What Really Does Matter with Struggling Readers?
This is the million dollar question on all reading teachers’ minds, especially in the wake of Common Core State Standards. My question comes from the title of Richard Allington’s book, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers, Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2006.
This book, along with countless others, help provide us with direction to help the struggling readers in our classrooms. This past week I attending the Illinois Reading Conference in Springfield, Illinois where I heard Richard Allington explain the importance of providing students with quality reading instruction. He states, “every teacher needs to be an expert teacher of reading.” Our children are going to need our help in order to help them become a nation of independent readers and thinkers. How do we make this happen?
I have researched and used so many reading programs, “programs in a box”, and have found that there is no miracle program that will solve all of our literacy problems. I’m not worried though, because there are great ideas, great literature, and fantastic resources out there that can be married together to create a reading program that will adjust and fit to the needs of all struggling readers that enter my Title I door.
One “program”, of sorts, that I have found to be useful, easy, engaging, and interesting for both teachers and students is the idea of presenting decoding strategies with Beanie Babies. Who would have thought that using a stuffed animal would provide such reading success? Of course there is so much more to reading than decoding, but I have found that these strategies are so easy for my students to learn, recall, and utilize. They love them, therefore I love them!
According to Stephanie Harvey, co-author of Strategies That Work, teaching students to think is key to comprehension. Digging into the text to find meaning, or close reading, is necessary for true comprehension to take place. I had the privilege of listening to her discuss comprehension strategies that help build that understanding at the IRC as well. It was a great day! (Kind of like a rock concert for teachers!)
I have used the Beanie Baby comprehension strategies as they are presented for the past few years and have found them to fall a little short. After working with them for the past school year, trying out various other thinking strategies, and tying the strategies to different animals for different reasons,I have stumbled upon some ideas I feel will help to prepare the common core ready student.
I have paired each new thinking/comprehension strategy not only with an animal, but a quality picture book that emphasizes the strategy throughout the story. I’ve added graphic organizers and manipulatives to help reinforce the new strategies too. So far…all is going well. The kids and teachers grades K-4 are loving them!
I’m in the process of finalizing them and will be ready to show them very soon. Return to find out more about them in the near future. I look forward to hearing from others what strategies they are working on and whether or not they think these strategies will fit their students’ needs.
See you soon!