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Teaching Tip: Helping Struggling Readers

Helping Struggling Readers
Prompts to encourage self-monitoring

Michele Dufresne

Recently, I assessed a second grader named Amy who was struggling with reading. When she didn’t know a word, she sounded out part of the word and then substituted words that looked similar. Even though this substitution did not make sense, she continued on. Not surprisingly, her comprehension was quite compromised.

I know schools continue to problem solve how to help struggling readers. It is important to regularly assess and provide intervention. This is why I am such a passionate believer in Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery teachers work one-on-one with children in first grade—before they fall significantly behind. Amy is only in second grade, but already she has built up some very bad habits that are getting in the way of being a successful reader.

The next step to helping Amy become a fluent reader is to teach her to notice her own errors, a process called self-monitoring. I suggest the following prompts to guide a student who is making mistakes and not self-correcting:

“Were you right?”

“Did that make sense and look right?”

As the student becomes comfortable self-monitoring, she will begin to pause when her reading doesn’t make sense. This is the time to make sure you praise her: “I like how you stopped. What did you notice?”

These prompts will help Amy and other children learn to self-monitor their reading. Once Amy knows she has made an error, it will be time to teach her how to decode the unfamiliar words.

Happy New Year!


Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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