Menu

Curriculum and Instruction

Question 1: How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
Question 2: I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?
Question 3: Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?
Question 4: I am homeschooling my child. Should her language arts instruction be based on whole language, sight words, or phonics?
Question 5: How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?
Question 6: What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
Question 7: If a child has good comprehension, but is not reading at grade level fluency, should working on fluency be the primary focus? Can any child's reading can be fully remediated regardless of the severity of their disability?
Question 8: What words would you use to describe a really effective elementary teacher?
Question 9: In one of your articles, you stated that strategy instruction is unlikely to help students younger than third or fourth grade. As a first-grade teacher, what can I do to help my students develop their reading comprehension without relying on strategy inst

Question:

How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?

Answer:

Reading Rockets has a wealth of information about teaching children to read. Here are some articles that provide basic knowledge on this topic:

Reading Rockets offers strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn to read. Its resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in working with struggling readers who need some additional help developing these reading and comprehension skills. Our sister site, Colorín Colorado, which is designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction. You can also try TeachingLD, a site for Special Education teachers.


Question:

I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?

Answer:

Reading is a very complex process, which requires decoding, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Decoding alone is also a complex process involving many sub-skills, including alphabetic knowledge, phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, and sight word recognition. All of these components are necessary for successful reading. It is important to be sure that there isn't anything standing in the way, such as difficulty with one or more of the skills necessary for easy and accurate reading. The decoding components of reading must be solid, or the reader will spend too much effort sounding out words and will not be able to derive meaning and enjoyment from the story.

The following articles will give you more information concerning the processes involved in reading:

You might also find helpful information in our "Launching Young Readers" Series.

If you work with more than one student at a time, the following articles may help give you ideas for ways you can diversify your instruction to reach all of your students:

The most helpful advice about specific teaching strategies usually comes from other teachers. If you haven't done so already, talk with your colleagues, especially those who have worked with your students in the past, as well as specialists (such as special education teachers, reading specialist, speech clinicians and occupational therapists) who are currently working with some of your students. They can share with you the strategies that they have found to be helpful for the students in your class.

While we cannot endorse any specific reading programs, the following articles from our site address several different programs and their benefits:

Reading Rockets has two sister-sites: LD OnLine and Colorin Colorado. Colorin Colorado is a Spanish language site, and contains several articles which can be viewed and printed in English or Spanish. You can sign up to receive the Colorin Colorado newsletter in Spanish or in English through the site.


Question:

Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?

Answer:

The following article describes the nine elements of effective reading instruction. You may find it useful to develop your lesson plans from these elements:

The majority of students who struggle with reading have difficulty with phonics and decoding, so you will want to be particularly mindful that your students are getting direct, explicit, and consistent instruction in this area. These articles provide suggestions for differentiating instruction to accommodate students who are struggling with reading:

The following articles suggest activities and teaching strategies:

You may also find it helpful to post your question to other teachers as well as reading specialists on the LD OnLine online forums.


Question:

I am homeschooling my child. Should her language arts instruction be based on whole language, sight words, or phonics?

Answer:

After much debate over the best way to teach reading and writing, the growing consensus is that a combination of strategies is best, that all effective language arts programs have common components, and that no one program works for all students. The following article describes the elements of effective reading instruction and may be a good way for you to evaluate your program for balance and thoroughness:

As far as emphasizing sight words or phonics, it’s important that both elements are taught since they are both critical components of reading and writing proficiency. Another important component of literacy is a genuine enjoyment of the written word. The following articles from LD OnLine and Reading Rockets may give you some new ideas for promoting literacy:


Question:

How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?

Answer:

There are a number of approaches to helping students organize their thinking and get the most out of textbooks. Some of the strategies, such as the SQ4R process, are useful in upper elementary, middle, high school, and college levels.

You may find the following articles of interest:

Also, having the students complete simple text summary activities can help you get a better idea of which aspects of comprehension they find difficult. Our sister site, Adlit, has several summary sheets available, as well as an excellent library of comprehension articles.

Finally, the Learning Strategies Database at Muskingum College’s Center for Advancement of Learning (CAL) has a very useful website. It has an extremely comprehensive listing of reading comprehension strategies applicable to both secondary and postsecondary instruction.


Question:

What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are many reading programs available to help struggling readers. Reading programs should address the individual needs of each child. Effective programs target the learning areas needing attention, and also present information in a way that is the most beneficial to the child’s learning preference.

There is no perfect method for teaching reading, and no one method works for everyone. However, there are several research-based programs that can help struggling readers. The following articles highlight some of these programs:

On Reading Rockets, there are several articles that address reading programs and their benefits for young children:


Question:

If a child has good comprehension, but is not reading at grade level fluency, should working on fluency be the primary focus? Can any child's reading can be fully remediated regardless of the severity of their disability?

Answer:

I think it makes sense to work on reading fluency even when a student has strong comprehension because reading fluently can help a student achieve well in the content areas and more learning more efficient. Research has not established that every student can be taught to read at acceptable levels. Presently, estimates are that, with excellent and highly intensive reading intervention, approximately 98% of the population (not including students with severe cognitive impairment) can be taught to read.

Question:

What words would you use to describe a really effective elementary teacher?

Answer:

I think that there are lots of ways of being a good teacher, so I'm reluctant to try to come up with labels. The only characteristic that I think is indispensible is that he or she understands kids. I've never taught an elementary classroom so I can't really know what it's like, but from my observations what impresses me most is the rapidity with which decisions must be made. Decisions about how the lesson is going, whether to change course, whether and how to discipline, and so on. The wisdom of almost all of those decisions rests heavily on the teacher's knowledge of children. The teacher must judge who understands and who is confused. The teacher must judge when the class as a whole is too tired to think anymore. When a child is hit on the playground and tells the teacher "I'm okay," the teacher must judge whether he's really okay. The list could be never-ending.

Question:

In one of your articles, you stated that strategy instruction is unlikely to help students younger than third or fourth grade. As a first-grade teacher, what can I do to help my students develop their reading comprehension without relying on strategy inst

Answer:

I think of three things, two of them rather indirect. The truth is that it's difficult to do much with comprehension in first grade because most of the student's attention and working memory must be directed to the problem of decoding. So the first way that a first-grade teacher can aid comprehension is to ensure that all students can decode fluently. In later grades, comprehension depends much more on knowledge than it does on reading strategies. Learning reading strategies does give students a sizable boost in comprehension, but it's a one-time thing. Further practice doesn't help. But students who have some knowledge about a passage will comprehend it much better than students who lack that knowledge. In older kids, the correlation between general world knowledge and scores on reading comprehension tests is quite high. (You don't see as high a correlation in young children, because reading testes in early grades focus mostly on decoding, not comprehension.) Thus, the second thing that a first-grade teacher can do to boost students' reading comprehension is to ensure that students have a broad basis of knowledge. When I hear that science, history, geography and other core subjects are being squeezed out in frantic preparation for reading tests, I am concerned. It may help with reading tests (which are really decoding tests) in first grade, but this practice will come back to haunt school systems when these kids get to fourth or fifth grade-their lack of world knowledge will hurt them on reading comprehension tests. The third thing a first grade teacher can do-which I'm sure you already know and do, but I couldn't not mention it-is everything possible to ensure that students like reading. Kids who view reading as fun read more, and it's a positive feedback loop. More reading makes reading seem like more fun (because it's easier), which makes students read more, and so on.
"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan