The struggle is real

In my year and a half of tutoring struggling reading elementary students, I’ve learned a great deal about the actual struggle. Though I can’t see what’s happening inside the brains of the students, I can observe behaviors and this is what I see:

  1. The young student who struggles with reading will use a variety of clever techniques to avoid instruction from chatting about random events, to looking away, to squirming around, to asking for drinks, snacks or a break to interrupting the reading with talking.
  2. As the student reads, fatigue is shown by yawning, blinking, rubbing eyes and changing body positions during the lesson.
  3. The student’s attempts to sound out syllables does not sound typical. Or the student replaces unknown words entirely.
  4. The student’s success rates at reading improve when they’re given a chance to talk about what they know about the topic, before the book, passage or article is read.
  5. The student appears to know they struggle and shows lack of confidence when asked to read books by asking to replace the book or providing their own and sometimes this is okay.
  6. The student shows progress in an inconsistent back and forth pattern. For example, one week progress and confidence seem improved, while the next week, it appears to regress, but if looked at in a broader context, it is overall improved.

There are more, but I would like to end on a positive note by providing some ideas that I use to ease and work with the struggle rather than against it. Here are some ways I’ve adjusted my tutoring sessions:

1.) I share the reading. Since the tutoring time is limited, I’ve found that saving the read aloud time for last gives a child a chance to “rest” the part of the mind that struggles.

2.) Taking small chunks of reading, such as poems can be helpful and less intimidating way to practice reading.

3.) Echo reading, partner reading and modeling reading with expression is helpful for the struggling reader to gain improvement with comprehension.

4.) Finding books that the child is interested in has been most valuable.

5.) Teaching the elements of a story throughout tutoring will help a struggler to grasp the meaning of the story.

6.) Using humor in teaching, books, characters, games all helps ease the pressure and anxiety during tutoring.

7.) Though I’ve used some reading apps, most recently, I’ve used the iPad less because I would like to see improvement with reading the printed word in books. I’ve found the two to be different.

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