What is reading intervention?
I’ll break it down like this. It’s Girl Scout cookie season and you cannot resist the sweet smile of the little girls outside Walmart. They sucker you (I mean persuade you) into buying not one, but FIVE boxes of cookies. You start with one cookie but pretty soon you’re half a box deep with no signs of stopping. Oops.
You need help (an intervention) and fast. If not, you’ll slide further down the sugary slope into a pool of regret. This is reading intervention. A student is struggling with a certain skill and if you do not intervene soon, they will continue to struggle and their confidence in reading will suffer. They need support beyond whole group reading.
When it comes to reading, you have your BIG 5 skills:
Phonemic Awareness– hearing, identifying, and manipulating sounds
Phonics– the connection between letters and their sounds
Vocabulary– words related to a specific text or topic
Fluency– the ability at which a student reads a text with limited errors and expression
Comprehension– the ability of a student to understand what was read
All of these combine in some form or fashion to create our reading instruction. Reading intervention can be specific to one of those BIG 5 or it can be general strategies you apply. Keep reading for 17 general strategies you can use TODAY for reading intervention. Be sure to check out #2, #5, #11, and #13! Those are my tried and true favorites from seven years of teaching.
Strategy #1 READ
You’re probably thinking…duh. I’m serious though, READ. Read as much as possible. Expose your students to a wide variety of texts and read for fun! Not all reading has to be tied down with comprehension questions and activities. 😱 Read multiple times during the day if possible, not just in a whole group reading. My 3rd graders LOVED when I read to them at the end of the day, right before dismissal. I’d read our “fun” chapter book for just a couple of minutes (so the bus riders didn’t miss out) and ALWAYS stopped on a cliffhanger. Cue student objections. 😂
Strategy #2 MODEL…and use Read Alouds
You’d think teachers worked for New York Fashion Week with as much as we model. It works though. If we want our students to become good readers, we need to model what good reading looks like. Through read alouds we can show expression, appropriate speed (rate), and the joy reading can bring.
Kids love rewards. Big or small, they’ll go crazy to earn a little trinket. Set up a sticker chart and when they meet their goal, they earn a sticker. Goals don’t have to be based on perfection but on EFFORT or COMPLETION. We’re building an intrinsic love of reading. If you always focus on perfection, you’ll extinguish their desire to try. Fill up their chart and they can turn it in for a small treat. Here are a few ideas:
By using little rewards for effort and completion, we’re slowly building their love of reading and willingness to try (or fail).
#4 Routines. Routines. Routines.
Teachers aren’t the only ones who THRIVE off routines. Students crave it, whether they tell you or not. For most students, the classroom is the ONLY place where they can count on each day being somewhat the same. This goes with reading instruction as well. If you’re working with a small group, this might look like using the same warm-up every day. If the student knows what to expect, they can focus more on the actual skill rather than worrying what will be done that day. Here are a few ideas for some easy warm-ups: alphabet flashcards, quick reads, sound cards, picture walks through books, and sight word sorts.
Strategy #5 Get Your Head in the Game!
Who doesn’t love games? Kids go nuts for games! I gathered a few games and ETTC activities that you can incorporate into your reading instruction (both whole group and small group):
- Digital Word Cards
- Digital Reading Comprehension Strips
- Phonics Write and Wipe Puzzles
- No Prep Phonics Booklets
- Any of our Literacy Centers!– Year-long reading centers that you can utilize during your guided reading instruction! (Link is for the Kinder set.)
- Sight Word Swat
- Sentence Builders
Strategy #6 Direct Instruction (I do, We do, You do)
What do we use when teaching a new skill? Direct Instruction. The same goes for working with small groups of students too. Direct Instruction is HUGE for our reading intervention. I know there’s a time and place for exploration and discovery, I’m not referring to those moments. Do you want your student to improve on segmenting words? Try the “I do, we do, you do.” Show them how, do a couple with them, then give them a new set of words to try independently.
#7 SeeSaw (or another tech)
I am sure you’re all feeling a bit “tech-ed out” this year but it can be a useful tool when it comes to reading intervention. I love using SeeSaw to assign passages to differentiated reading groups. My students liked how they could listen to themselves and assess their own fluency, or expression. For younger students, there are many apps you can use to focus on different reading skills. Check out our Top 10 Amazing Apps blog with some great ideas!
#8 Student Choice and Teacher Choice
This strategy includes having a balance between books the teacher chooses and books the student chooses for small group instruction. If the teacher is the only one choosing the books, the student can lose interest and disengage from the text. If it means more to the student, they’re likely to be more interested in the reading skill.
