Intervention programs are essential for teachers who need to provide assistance to their struggling readers. With an effective approach, teachers can raise the reading, confidence, and achievement level of even the weakest reader in a group.
How can teachers spot readers who are falling behind? How can they apply best-practices intervention to their classroom instruction?
Candidates for Intervention
Often, students who might require intervention at a very early age exhibit some of the following:
- Struggle with early language development
- Have parents who struggled with reading when they were young
- Have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Lack motivation to read
- Live in poor neighborhoods
- Have dyslexia
- Are students in classrooms with ineffective best practices
Many readers who struggle do not like to read on their own, much less at school. They do not see themselves as readers; they see themselves as students who cannot read.
Some struggling readers have never been taught how to read. This occurs sometimes when instructional practices have centered on whole-group instruction and take-home worksheets. If a struggling student is already in any one of the above-mentioned categories, reading is likely to be a difficult task.
Best Practices for Intervention
Comprehensive literacy, including small-group instruction, is a best practice for all literacy students. However, many intermediate classrooms continue to rely on whole-group instruction and use a basal story as a basis for reading instruction.
But all students are not alike. Many classrooms include a mix of students and learning ranges. Some can read and understand most of the text (on-grade-level students). Others can read and understand all of the text (above-grade-level students). Several may not be able to read and/or understand most of the text (below-grade-level students). Clearly, identical instruction cannot meet all their needs.
What are the best practices for readers who struggle? Here are the components to an effective intervention:
- Provide scaffolded instruction
- Have more time during the day to read appropriate materials
- Increase instructional time during the school day
1. PROVIDE SCAFFOLDED INSTRUCTION
There are three steps to scaffolded instruction. First, the teacher clearly models a comprehension strategy during read-aloud and shared reading during whole-group instruction. The teacher might decide to use the basal story as the read-aloud or the shared reading text.
Next, students move into flexible small groups. Together with the teacher, they practice using the strategy with texts that are based on their instructional level. Finally, teachers invite students to use the strategy with independent texts.
The following schedule shows how this type of scaffolded instruction assists readers who struggle.
|Read-Aloud 9:00–9:10||Select a trade book, such as Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. As you read, think aloud and model a particular comprehension strategy.|
|Shared Reading 9:10–9:30||Read a big book or other shared reading book or selection story together (which might take more than one day), continuing to model and think aloud.|
|Small Group 9:30–10:30||Meet with two groups a day. Each group has a different book that is on their instructional level. Meet with struggling readers 3–4 times a week, focusing on the selected reading comprehension strategy.|
|Independent Reading||As groups meet with the teacher, other students can do independent reading or additional literacy-based activities, such as writing or completing a graphic organizer for the comprehension strategy focus.|
This schedule allows time for one strategy to be modeled twice, practiced with teacher assistance, and practiced independently.
2. HAVE MORE TIME DURING THE DAY TO READ APPROPRIATE MATERIALS
If students are to become better readers, they need time to practice what good readers do with text. Unfortunately, school schedules and teachers' views on reading instruction do not always allow for this best practice.
Many classrooms only have 30 minutes a day of reading from a basal or novel. If a reader continues to struggle with the text, then he or she is not even getting 30 minutes a day of reading instruction.
Ideally, students should be reading on their independent and instructional levels multiple times a day. And classrooms should be full of a variety of genres on multiple levels so all students have access to quality print at a "just-right" level.
These texts could include books from a library, classroom libraries, donations, and school bookrooms as well as textbooks. They should consist of fiction and nonfiction. For classroom libraries, teachers should familiarize themselves with each book’s instructional reading level.
3. INCREASE INSTRUCTIONAL TIME DURING THE DAY
For most readers who struggle, one reading lesson per day is simply not enough. Incorporating a second reading lesson, either from the homeroom teacher or a reading specialist, might be in order for the students who struggle.
Students who are pulled from the classroom should not miss instruction in other core content areas, nor should this extra lesson hinder the amount of reading time they actually have during the school day. These lessons work well for students who refuse to read independently or who struggle so much that independent reading is frustrating. Choral-reading and reader's theater are excellent lessons to conduct during this time.