How to Teach Struggling Readers

Whether you are teaching a beginning or struggling reader, start here. Teach one vowel and a few consonants at a time. I start with a, s, m, t and c. Once students have memorized the sounds for these letters we start blending two and three letters to read words. When my students are reading three-letter words easily we move on to reading a few short phrases and sentences. Then it is time to teach another set of sounds. Take as much time as your child needs and only move onto the next step when they are reading easily and accurately.

Be patient and practice a few minutes each day.

Step 1
Teach a Few Letter Sounds

If you are tutoring a first or second grader in reading, they may already be familiar with a few letter sounds. However, in order to fill in all gaps, you should start from scratch. Older students will also benefit from this comprehensive phonics review.

Beging by modeling how to say the name of the letter, the name of the picture and then the sound…A, apple, /a/. Have your reader point to each as they say the simple chant. Repeat this process with each new letter. It is important to model how to say each individual phoneme (unit of sound) without adding /uh/ on the end. After each session of practice, work with the student on proper handwriting techniques. Dictate the sounds for the letter sounds so that the student can apply reading to print.

In the second part of the video, the student now only sees the lowercase letters and a picture hint in the corner to help them remember the sound. Practice this a few times until the student no longer needs assistance with the image. On the third part of the video you can assess if the student has learned the sounds for each letter since it no longer contains an image anchor.

We focus heavily on the lowercase letters. Most words are written in lowercase letters and this helps to simplify the amount of letter sounds needed to master in order to read words. We will continue to expose students to the capital letters throughout the program.

When the student is able to easily and accurately say each letter sound, they are decoding! Move onto two and three-letter words.

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Step 2
Teach 2 and 3-Letter Words

Model how to blend two and three sounds. Have the student read and provide assistance as needed.
Complete dictation exercises after reading. When the student is reading easily and accurately, introduce a as a word and then continue with a few short sentences.


Have the student read down and across. You can also write these words on index cards.









Step 3
Introduce A as a Word

Continue to model reading and practice writing.
Explain that a, am and at are function words. Function words have little or no meaning, but they help sentences make sense.

Step 4
Read a Few Short Sentences

Sam sat.

Mac sat.

Cam sat.

A cat sat.

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