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For Teachers

5 Ways To Help Students Improve Reading Skills

By The Room 241 Team October 18, 2012

This post has been updated as of December 2017.

Developed reading skills allow students to get the most from their education—one of the many reasons why it’s part of the curriculum, no matter the grade level. Teachers in primary grade levels focus on helping students develop a strong foundation, while teachers in higher grades reinforce that foundation and show how reading is necessary for the real world.

Regardless which grade you focus on, if you’re looking for assistance in helping your students develop stronger reading skills, here are five approaches to test out.

Utilize various reading materials

Be creative by teaching reading through different formats. Books, magazines, books on tape, CDs, and other recorded reading can give students multiple ways to connect with the material. Have students practice reading along with a book on tape. They will gain experience seeing the words on the printed page while hearing them on the recording. Other technologies, such as text-to-speech software, can refocus a reading exercise into one where students can pay attention to the sentence structure and words without getting discouraged by their own comprehension.

Relate reading to other areas of the student’s life

Encourage your students to read selected material and then discuss it in relation to other books, movies, news items, or TV shows. Have your students make the comparison: What did they like about how each format portrayed the topic? How would they have changed a format to better match the topic? What was the message the writers intended the reader/observer to get from the material? Being able to connect what has been read to something else in their lives helps students think abstractly about the material.

Have fun with words

As students work on their reading assignments, ask them to write words or phrases down that they don’t understand and bring them to class on an index card. You can then conduct a classroom discussion on the words until everyone understands the various meanings and uses. Additionally, students can then put their cards up on a wall creating a record of challenging language they have mastered. Depending on the type and format of the classroom, these cards could be used for subsequent writing classes to help students further develop their vocabulary.

Create a record of progress

Help students create a journal of their reading work. Have them list the reading they have done and a brief summary of the material. Make a section of challenging words or phrases; another section can be used for passages they don’t readily understand. Finish with the students’ opinion of the material, likes, dislikes, and whether they would read more from this author. Review these journals with the students regularly and celebrate their progress with them. Use the journals at parent-teacher conferences so the parents can also see the progress.

Make reading about communication—not just a tool

Prepare several lessons where students read a number of different written materials: grocery store ads; instructions on how to put together a bookcase; a recipe; a newspaper article; part of your state’s driver education handbook—all great examples. Start a discussion on how important it is to be able to read these items accurately and understand them. In each case, ask: what is the important information being conveyed? Where might students encounter the material currently in their lives? These real-world examples help students understand the long-term importance of quality reading skills and comprehension.

As you well know, your role as a teacher cannot end with a simple reading assignment. Part of your charge is to help ingrain a passion for reading so all students can achieve. And if it just so happens that you’re looking to take on more of a reading interventionist role, we can help with that.

Concordia’s fully online MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading Interventionist is for educators who want to open their students’ minds and hearts to whole new worlds through the power of reading. Explore our program here.

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