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I often hear from other teachers that teaching reading strategies is too difficult. They say they hate teaching reading. It’s too abstract. It doesn’t follow the set pattern that math clearly follows. Yes, reading doesn’t follow the same clear set pattern as math, but it is still incredibly fun to teach, and you need to harness that creativity and passion to inspire your students and teach them reading strategies!
Does teaching reading fill you with anxiety? Does it make you feel panic or fear? Or do you find yourself groaning, thinking, I’d rather teach math, or science, or literally anything else?
That’s a common feeling and there’s no shame there.
In most of the cases I work, I wind up being the reading person, not because I’m an expert. In fact in the beginning I had no idea how to teach reading or reading strategies.
No, I wound up teaching reading and writing to my students for two reasons. 1) I love reading and writing, therefore I do it a lot. It seemed natural that I would handle teaching it. 2) No one else really wanted to do it.
It took a lot of trial and error before I finally figured out what was blocking my kids. I did a lot of research and googling and trying this and that before I finally found something that works for me. Now I adapt it for each kid.
Today we are going to cover how I teach reading strategies to my students. This is how I teach them how to find things like the main idea, character feelings, identify personality traits, and make predictions.
This blog post isn’t going to focus on the mechanics of reading, but on how to help your students learn very basic analytical skills.
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What are Reading Strategies?
First of all, reading strategies are a very broad term. When I use them I mostly am referring to finding the main idea, inferring character feelings, making predictions and so on.
To do this kids have to have mastered the basic reading skills, like phonemic awareness, learning sight words and fluency.
It’s not appropriate for students still learning the mechanics of reading to be taught reading strategies and inference making. They need to focus on mastering that skill before you move them on to this more complex task, no matter how much you might want to.
To learn how to do inference making your students will also need certain cognitive skills. Like to find the main idea they have to know how to pick out relevant points. If they can’t do that, than finding the main idea will be very difficult.
Try to build up these cognitive skills separately before you ask them to apply them to their reading.
Teaching Reading Strategies: Obstacles
In my experience there are three common reasons teaching reading can be hard for you.
- Your students doesn’t have the cognitive skills built up yet
- You need to practice processing with your child
- The steps needs to be broken down more
Maybe your kids need to practice the cognitive skills outside of reading.
Practice making inferences with pictures instead of reading.
Have your kids make lists of what is important and not important.
Show your students pictures to have them identify feelings.
Help them learn character traits by having them brain storm what people with those traits might do.
There’s lots of ways to practice the cognitive skills that are separate from reading. Adding reading in can make it harder, so make sure your students are solid on these skills before you expect them to apply it to their reading.
Processing language is not about hearing. It’s about how you understand language in your brain.
If your students have processing problems, then they might know you’re talking or that words are on the page, but cannot connect the meaning to the language.
To learn about how processing language is different than expressive language click here.
If your students are having processing problems make sure to have them read the text multiple times. Also consider keeping it just below their reading level to work on their ability to process written text.
When you move on to teaching reading strategies again keep the text simple and just below reading level till they are comfortable with the skills.
Break Down the Steps
Some kids just forget what to do next. Too often we think of executive functioning as an OT problem. However academic work also requires executive functioning.
If your kids forget the steps required for each reading skill consider purchasing this check list that I made to help my kids keep track of the steps and remember what to do next.
Other Important Tips
Make sure to give your kids lots of chances to practice. These are complicated things you’re teaching, and your students need lots of repetition.
It’s unfair and stressful to expect them to learn overnight, so be prepared to read simple texts and go through the skills again and again.
There’s also a tendency to ask directly what the main idea or what the character is feeling. If your kids are struggling with that, I ask them to identify important actions or thoughts first. After rereading and underlining the evidence first, then they can infer the feeling or main idea.
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom and build up.
Make sure to be enthusiastic about reading and celebrate your student’s progress and efforts. If you are acting like you hate teaching reading, then they’ll hate learning it.
Kids are very perceptive! So bring some joy and enthusiasm to your lessons and be nice to yourself as you improve your teaching!
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