In chatting with teachers, I often get questions about how to support struggling readers in my upper elementary grades. Here are the top 6 ways I support struggling readers in grades 2-6. Thought I would pass them along.  If you find them helpful, I appreciate your sharing this post with your colleagues.  Thanks, y'all!!

  • Find out their interests, then help them find tons of cool books on that topic.  If the books are way too difficult a text, but have rich, engaging pictures, let them keep them in their reading box.  If the majority of their books are at their reading level, let them keep a few that are interest-based, even if they are far too easy or difficult.
  • Find out their needs, then help them find materials they can keep in their reading box.  If they can't tie their shoes, find a preschool book with the big, chunky laces, and let them quietly practice during reading time.  Yes, sometimes 4th graders don't know how to tie their shoes.  It gives them practice with a life skill, they'll be using the pictures as a diagram to follow the directions.  Win-Win!  Books about telling time, tying shoes, and counting money are some I have used in the past.  When you have a 9 year old 2nd grader who reads on a F&P level D (instead of J), you get creative.  
  • Find out what they are good at, and build their self-esteem.  Particularly in Upper Elementary classrooms, struggling readers *know* they are struggling.  They often feel frustrated at school because they are continually struggling, since they need to use their reading skills in math, social studies, science, health, etc.  One year, I had an 3rd grade student who was already pulled for three acronym classes: ESL, CCR, ALP.  When she qualified for speech, the class began during the last 5 minutes of our recess.  I fought to keep those 5 minutes, arguing that she needed the time with her classmates. Here's my secret: I wanted to keep her there for every moment of our recess because this was the time of day when she was able to outshine her peers. (She was - and still is - an amazing athlete)  Her joy at winning in kickball helped her stay engaged in our school community, and built her self-esteem.  Let them have time to show their talents.
  • Protect *uninterrupted* chunks of time to read independently.  This is so important, because this is when they can practice the decoding, accuracy, and fluency strategies we are growing.  Our struggling kiddos are having such a hard time transitioning from the Speech room to the English as a Second Language class to the Special Education class, and then back to the classroom.  Often, the biggest loss is in their focus - how can you stay focused on that book if you don't get much time to read it? (or reread it!)
  • Play games together.  Pick one game and play it a few times a week for 2 weeks.  Pick something quick, like Boggle (Click here for my classroom rules) or fun Word Games for Vowels.  Spend 5 minutes a day, 3 times/week for a couple of weeks, to encourage a joy of looking at words.  Tip: I often make sure we "run out of time" before we have a winner.  They ask, "Who won, Mrs. Sykes?" I answer, "It's a game where we have fun with words, not a game where we have to have a winner each time."  Then we move on...
  • Most importantly, love them, celebrate their successes, and help them to love learning.  It's why we choose to work with children, right?

Great news!  I finally finished my "Back to School" stuff.  :)  I've been back at work for 4 weeks now...  I've finished most of my beginning of the year assessments, analyzed my data, and am ready to dig deep into learning to fill the gaps of my struggling readers.  (If you want to read about how I do this each year, check out my series: Supporting Struggling Readers in Grades 3-5)

One of the most important things I needed to do was to make sure my classroom is inspiring, even though it is *not cute!*  I do have touches of cuteness, but it is always functionally cute, not just cute.  Here are a few examples of functionally cute from the Upper Elementary Literacy Room:

Common Core Rules for Discussion from Jen Jones @ Hello Literacy.  These are a fantastic resource for my students, and are posted in a spot that we refer to as needed to remember to make eye contact, respectfully agree or disagree, etc.

What's Your Graduation Year? Freebie from me @ Hello Mrs Sykes - To inspire my students to graduate high school on time!!  My kiddos are all at increased risk of dropping out since they are struggling readers in grades 3-5.  They love informing their parents when they will graduate high school, and it helps spark some thoughts about what to do after graduation!  Win-Win!

 Mystery Word of the Week - I love having this as a part of our routine, and my students are always excited to solve the Mystery Word.  Since I don't tell them until Friday if they are "right," this always leads to interesting discussions as the clues are revealed one day at a time...
An old pic of the Mystery Word of the Week in the Literacy Room

Academic Word Walls - Actually, these words get used a ton, and not just stuck on the wall like wallpaper!  We play games with them, practice our fluency with them, and post one daily as a word of the day.  We then try to remember to share the word with our families at dinner.  I love when students come in the next day telling me that their parents were impressed at their vocabulary!!!  :)


Guided Reading Cheat Sheet - This one is for me.  I'm a visual person, and I refer to this sheet when  redirecting students (reminding them what they are doing before/during/after reading.)  I lost the one I printed last year, so I need to laminate another one before returning to the Reading Room tomorrow!


The really easy notebook (free, since it's made with construction paper and notebook paper from the supply closet, and cute, since students decorate them using permanent markers!)

For an absolutely hysterical post about a non-cute classroom, check out this one from my buddy Casey @ Second Grade Math Maniac.  Have a wonderful week!!

Back to Top