Students with reading difficulties have a wide range of instructional needs. Some of these challenges lie at the word level, while others involve higher order reading skills.
Reading intervention focuses on developing different reading skills and strategies in an integrated manner. This is done through targeted instruction in the following areas:
Phonics is the process of connecting letters to sounds. Students need to have solid phonics skills in order to decode words and build their reading fluency. It’s also important that they learn to sound out and segment words into individual sounds (sound awareness).
Many phonics programs can be used as part of a reading intervention program. The most effective phonics programs use structured, synthetic phonics instruction that teaches letter-sound knowledge in a systematic way.
Students who are struggling with phonics can benefit from intensive or targeted reading intervention to accelerate their progress. This may take the form of a specialized program that is taught outside class time, private tutoring, or changing how their regular classroom teacher instructs the class.
When students are able to decode words quickly and accurately they can begin to focus on the meaning of the text. However, this is only the beginning of comprehension skill development. In order to fully comprehend what is read the student must notice context, make inferences and think about what they are reading.
Fluency and comprehension might seem like two different skills, but research shows that they are linked. Students who struggle with fluency will often have trouble understanding what they read.
To build fluency it is important to have students practice the same passages over and over. This is an essential component of the Reading Recovery model and can be done one on one or in small groups. It is also important to teach students how to pronounce words correctly and to incorporate prosody (inflection, volume, smoothness, phrasing) into their reading. It is helpful to have students pair up with another student and read aloud together.
Children who understand what they read can visualize stories, make predictions and inferences, laugh at jokes, and think about the overall themes of a text. This is the ultimate goal of reading. Recognizing words on a page does not necessarily make it meaningful to the reader.
Children that struggle with comprehension are less likely to enjoy reading and are more limited in their access to a wide range of reading materials. They also may lack a sense of the purpose and utility of reading in their lives.
To improve comprehension, students need to understand how the content they are reading connects with their background knowledge and experiences. Intervention that includes direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction may support students’ ability to comprehend more quickly and accurately. In addition, the integration of strategies with background knowledge may enhance students’ comprehension performance. This meta-analysis builds upon prior research by investigating moderators in the effect of comprehension intervention on students’ reading comprehension.
Vocabulary is the stock of words in a reader’s “bank” that he or she uses to deliver messages. Beginning readers must build a repertoire of familiar words so that they can recognize them and understand their meaning.
As students progress in reading, their vocabularies must expand to include new, unfamiliar words that they need to be able to read. This is a challenging process that can be impeded by a lack of vocabulary instruction.
Most children acquire vocabulary incidentally through their everyday experiences with oral and written language, including listening to books read aloud to them, and reading extensively on their own. However, research has shown that explicit vocabulary instruction can significantly improve students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary test performance. Vocabulary instruction should be systematic and focused on both the meaning and usage of words. It should also be paired with contextual and definitional activities.