Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reaching Your Reluctant Readers

Yesterday, a 3rd grader at my school came up to me and asked, “Mrs. Kitslaar, can I read with you again today after school?” This question came from a somewhat reluctant reader that I have been working with after school on Thursdays. There was excitement in his voice as he was telling me about the book that he had finished over the weekend and the new mystery that he was going to be starting that day. Thus far in my time working with him, I hadn’t seen him show much excitement.This was a huge win! This sudden spark was something that I needed to feed and keep alive. What had I done in my previous session with him to motivate him? What could I continue to do in our future time together to increase this passion? Below are a few thoughts that came to my mind when reflecting on how I may have motivated this student and how students in general, especially reluctant or struggling ones, may be motivated to read.

  1. Be passionate about reading, and make your excitement transparent. Kids can sense excitement (or a lack thereof), and it is contagious. The more excitement and enthusiasm that you share with students, the more that you can expect from them.

  1. Praise, praise, and more praise! Kids need to be aware of their strengths as readers, and they need to hear it from you. Struggling readers often feel like they aren’t good at anything and that they can’t do anything right. Recognizing a strength and continuing to praise it helps students not only see a strength within themselves that they may have not known they had, but it helps to reinforce this behavior and increases the likelihood that the student will purposefully execute this strength.

  1. Focus on a specific goal and provide adequate support to help students meet it. Although it’s important for students to be aware of their strengths and to continue to grow in that area, it’s equally important for them to be aware of a specific area that they need to work on to continue to grow as a reader. How are they expected to make progress if they don’t know what to work on? They need modeling, guidance, and support in order to make changes and improvements in this area, and of course, a lot of praise along the way!

  1. Help students set manageable reading goals. While this may be an easy task for some of our readers, it is one that many students have a hard time with. We all have students who start several books at once and don’t finish any of them or other students who start a book but never seem to make any progress on it. Post-its are a simple yet effective way to help students set nightly reading goals that keep them focused on one book and that help them to make progress. Be sure to check in with these students as often as possible to make sure that they are reaching their goals!

  1. Build relationships and show students that you care. Spend time getting to know your students, and help them to get to know you as well. Small gestures can go a long way in showing students that you truly care about them and their well-being. Students often surprise us with what they’ll do for a teacher that they like and trust.

  1. Do not give up on your students. Our reluctant readers are often our biggest challenge, and it may take longer than we’d like to see any real changes in their progress or their attitude. It can be frustrating to put forth so much effort and seemingly get back nothing in return. Sometimes, it just takes longer than we’d think or than we’d like for these changes to be visible. Other times, we might need to evaluate our teaching and see what modifications we could make to reach that child. Whatever the case may be, be persistent and don’t give up.

  1. Celebrate small successes. Amidst the struggles that students may be having, try to look for any progress that they are making and recognize it. Vocalize it to the students and celebrate their success! These successes, no matter how small, will motivate students to keep trying.

Think about some of the reluctant and struggling readers in your room. What strategies have you utilized with those students that have made a difference? What more could you be doing to have a positive impact on those students?