Intervention for Struggling Readers


Children often learn to write before they learn to read because they can read their own writing. They are making the symbols on the page and attributing meaning to them, so they can read them. They slowly learn to make their symbols follow conventional rules, and we can begin to read their writing as well.

Every year I have a few, if not a handful, of students that really need an extra jump start with their writing and reading. They are the ones that will wait for time to go by during independent work and will hope that they don’t get noticed. Or they simply will not try to read or write unless I am working with them.

This year I decided to make a small group focus with my strugglers. I conducted a regular large group writing minilesson, just as I always do, with all students included. This way all students had access to the new teaching. After the minilesson I sent most of my students off to write independently, and I kept my focus group with me.

With my focus students, we did a shared writing activity. Sometimes I would suggest a sentence to write, and sometimes they developed the words. We shared the pen, and the students wrote the piece on the board. Obviously the student with the pen was working, but the others were responsible for helping that student to spell the word.



After we completed the sentence (or two), we read it aloud collaboratively. Then I wrote it out underneath their writing, with the correct spelling. (Typically I do not do this with student writing. However, for step two it was necessary.) That was it for the first day. I sent my focus group off to write independently, and went on to confer with other students. I found this was quite successful in terms of management. I could rest assured that my strugglers had done some good work that day, and I was less concerned if they proceeded to daydream after that. And the small group only took about five minutes, so I still had time to meet with other kids.

Day two begins the same way, with a large group minilesson. When most of the kids go to write, I have my focus group join me again, this time with their Collection of Songs and Poems book. Read more about this here. I write the story that we wrote collaboratively on the board, and we reread it. I then give each child a set of the words needed to make that story. The words are typed and cut apart. Their job is to glue the words into their book, in order, to make the story. They then illustrate the story on the same page.


IMG_0593 - Version 2


This activity requires them to practice many skills. They must be able to match words in their hands to the words on the board. This involves letter recognition, and in some cases, word recognition. They must work from left to right, and then return sweep. And they must leave spaces between the words as they glue them in.

Because this is a piece that they wrote, and we have read and reread it, it is something they can all read independently. I chose to have them glue it into this shared reading book for an important reason. I know that later, during reading workshop, these kids often choose to read from this book. They love the comfort of having a selection of reading that they know inside and out. With this intervention, I have just increased the amount of pieces that they can practice reading without help!



I chose to go through the two day intervention process twice each week, and take Fridays off (so I could catch up with the rest of my students.)

I was blown away by how much my focus students loved this work! They felt successful and competent, which of course then impacted everything they tried to do independently.

What do you do in small groups with struggling readers and writers!

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