Setting Goals for Reading Success

In my last post I wrote about some of the signs that a child may be a struggling reader.  There are two usual causes of a reading challenge; a learning difficulty or not having been taught the alphabetic code and how to use it.  Teachers are not diagnosticians or psychologist and so aren’t qualified to diagnose the cause of a reading challenge, however you don’t have to be in order to effectively support kids who struggle to learn to read.

Essentially, providing support for struggling readers is about setting achievable goals and then taking evidence-based steps to help students achieve them.  In order for goal setting to be effective, the goals need to be SMART.

An example of a goal that does not meet the SMART Criteria is:

“The student will read a level 15 text”

This goal is too broad to be really effective and does not include a time component. I would also argue that working towards a benchmark goal might not be the most effective thing to aim for when benchmark assessments likely won’t effectively measure a student’s actual reading achievement.

When setting goals you might consider the building blocks of strong reading.

  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Word level reading
  • Fluency

Step 1

Begin with your diagnostic assessment data and determine your student’s baseline for phonological and phonemic awareness and phonics.

Step 2

Set achievable targets based on what you know about the child. Some children take many more repetitions to achieve new learning than others.  In this case, you will have a smaller range of content with a longer time frame to achieve growth in.

Step 3

Create a program to support student learning that is based in the science of reading (explicit instruction that is systematic and cumulative).

Step 4

Communicate these goals and the program to the student and their family.

Step 5

Monitor progress with regular check-ins (every 5 weeks) and revise goals and the program as necessary

Goal Setting Template

Providing intervention without support staff

I can almost hear you saying, “That’s all very nice Jocelyn, but I have no access to an assistant or support teacher to provide intervention”.  If this is you, please know that you are not alone!

While you might not be able to provide a full intervention program you can certainly take advantage of classroom moments to provide some extra support.

  • Teach your Tier 1 program using an evidence based approach and make sure that you are teaching children at their point of need.
  • Quiet reading time – utilise the daily quiet reading time by giving students sound and word cards to practice one on one. Start this session by seeing your most vulnerable students first every day, then move on to read with other students.
  • Replace sight words cards and predictable texts with sound and word cards and decodable texts for homework.
  • Instead of having a parent helper flash sight word cards at children have them help children practice their sound and word cards for reading and spelling.
  • Begin to provide support the moment you notice that a student is having trouble keeping up.

Being aware of your student’s specific needs and putting a simple program in place to help them can make a world of difference to a child who would, otherwise, get further and further behind their peers. 

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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