By this point in the year, most students are ready for texts that present nuance and force them to consider complex topics. Not only are they ready for this challenge, most are up for it. It’s April, after all, and most students have hit their stride.
But, what about the few students who are not quite ready to tackle a tough text? How do you challenge the majority who are ready and ripe for complexity, while responding to your two to five readers who need more support and direction?
A good reading intervention begins in a classroom where reading and readers are valued and thoughtfully considered. While I’m fortunate to work with a team of interventionists, I realize that not all districts have this as a resource. These ideas are all one-teacher required.
Create a Body of Multimedia Texts
Recently, I worked with some freshmen who were examining a collection of primary source documents about prosperity and poverty in 1950s America. The groups of history teachers who designed this collection found a variety of sources that made the topic accessible for all students. Some of the sources were dense, like an excerpt from Michael Harrington’s The Other America, while others were more accessible like a photograph of an opulent suburban supermarket.
One student started with the images first, and using this background knowledge, he was able to move onto the more challenging text by Harrington. Others were able to jump right to the text. While others simply examined the images as their source work.
Here, images played a key role. They are an entry point for students because they make challenging content accessible. The images do not diminish the complexity either.
Reading a visual text for readers at all levels is an important 21st century literacy skill. NCTE defines literacy in the 21st century broadly, and when students have an opportunity to examine a topic across multiple text types they can effectively synthesize complex ideas.
Student- Selected Indy Reads
While this does not directly address that tough text you’ve just assigned, giving students daily reading time with books that they select helps to build stamina in a way that is particularly helpful for an underperforming reader.
When faced with complex texts, some readers do not have the stamina to even begin them. Complex texts require that a reader sustain reading over a period of time. And no matter what level the reader, daily reading is a high-yield practice for all students. All readers grow from a daily reading practice.
Many of my students actually end up really enjoying reading when they find the right book. If you want students to even glance at a whole-class text, you need to establish a healthy reading culture where an underperforming reader can make reading a habit.
Want some ideas for some high-interest young adult books? Check out this, this and this.
Build in Time to Confer with Readers
Reading time is something that many perceive as silent and independent so much so that in some places it’s still called “Silent Reading Time” just like it was when I was a kid. And yet, it’s talk that so often transforms adequate readers into robust readers.
Getting to all students may feel challenging, but conferring daily with students while they are independent reading or when they read a class-assigned text will help you to suss out who’s reading and who’s “reading”. Conferring also gives you the opportunity to make any adjustments to what students are reading and clarify key content for students.
Conferring time can even be used as reading intervention time to reteach skills from class or to respond to a specific skill gap. Sometimes I model how to monitor comprehension using sticky notes with my students. Then I ask students to go back and explain their thinking when we confer. Modeling how to monitor comprehension is a quick, high-yield strategy to use with readers.
Conferring time is all about asking the right questions. Here are some questions that will help you to gauge engagement and comprehension:
The answers to these questions will provide you with data on a student, and if you are tasked with progress monitoring a student, this chart created by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke can be a helpful way to capture what you’re noticing about a student.
Getting Students to the Home Stretch
Though some of your students may not struggle, these ideas benefit all students. All students grow from conferring, reading a collection of texts and daily reading time. When students leave our rooms, these are the practices that can sustain reading routines over the summer and into the next school year.
Lauren Nizol is a literacy interventionist, writing center director, and National Writing Project Teacher Consultant who loves books and takes too many pictures of trees when heading for the woods with her family.