There are five components of reading instruction for struggling adolescent readers:
- Word identification/decoding
Word identification/decoding is the ability to correctly decipher a particular word out of a group of letters. Students who struggle with decoding are at a definite disadvantage. In addition to improving fluency and comprehension, teaching word identification/decoding to adolescents:
- Allows them to see patterns and make connections
- Can improve spelling
- Empowers them by giving them tools to figure out words on their own
The ability to decode multisyllabic words is especially important for adolescent readers, as most of the new vocabulary encountered in their reading, especially in content area text, are multisyllabic words. Teaching word analysis strategies helps adolescent readers decode unknown words, build vocabulary and comprehension, and increase their ability to spell words correctly.
An important skill associated with vocabulary is word analysis. Word analysis is the process involved in understanding the letters, sounds, roots, prefixes, and suffixes that make up words. Developing this understanding enables adolescent readers to understand and use more words.
Teaching adolescent readers how to recognize and analyze word parts helps them figure out word meaning when reading. Another strategy that is useful in teaching students how to derive meaning from unknown words is using context clues to infer word meaning. Teaching these two strategies together is a powerful way to help adolescent readers discover word meaning independently.
Comprehension is the process of extracting or constructing meaning from words. Good readers are mentally active readers. They make sense of what they read by drawing on knowledge and experiences that are relevant to the information and ideas in text.
The ability to monitor one’s comprehension while reading is an important skill for adolescent readers to acquire. Struggling readers often do not use monitoring strategies or use them inappropriately. Because comprehension monitoring is a mental process that cannot be observed, a powerful way that teachers can help students acquire this skill is to model through the use of think-aloud activities the strategies that they use to monitor and increase their own comprehension.
Fluency is the ability to read words accurately and with appropriate speed and expression. Fluent readers recognize words effortlessly and, as a result, are better able to focus on comprehending while reading.
Readers must both decode and comprehend to gather information from text. If the speed and accuracy of decoding words are hindered, comprehension of the words is compromised as well. Struggling readers may spend so much time and cognitive energy decoding individual words that they have difficulty comprehending. Building a reader’s fluency level, therefore, can lead to an increase in their ability to comprehend text.
There are four key elements of student engagement: student confidence, a positive learning environment, relevant literary experiences, and choices of literacy activities. Students with high self-confidence are more likely to engage in school-related reading. Teachers can help build this self-confidence in students by creating a positive learning environment, caring for students, and believing that all students can succeed.
Teachers can also develop engagement and motivation by presenting topics and materials that are of interest to adolescents. Finding out what students are interested in can help teachers connect classroom instruction to students' lives in meaningful ways and help keep them engaged. Another way to keep adolescents engaged is to offer them some choice among assignments and texts. Giving adolescents a sense of control helps motivate them to work harder, even when faced with a challenging assignment.
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Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A Practice Guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from //ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practiceguides/adlit_pg_082608.pdf
Learning Point Associates. (2005). What are the key elements of student engagement? NCREL Quick Key Action Guide, No. 10 7-8. Retrieved from //www.learningpt.org/pdfs/qkey10.pdf
National Institute for Literacy. (2007). What content-area teachers should know about adolescent literacy. Retrieved from //lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/adolescent_literacy07.pdf