Although the strategies below are directed to the tutor, teachers and parents might also benefit from understanding them:
1.Use Proper Materials. Especially during the first few months of tutoring, make sure that the material is easy for him. Make sure that after this period,
- When you increase the difficulty of the materials he’s about to read, you give him materials at his proper reading instructional level; before instruction, he should be able to quickly recognize 95% or more of the words in what he’s about to read and understand 70% or more of the material.
- When he’s about to read independently, you’re sure he can recognize 99% of the words and understand 90% of the material.
This may require playing Monopoly for the first few sessions or, if he likes basketball, just “shooting hoops.” When you do this, you’re not wasting time; instead, you’re building a positive relationship—one in which he feels safe, comfortable, and respected—and anticipates good things.
As time passes and he’s obviously feeling comfortable, gradually add reading instruction that’s designed to foster success and the anticipation of success.
You might begin by reading aloud to him, but reading only materials in which he’s interested, such as Pokémon comics. You might also motivate him by having him choose what to read, from materials that will interest him and that are at his proper instructional and independent levels. This means, start where he is comfortable.
3.Explore Relaxation Training. If the struggling reader is getting help from a qualified mental health specialist, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or Licensed Clinical Social Worker, thoroughly discuss with this person and with the child’s parents the possibility of teaching the child simple relaxation strategies, such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visual imagery.
Relaxation training refers to a promising set of simple practices that lower anxiety, and, as a side benefit, have helped some children strengthen their reading, improve their attention and their behavior.
To learn more about relaxation training, visit our website (www.reading2008.com) and download the free article, Self‑induced relaxation: A practical strategy to improve self‑concepts, reduce anxiety and prevent behavioral problems.
4.Systematically Strengthen the Struggling Reader’s Self-Efficacy. Self-efficacy is the child’s belief that he can succeed on a task. Add to this definition, if he makes a moderate effort. Self-efficacy is critical to motivation. After all, if a child thinks he’ll fail, no matter his effort, he’s unlikely to try, he’s likely to resist. He’ll think: Why try, I'll just fail? Why prove to everyone I’m dumb? Why embarrass myself?
If his self-efficacy for reading is weak—as it is with many struggling readers—you have to help him strengthen it. To do so, you need to stress the four sources of self-efficacy: (a) mastery experiences, (b) vicarious experiences, (c) verbal persuasion, and (d) physiological and emotional arousal.
5.Weave Aerobic Exercise and Music into Your Tutoring Sessions. To improve the struggling reader’s mood, you may want to start your sessions with music that will help him feel positive about the upcoming lesson:
- Music seems to offer a novel system of communication rooted in emotions rather than in meaning.
- Music reliably conveys certain sentiments.
- We may never know why music exists but even amid uncertainty about music’s origins, we can still use songs to pump ourselves up or calm ourselves down, ease pain and anxiety, bond with others or simply move people to tears. (Schrock, 2009)
You might also provide short sessions of aerobic exercise throughout the tutoring session. Why? Because aerobic exercise can improve both a child’s mood and his cognitive functioning. So, you might encourage him to exercise three minutes here, two there:
We learn more effectively when we are physically active. (Siegel, 2010, p. 84)
Clearly, we’ve listed only a few ways to improve the struggling reader’s readiness for learning, including his confidence, motivation, and behavior. Other ways include counseling, music therapy (see http://www.reading2008.com/blog/?s=pellitteri), and applied behavior analysis. Generally, it’s best to match the intervention to the current causes of the difficulty, which can take considerable time and expertise.
- Does the struggling reader think the lesson will be fun?
- Does he think the materials and the activities will be interesting or important?
- Does he think he will succeed if he makes a moderate effort?
- Does he think his success will help him achieve goals that are important to him, that will get him what he wants?
- What can you say and do to strengthen his self-efficacy, his confidence that he will succeed?