MAT Blog

Every Teacher's Checklist for Struggling Readers.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Sep 15, 2011 5:20:00 AM

Reading strategies for struggling readersStudents of all ages fall into the category of "struggling readers" and for a variety of reasons. Some students struggle with word analysis, others have difficulty with vocabulary, and comprehending text independently is a hurdle for some.  As their teacher, it is often hard to know which reading strategies for struggling readers you should be using, because it is difficult to know exactly where their reading breakdowns are occurring.

This simple checklist can be used at a variety of grade levels as an informal, formative assessment. It can help teachers begin to identify which reading strategies they could be using to help struggling readers.  

Word Analysis

Does your student:

  • know all 52 letters (26 capital and lowercase) and all 26 sounds?*
  • blend sounds into words?
  • segment separate sounds?
  • properly blend adjacent consonants (e.g. -st, bl-)?  
  • understand complex vowel combinations and patterns?
  • understand and identify root words and affixes (suffixes and prefixes)?

Download our free Explicit Word Analysis Instruction Guide for more strategies.


Can your student:

  • identify when he doesn't understand a word that has been read?
  • employ strategies when she doesn't know a word (i.e. use context clues, skip it and go on, reread for meaning)?
  • use other tools to find the meaning, if unable to figure out the meaning of a word contextually?

Here are some excellent vocabulary sites for students:  Vocabulary Lists  Learning Vocabulary Can Be Fun  Vocabulary University 


Is your student:

  • reading at a grade level-appropriate rate? (refer to your state standards for fluency rates).
  • reading at similar rates for both out loud and silent reading? Does he avoid one way or the other?
  • able to identify words that he must know by sight and recall them quickly? is a great resource to help you develop fluency strategies for your students.


Does your student:

  • set a purpose before reading?  
  • identify different reasons for reading different genres?
  • make accurate predictions, based on textual clues and prior knowledge, before and during reading?
  • independently make connections (text to self, text to text, text to media, or text to world) while reading?
  • make inferences while reading?  If so, are these inferences relevant based on textual clues and prior knowledge?
  • complete a short summary of what was read? also provides great comprehension strategies for individuals, small groups, and whole classes. The research behind these activities is some of the best in the business.

Please remember this is simply a preliminary checklist to help teachers begin to identify which reading strategies for struggling readers they could be using. Once you have used this checklist with a struggling reader, you'll want to reflect on the answers and prepare individual instructional priorities for this student.

For more information on improving reading comprehension in your classroom, download our FREE K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide, today!

  Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

*This may seem academic in upper grades, but a surprising number of high school students, especially English as Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learners (ELL) cannot identify all letters by name. At the lower grade level, children who enter school behind their peers (in alphabet knowledge) typically remain behind. Seventy-four percent of children who are poor readers in the third grade will still be poor readers when they start high school. (

Tags: reading comprehension, reading strategies, Reading

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