Supporting Intermediate Struggling Readers

I find that supporting struggling readers in Intermediate is very difficult. It is difficult to support with a classroom library or school library collection, difficult to run guided reading, and difficult to preserve self-esteem because using websites and books that may be at appropriate reading levels are also often for ‘little kids’. It is important to me because I see the Intermediate grades as the last opportunity to improve reading before high school.

Here is what I know about supporting struggling readers:

  1. We need to provide opportunities for connected reading, and not just focusing on instructional skills. If we just focus on instructional skills, we miss opportunities to help students make meaningful connections to their reading. Among this is the importance of digital reading. If we focus too much on skills, then they likely end up actually reading much less than their peers too.
  2. We need to move beyond the basic knowledge and skills associated with reading and move to new levels of critical thinking and analysis. For instance, comparing and contrasting, analyzing characters etc.
  3. Pairing audiobooks with texts really helps with phonemic awareness, and recognition of key sight words.
  4. Tracking texts with highlighters can help chunk down the reading into smaller and more manageable parts.
  5. Our curriculum planning and development of implementation strategies and frameworks for reading instruction needs to be based on assessed student instructional needs within the context of Differentiated Instruction AND universal design.
  6. We need to identify, access and integrated all forms of print and digital resources that relate to reading instruction.
  7. We need to implement strategies that use students’ own personal interests and experiences.
  8. Our learning programs need to be accepting and safe and promotes equity for all students.
  9. We need to conduct our own research to identify, integrate and adapt research-based strategies that promote reading and ethical teaching practices.
  10. With all that said, we also need to be flexible.
  11. Use High-Interest/Low Vocab, with illustrations to support the text, carefully chosen vocab, simple sentences, compelling stories, interesting characters, and invisibility to ensure that struggling readers are not identified and stigmatized by their reading materials.
  12. Provide choice, but really understand the reasons why students choose their own reading materials. This can include recommendations from peers, tv and movies, interesting covers and blurbs, interesting authors, eye-catching displays.
  13. The complexity of available texts and a wide variety of background experiences of the students, makes it very difficult to match texts with readers in upper grades.

What I have done in the past is this:


2.  I have also got Intermediate classes set up on twitter, and have engaged in excellent discussions online. I have also started @SCDSBbookclubs but not sure how to take it to a new level.

3.  I have used sites like Newsela and TeachKidsNews, however, the mathematical forumulae used to simplify news texts often leaves the texts choppy, and with difficult vocabulary. Now don’t get me wrong, they are excellent, and I want to keep using them. However, when Intermediates are struggling, much more must be done.


So what I want to know now??

  • What resources do you need to support this?
  • What classroom reading strategies work best with Intermediates?
  • How do you deconstruct and teach comprehension and key reading skills with digital literacy?

What do you do to support struggling readers in Intermediate?

What resources do you stock in your Library?

Deborah McCallum





One response to “Supporting Intermediate Struggling Readers”

  1. Tom Doyle Avatar

    I use kids’ interest in sports to hook them into reading in my fourth grade classroom. I’ve written three high-interest sports chapter books targeted at struggling intermediate readers. My books can be previewed on Amazon —


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