Supporting struggling readers

Member Question: Does anyone have recommendations for books and/or articles that discuss visually supporting struggling readers with how to chunk and present texts, how to present vocabulary, or other supports, for example?


Leecy, Thanks for the feedback. Fact is, we haven't put "Paraphrasing Language" on our website. But we do have it on the shelf, and can ship immediately. I'll get it onto the website as soon as I catch my breath. 

In the mean time, if LINCS members are interested in this Timeless Tool, here's a brief description: 

How does it feel to struggle with spoken or written language? Why simplify or adapt reading material for not-yet-proficient learners? Which kinds of vocabulary and phrasing are “easier” or “more difficult” to comprehend?

Sympathetic educators seeking or producing customized materials for individualized or whole-group instruction are likely to know—or want to find out—the answers to these and related questions.

This compact worktext for teacher trainers or how-to manual for materials developers gives general principles of language adaptation—with tips on how to organize info and simplify sentence structure and vocabulary. Practice exercises consist of sample original passages to paraphrase, followed by suggested ways to rewrite or restate their essential content.  Finally, there  are ideas for the use of adapted language education, such as Paraphrased Card Decks & Activities, Sequenced  Phrases or Sentences, Paraphrase Matching, and Multi-Media, Multi-Level Methods. 

Arthur Rubin  


I found some information about phrase cued reading which helps with fluency for struggling readers by showing them how to chunk text into phrases instead of reading word by word.

Vocabulary instruction should be explicit and students should be given lots of chances to use the words. I advise against giving students lists of words to look up, write the dictionary definitions for, use them in sentences and then be tested on them at the end of the week. I remember exactly one vocabulary word out of the many that were taught this way in my English classes when I was in high school. Here's a link to a free Teaching Vocabulary Explicitly Handbook

Hope this helps.

The example you are using (write the word, look up the definition, and apply the word (with the fourth square being used for either an antonym, synonym, or drawing a picture) is an example of tried and true strategy - using the graphic organizer to build vocabulary development. However, I fully agree that giving a student a list of random words and asking the student to develop vocabulary by remembering new words is also not a solid instructional strategy. I think it's a combination of both methods that leads to vocabulary development. The best method might be to combine phrased cued reading by chunking text into phrases and then using a 4-square for the individual words. This strategy gives students context, provides experience with reading fluency, and builds vocabualary. 

Kathy, Di, and Arthur, I love the very helpful comments and resources that you have all shared. Maybe we are getting closer to grasping how the brain processes reading, which goes far beyond decoding and memorization, as we all know. As Di brought out, just memorizing and looking up words without application in larger contexts has limited benefit. However, I must share a flashcard site that is a favorite and which you have probably used: An instructor in a program here in Cortez, developed the following set of cards for her CNA and Med Terminology students who face reading challenges: . You can see that once students create their own cards with the vocabulary and related info (images, definitions, reflections, whatever), they have many choices to practice and play games with the cards. You can select the options for the list of icons at the top. The little speaker icon on cards reads both sides of the card. In fact, each card could be part of a story that is read on the site. I don't recommend the site as an exclusive vocabulary-building activity, but students can have a lot of fun creating and sharing their cards with each other, and when we are having fun, we are learning!!! :) What do you think? Leecy

I've heard of Quizlet but haven't really poked around on the site. Now that I have (first the medical terms, then an art history card set) I can see some nice possibilities. If students created their own decks, that's one reinforcement for the vocabulary. If they work in pairs or small groups around one computer to quiz each other, maybe make it a contest, that's another reinforcement. And the games are another nice reinforcement. I agree that more learning happens when we're engaged and having fun.

Good points on using Quizlet and similar interactive sites, Di. As research supports, and I won't quote here, learning doesn't occur from content but from interaction with content and, hopefully, with people! I even consider reflecting on content as a type of interaction with self. I love project-based instruction precisely because it fosters interaction and application. There are so many reading-based activities that provide wonderful interaction with concepts. Excel is a magnificent example of an application that helps students interact through the of rules and charts to illustrate concepts. Students can also enter text, graphics, and punctuation marks in cells and move them around to create new sentence, phrases, or stories. What other ideas can folks here contribute in that regard? Leecy