Working with a range of reading levels in the classroom

iStock_000016678101XSmallThe range of reading ability in most classrooms is wide. Providing for a variety of reading levels is one of the elementary teacher’s most challenging tasks. Many programs for helping poor readers are designed to function within a clinic or special class setting and, therefore, are unsuitable or impractical for regular classrooms.

However, Michael Ford and Marilyn Ohlhausen have several suggestions for classroom teachers which utilize techniques drawn from their experience in a clinic setting

Assignments appropriate for different reading abilities

One of these involves designing group or class projects centered around themes. Source materials at a variety of reading levels are made available to students and a variety of contributions requiring different skills (oral as well as written) are called for in completing the assignment. In this way, less skilled readers are given an opportunity to participate with the possibility of equal success.

Ford and Ohlhausen point out that many poor readers have good oral language skills and can demonstrate these abilities in class discussions, brainstorming and problem solving sessions.

Other whole-class activities in which students work at the same task, but at their own level, include sustained silent reading and journal writing, both of which enable students to avoid peer comparison while working at an appropriate instructional level. Additionally, structured writing assignments, such as poetry or patterned story writing, are often successful across a range of reading abilities.

Creating a positive, challenging environment

Ford and Ohlhausen also recommend incentive programs that encourage students to challenge themselves rather than compete with others. Rewards for the amount of time spent reading, rather than the number of books read, for example, discriminate less against poor readers. They also suggested initiating a cross-grade reading program in which less able, older students work with younger readers. Such a program gives poor readers extra exposure to lower level vocabulary and simultaneously enhances their self-esteem.

The use of relaxation techniques, which include deep breathing, muscle relaxation and visual imagery training, and which most elementary students find fun, can be especially helpful for disabled readers who often experience a significant amount of stress in school.

Ford and Ohlhausen also urge teachers to create support for themselves by discussing with other teachers the problems they face and the strategies they develop for working with disabled readers.

“Tips From Reading Clinicians for Coping With Disabled Readers in Regular Classrooms” The Reading Teacher October 1988 pp. 18

Published in ERN January/February 1989 Volume 2 Number 1

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