8 Research-Backed Ways to Aid Struggling Emergent Readers

Dec 9, 2019 by

Many kindergartners will pick up the foundational skills of reading relatively easily, but some will struggle. Here’s what the research says about how to support them.

By Jessica Hamman –

Ms. Brown is a kindergarten teacher sitting with her new class on the first day of school. One of her main tasks this year will be teaching this group foundational literacy skills, including rhyming, sound-letter correspondences, blending (reading), and segmenting (spelling). Ms. Brown has taught for long enough to know that though they may look like blank slates ready to learn to read, her students are not all starting from the same place.

Some of these students are already readers. The others aren’t—we call them emergent readers. The emergent readers are not all alike: Some will pick up the foundational skills relatively easily, while others will, despite exposure, have difficulty learning to read. The trick is teasing these two groups apart in order to differentiate appropriately for them.

How will Ms. Brown tell the difference between her typically developing emergent readers and her struggling emergent readers?

Over the coming weeks, she’ll be working on the foundational skills with all of her students. While the typically developing emergent readers will pick them up, the struggling emergent readers will continue to have difficulty with:

  • distinguishing and generating rhymes,
  • manipulating the sounds of words,
  • retaining new sound-letter correspondences,
  • gripping their pencil,
  • identifying letters, and
  • writing letters.

In the past, it was commonly believed that these struggling students just needed more time to catch on. But current research shows that these students don’t just need time—they need rigorous instruction in the foundational skills of reading to make strides in catching up to their grade-level peers.

Research-Backed Ways to Support Struggling Emergent Readers

1. Use direct, explicit instruction: Research shows that struggling emergent readers learn best through explicit, direct, intensive instruction. When engaged with instruction that includes explanations, modeling, and guided practice, students make significant gains over peers who have not been taught using explicit, direct instruction.

2. Teach systematic phonological awareness: Struggling emergent readers have been found to have a common core deficit in phonological processing. Luckily, this can be remediated with intensive instruction. Strengthen your students’ ability to distinguish and manipulate the sounds of language: Start with the simplest subset of this skill, rhyming, and build to the most complex, phoneme manipulation. Doing so has a powerful impact on students with and without difficulties. Researchers have provided a roadmap of best practices for phonological awareness instruction in the classroom.

Continue: 8 Research-Backed Ways to Aid Struggling Emergent Readers | Edutopia

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