Strategy #9 Spice it Up (use a variety of texts)
Do you rely solely on textbooks or only utilize read-alouds? If so, spice it up and use a variety of texts. Students need access to a variety of texts; textbooks, real books, and even passages. All serve a purpose in your reading instruction.
Strategy #10 Independent & Instructional
When you’re having students read, are they reading on their independent, instructional, or frustration level? If a student is reading at their independent level, they’re reading with 95-100% accuracy. So, out of 100 words they are missing 5 or less. At this level, a student can read without the support and should have a good understanding of the text. At their instructional level, they are reading with 90-94% accuracy. Once they drop below 90% accuracy they enter the frustration level. We want students to stay within their independent and instructional levels. Spend too much time in their frustration level and a student will lose confidence. Need a quick way to find their levels? Check out the San Diego Quick Assessment.
#11 Build Confidence
- FEEDBACK. When was the last time you received specific feedback? Not just a “good job,” or a “nice work,” but an actual comment geared toward your growth as an educator? Probably not often enough if I had to take a guess but when you get those comments, doesn’t it give you a HUGE boost of confidence? The same thing goes for our students. Sure, a “good job” is nice, but if you want them to grow and become a more confident reader, SPECIFIC FEEDBACK is key. Here are a few examples of specific feedback tied to a growth goal:
- “I see how you tracked your words with your finger/pointer! Good Job!”
- “You paused after each punctuation mark, excellent!”
- “I noticed that you chunked that word into smaller parts to help you decode it!”
- “Wow! You read that passage so smoothly!”
- “I see you read for 2 minutes without stopping, keep up the good work!”
#12 Reading Buddies!
How many of you listen to Podcasts or enjoy listening to books on Audible? There’s something so enjoyable about listening to others read. Take this idea and incorporate it into your reading instruction with Reading Buddies! Connect with a teacher a few grades above you and pair up your students. Once a week or so, meet up and let your students read to one another. The younger student can read a book they’re comfortable with while the older buddy reads a picture book. This allows the younger student to build their confidence in reading and the older student to model fluency and expression!
Strategy #13 Finger Pointers
Is your student tired of tracking text as they read? Throw in a fun finger pointer. Sometimes all a student needs is a new tool. I’ve collected some witch fingers and googly-eyed pointers from Target over the years and my students love them (and even name them). Here are a few links to some or take a trip to Target😜:
Finger pointers or strips, not your style? No worries, grab some stickers and put one on their finger. Boom.
#14 Partner Up and Teach
Working on a new skill? Why not try partnering up your higher students with some of your struggling readers and let the students be the teacher. This idea is similar to Reading Buddies in that you’re pairing up the students. Here you are able to focus more on the skills you’re teaching in reading, whether it be a new phonics skill, reading strategy, or other skill.
Strategy #15 Goal Setting with the Student
Does a student need support with fluency? Maybe they struggle with determining the meaning of unknown words. Whatever it is, try goal setting with the student. Pull them aside and talk with them. Ask them what they feel is their area for improvement. Jot it down on a sticky note for them (check these out on TpT) and let them hold on to it. When they meet the goal, celebrate it! Giving them control over their goals makes it more meaningful.
#16 Build Stamina
For some students, their frustration is simply because they don’t have the reading stamina. Building it can take some time, but totally worth it. Start small, I’m talking 2 minutes. Let the student(s) self select a book, find a reading spot, and then start the timer. Each day, increase the time in small increments. Let the student(s) track their time and see their stamina increase! Check out this tracker from Create-Abilities on TpT!
#17 Get Your Body Movin’ (and theirs)
Have you heard of Whole Brain Teaching? WBT is a fast-growing teaching movement involving lots of action through call/response, mirror words, hand motions, and lots of student engagement. The goal here is to get the students teaching, putting the focus on them and owning their learning. Visit the Whole Brain Teaching website to learn more! Aside from WBT, there are numerous phonics chants/dances you can incorporate into your instruction as well. Check out Phonics Dancing Across the Classroom for some fun resources!
Whatever you use for your reading intervention, stick with it. You won’t know if it works unless you use it diligently and for an extended period of time. Using a strategy once and saying it doesn’t work is like using wrinkle cream one time and expecting greatness. Yeah, I wish. You can do it! Slow down for those who need it and find what works, because they’re worth it! 😉
Written by Heather Wagoner
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