Prioritizing Pre-reading for Reluctant Readers

Especially if you teach math, science, or social studies, the task of not only teaching your students the skills for your class, but also how to read the content that goes along with it, can be a daunting one. Luckily there are some go-to strategies that you can employ for your whole class or the few who need it.
 
The majority of your support should come before they start reading so that they can more successfully read the article or text on their own. Struggling or reluctant readers need a clear purpose for their reading and/or some heads-up on the content. Here are a few ideas:
 

  • Anticipation guide – This is basically a short true or false ‘quiz’ the students take before the reading assignment. You pull the central 3-4 points you want the students to glean from the text, write them out as statements, and then change a couple of them to be false. Once the students make their true or false predictions, their task as they read is to determine whether their predictions were right or not. This can be a fun, semi-competitive way to keep them engaged & focused on the most important ideas in the text.

 

  • Question preview – Some of us may have mixed feelings about reading the questions before we read the text, but if the questions are well-written and they focus on the main ideas of the text, reading them beforehand can give students a clear purpose for their reading and help keep them from getting distracted by the interesting details or graphics that are often included in non-fiction texts.

 

  • Vocabulary support – Big words can be scary. Take that intimidation factor out by giving your strugglers the definitions ahead of time or going over the vocabulary beforehand, if possible. If they already know a term when they start reading, it can be empowering when they see it and understand it versus being a barrier they can’t get around.

 

  • Supported skim – Non-fiction often has graphics, various kinds of titles, sidebars, bold terms, and other disorienting elements that make it hard to read through easily. Walking through the article or chapter to describe how it’s formatted and get familiar with the graphics and titles can help students get their bearings before they have to read through it on their own.

 

  • Content preview – Having a quick class or individual discussion about the topic will get their brains moving in the right direction and call up their prior knowledge on the topic. The classic KWL chart is great for this, but less formal methods are helpful, too.

 

  • Embrace the highlighter! This can be your best friend when it comes to supporting struggling readers. You can highlight key vocabulary for them to focus on, highlight each question and the section title of the answer in matching colors to give them direction, or use the highlighter to indicate the questions and sections they should read first in order to chunk the assignment. Or if the students use a highlighter to indicate where they found important information, you can easily see what they focused on without requiring annotations that can be a laborious interruption to their already laborious reading. Just make sure to teach younger students how to use it appropriately first so they don’t come back with the whole thing highlighted.

 
In case you missed it, our post last week was on supporting struggling writers.

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