Updated: March 2022
Welcome back! So far we have dove into background information about reading and writing, the warning signs for struggling readers plus areas to include in a full assessment. If you haven’t checked those blogs out, take a quick few minutes to pop onto the first and second blogs before continuing to read here. Last up, how do we help these kids?! As discussed before, children who struggle to read and write do NOT all struggle in the same way. Therefore, depending on which area children struggle with, they require different interventions.
Children with word reading difficulties require interventions that combine letter-sound connections (phonics) and improve their ability to recognize and manipulate sounds (phonological awareness). For example, “cap” has a short /a/ sound but when you put a silent ‘e’ on the end and make it “cape” the ‘a’ now sounds like the letter name 'a'. A huge amount of research has shown that this instruction needs to be explicit and direct for these children. So, reading alongside a student or having them read the same book over and over again will not help these kids become better readers because they struggle to pull the rules from those words and use it on other words. There are many programs widely available but it is how you teach these programs and rules that matters.
Children with reading comprehension difficulties require interventions that help them organize, process and understand important information from a text they have read. This is supported by using graphic organizers as well as strengthening oral language. There are some clear and accessible resources here for graphic organizers.
Lastly, children who struggle with a mix of both of these areas need intervention that supports both the word-reading and reading comprehension challenges. As many schools and SLPs have tools for working on reading comprehension, I have included some tips here about word-reading instruction that I have accumulated. It is important to note that these are tips that help ALL readers, but are especially supportive for those who are struggling to decode (read) words.
Phonological Awareness and Letter-Sound Correspondences
- Teach the sounds that letters make sound without a big “uh” sound at the end. So the letter m says ‘mmm’ not ‘muh’. Some sounds are more difficult to eliminate this (like p, b, t, d, k, g) but simply try not to overemphasize it in these sounds.
- When teaching letter names and the sounds they make, you can incorporate a visual to help support this. If you're using a word like "dog" to teach the sound d makes, make sure children understand you're just talking about the first sound of 'dog' and not the entire word. I like to use the phrase "The letter d says /d/ like 'dog'".
- Phonological awareness skills are highly correlated with and can strengthen reading abilities. For children in kindergarten to grade 2, our first sessions usually combine work on letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness activities.
I teach 1-5 letters and their sound correspondences at a time depending on what the child can handle.
Blending- grab 2-3 small similar objects (e.g., dried pasta, pencils, blocks). Each item will represent one sound. You will say a sound while putting one of the objects on the table with a small pause between them. The student should then try to determine the word by putting the sounds together. Start with two-sound words (e.g., so, me, two, bee, up, at) and move to three-sound words (e.g., cat, bin, sat, kid, nut, zap, pod).
Segmenting- this is the opposite of blending. You can use the same 3 objects but this time you will lay them all on the table and assign a sound to each as you point. For example, point to each item while saying ‘b-a-t’.
Decoding (reading) and Encoding (writing)
-Explicitly teach children to sound out words they do not know right away (do not teach guessing).
-Whenever you teach a new rule (e.g., silent ‘e’ on end of a word like ‘cape’) incorporate practice in both reading and spelling using this rule. Just because a student can read a word does not mean that they can immediately spell that word so practice both to support full understanding of the rule.
-Once a child has learned a phonological rule at the single word level, incorporate this into sentence, paragraph and book-level texts. Sentence-level is difficult to come by but you can make a few pages of your own and use them for every student working on that rule.
-Once you've developed a strong base of phonics, you can begin to teach words do not follow the rules (phonetically-irregular rules; e.g., to, do, because). Approximately 15-20% of words do not follow the rules in English. As with words that follow the rules, it is very important to practice both reading and writing of these words.
-Practicing literacy skills again and again can get a little monotonous. My two go to’s for keeping it fresh are humor as well as a variety of writing supplies. There are so many options including metallic pencil crayons, twistable crayons, dry erase markers with a mini white board, or a Boogie Board.
Our team at We Communicate supports many children on their path to stronger reading both in-person in our geographic catchments as well as virtually across Ontario. If you want your child to access evidence-based reading and writing intervention, boost their confidence, and help them thrive in school and life, complete our quick online form here today.