What are the best ways to support students who struggle with reading comprehension?
The answer is not always straightforward, because one tool may work really well for one student, while something totally different works best for another! Honestly, sometimes the key is to have lots of different strategies ready to go.
So, in this post, I’m sharing the top four approaches that I’ve had the most success with in working with kids struggling to make meaning of text in my classroom.
Strategy #1 – Teach comprehension strategies explicitly.
I like to introduce each comprehension strategy in isolation – and with the assistance of an anchor chart.
I display the chart on my easel and then model how good readers use the strategy as I read stories aloud to the class.
I use the anchor charts included in the Lucky Little Toolkit because there are charts for all the strategies I teach over the course of the year.
I print the charts poster-sized (find directions for printing poster size in this blog post). I display them front and center when we’re focusing on the new skill, then move the chart to a wall nearby so we can still reference it when necessary.
I find that when I introduce comprehension strategies with the help of an anchor chart, it brings the concept to life and gives my students a visual prompt to try the strategy out.
I also like to use mini-versions of these anchor charts to prompt my students to apply the strategies when they’re reading on their own. (Scroll down to read more about that in strategy #3!)
Strategy #2 – Organize thinking with graphic organizers
Sometimes when my students are struggling with comprehension, it comes down to having too much information and not having a way to organize it.
Graphic organizers work like a charm when this is the case.
For example, my students show their understanding of a text by filling in a template such as this one featuring story elements. Then, retelling the story, answering comprehension questions, or writing about the text is suddenly so much easier!
My favorite graphic organizers are included in the Lucky Little Toolkit as well! This toolkit is seriously like a one-stop-shop for all the greatest teaching tools!
Strategy #3 – Provide resources that prompt students to access learned comprehension strategies
When students are working on their own, I have several different tools they can use to prompt them to use a learned comprehension strategy.
I) Comprehension Bookmarks
I have a bookmark for each comprehension strategy taught. They are so handy as a reference tool when kids are stuck. Also – the set I use (from the Lucky Little Toolkit) feature sentence starters for responding to text!
II) Comprehension Strategy Mini Anchor Chart Rings
This is the idea I was mentioning earlier… I print mini-versions of my anchor charts and attach them to rings for each student. This way, kids have instant access to each comprehension strategy we’ve learned when they’re reading on their own or in reading groups.
The mini anchor charts are included for quick printing in the Lucky Little Toolkit.
Strategy #4 – Digital Reading Toothy
The Reading Toothy game is my students’ favorite way to practice comprehension strategies! I assign these as a literacy center, and sometimes morning work as well. Often my students choose to play Reading Toothy on a device when they finish early too, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest!
So, there are sixteen different reading skills, each with different reading sets and tasks to complete.
These digital reading task cards are self-correcting and self-paced. Kids have a fun incentive to stay focused on the reading task by adding a tooth for Toothy’s mouth each time they select a correct answer.
There are digital toothy sets for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, each with standards-aligned comprehension tasks and grade level-aligned reading passages!
Check out the bundles in our Lucky Little Learners shop:
The Toothy Reading Task Bundles are also available in printable versions:
Just by offering a few solid resources, you’ll be able to make reading more enjoyable and accessible for your students. And when your students are struggling with comprehension, try one of these four ideas to give them a boost!