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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Helping Poor Readers Improve Reading and Writing Skills
Benna Golubtchik

Johnny can read anything aloud, but seems to miss the point. On the  other hand, Mary hates to read, but she follows class discussion intently,  contributing salient points. Reading is made up of both decoding, (sounding  out words) and comprehension skills. Some students labeled Learning  Disabled, excel in one of the reading components and not in another. The  ideas suggested below are non-traditional, but the target students have 
failed with the traditional methods. I have used all of the following ideas in  one form or another, and I can tell you that some previously unsuccessful  readers have had some success. 

Writing is a wonderful avenue into reading. When it comes to writing, the hardest thing for poor readers to understand is that they can still think and interpret, and that their ideas have validity. If they are encouraged to write their ideas down on paper, ignoring spelling at the beginning, they are on the road to breaking through the block. A good way to start is to have the student dictate his story. When it is read back, the student is often startled that this good piece of work came from his mouth. The next step is to encourage him to put his ideas on paper himself.

Build sight vocabulary slowly, by encouraging kids to write. They will  ask for the words they need and build their own dictionaries. It's much easier  than forcing them to participate in a basal reading lesson. They've been  there and done that and failed.

You can build a good reading/writing program with a lot of movie  watching, writing activities, and interaction with the teacher. Many good  books have been made into movies and are now available on video. Some  examples include The Outsiders, Of Mice and Men, and Freak the Mighty. Many  Shakespearean plays are also available. Some movies offer different formats  of the same story, such as West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet, or Oliver  Twist and Oliver, the musical. The teacher can have students identify all  the literary elements in the story, such as protagonist, antagonist, setting,  theme, conflict, climax, and denouement. By using both the written form and  the video, many students who were previously left out can build their  interpretive skills.

Books on tape are very effective. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity  Disorder kids often will sit for movies or listen to books on tape while they  read along. Teachers can even record their own books on tape so their  students can listen independently. The advantage to a book on tape is its  ability to be slowed down and repeated as necessary. 

Another good source is the lyrics of a rap song (printed out). Students  are interested in reading that material. Kids like to move to the beat. Why  not read while they're at it?

Many so-called learning disabled kids are good artists. Go for  alternative assessment by letting them display their understanding through  illustrations. Acting is another good way to improve comprehension while  keeping students moving constructively.

By teaching students that reading is composed of two basic elements,  decoding and comprehension, they often gain self-esteem, because they are  usually pretty good at one of these elements. The teaching of reading can be approached in countless ways, and I have found that activities that move students beyond the text -- writing, acting, illustrating, reading lyrics, watching films or reading along with audio tapes -- provide learning opportunities that we can't afford to miss.


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