, struggling readers can catch up and become successful readers!