We all know that children progress at different rates. I am yet to find the magical class of children who all learn everything I teach them at the same rate. Every teacher has children with a range of learning needs who we reflect on and worry about and who need a little more. Some children will need a little extra help every now and then, some quite consistently need us, but not forever. Others will need that extra support for a long time to come and may well be involved in a special program or intervention either in or out of our classrooms.
When children are in the early years of school it is not uncommon to hear phrases like
Give them a little time
They’ll get there
Just wait and see. They’ll learn to read when they’re ready
The problem with every one of these well-meaning comments is that they are misguided. They assume that, at some point, children will wake up, suddenly ready to learn to read and blow us all away with their growth. Of course, the truth is that the children who start behind, very often stay behind. The simple truth is that waiting to see what happens or waiting for children to ‘be ready’ means that we are usually waiting for the child to fail.
At What Point Do We Intervene?
Instead of waiting for a child to fall behind the others, pay attention to the students don’t seem to remember quite as easily. Notice who is just mouthing words in the group instead of having actual answers. Then give these children a little extra STRAIGHT AWAY. Take a little time each day and give those children a few minutes to revise with you, your assistant or a parent helper. Instead of sending home sight words or home reading texts that children can’t read send home sounds and word cards that allow them to practice the phonics you have taught them in class.
Giving a little extra time now will reap huge rewards into the future as children keep up instead of having to catch up. Don’t let children fall so far behind that they require a whole different level of instruction from their peers in a year’s time.
Of course, some children come to school with delayed speech or language skills which means that they have a different starting point from their peers. Focus on where these children are now, provide appropriate instruction to help them move to the next step and then keep an eye on their growth.
Some areas that children might need extra support in include:
- Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
- Recognising and saying sounds
- Recall sounds and writing them down
- Blending sounds to read words
- Segmenting sounds to write down words
Remember that the very best thing you can do is provide a little extra support as soon as you notice that a child is not keeping up with their peers. Don’t wait until they are a full step or more behind before you act. You can make a large difference to a child with 5-10 minutes per day of your time providing you intervene quickly.
In April and May I am running a “Supporting Struggling Readers” Teach Along. If you would like to find out when further information about this Teach Along is available, click here.
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