Questions and Answers
Teaching reading is a complicated job, even for experienced educators. Browse these questions to find teaching resources, classroom ideas, and ways to break down complex tasks into smaller parts.
Click below for answers to the following teaching reading questions:
How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
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 require additional help in reading and comprehension skills development. Our sister website, Colorín Colorado, although designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction.
I am homeschooling my child, who does well in every subject but reading. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics?
This is not a reflection of the intelligence of the children who struggle, but a sign that there may be something impeding their progress. This discrepancy between ability and achievement is, in part, what defines a learning disability. It can be difficult to hear that your child may have a learning disability, but it is important to keep in mind that, by definition, people with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence. They may need to be taught in a different way than they've previously been taught and may need to be shown learning strategies that work for them.
I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?
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.
You might also find helpful information in our "Launching Young Readers" Series.
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.
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.
My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
Also, the American Federation of Teachers published a report in 1999 called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.
Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns with them. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives.
I have a student who has trouble blending phonemes. Any suggestions?
Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?
You may also find it helpful to post your question to other teachers as well as reading specialists on the LD OnLine online forums.
I am homeschooling my child. Should her language arts instruction be based on whole language, sight words, or phonics?
What is the best order in which to introduce letters and their corresponding sounds?
What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?
How can I help older students improve in reading comprehension?
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.
Finally, the Learning Strategies Database at Muskingum Colleges Center for Advancement of Learning (CAL) has an excellent website. It has an extremely comprehensive listing of reading comprehension strategies applicable to both secondary and postsecondary instruction. You can also find an excellent library of comprehension articles on our sister site, AdLit.org.
What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
If a child is reading aloud and is maintaining meaning, is it necessary that I correct every word he misreads?
The answer to this question depends on the context in which the child is reading. If he is reading in front of a group, or for pleasure, or for the purpose of appreciating literature, then you should NOT correct every mistake. During these activities, students are developing a love of reading, and as long as the meaning is preserved, they should be free to experience the "flow" of a good story.
In an instructional context, you may want to gently correct accuracy mistakes, but try to limit this to activities in which the main instructional goal is accuracy. You can build activities into your curriculum that focus on this specific skill.
Giving students the opportunity to read without the pressure of perfect accuracy will invite children to read more and that is how they will improve!
I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?
There are a few universities around the United States which offer graduate specializations in learning disabilities. Although there are not many which offer this as an option now, there likely will be in the future.
Each state has its own criteria for granting teaching credentials to those who wish to work with learning disabled students. The recent passage of the federal law known as "No Child Left Behind" has raised standards for teachers in all fields. Because of this, you should contact your state Department of Education and get a list of their requirements before you begin looking for an appropriate program.
Once you know what courses you must take in order to get the teaching license and endorsement you want, you can start looking for a college that meets your requirements.
I have a number of students with severe disabilities in my classroom that are performing at a level far below their classmates. Should they be in my class? How can I help them?
Students with varying disabilities, representing a wide range of age levels, can be taught very successfully when grouped together, provided the teacher has significant training and assistance. This practice is called inclusion. Since each child's IEP governs his or her schooling, such students need individualized programs but can easily be grouped with others for many lessons. More and more, teachers are expected to meet each child's unique needs regardless of their educational "labels" of special, gifted or general.
Check to see what academic goals exist for each student. Some may need to be with non-handicapped students in order to develop social skills, with limited expectations for academic achievement. Meet with the special educators to determine how you can support these children. Usually, some degree of differentiated instruction (DI) is required.