Supporting Learners with Reading Difficulties

Author: | Category: General, Making Magic

Meet the Makers

Mandee Buchheit and Celeste Danner, Student Support Leadership

What is one thing you are looking forward to the most this summer?

Mandee Buchheit – Student Support Coordinator

  • Taking the time to Sharpen the Saw! I have set a few goals of catching up on a few books that have dusty covers and enjoying the outdoors!

Celeste Danner – Lead Educational Specialist

  • Spending time outdoors! Gardening, swimming, and playing outside with the family!

This Week’s Focus

Driving Question

Driving Question: How can we support our learners in learning to enjoy reading when it is something they struggle with?


Take Down and the Come Back: 

Nobody likes me —–> I can be a great friend!

I’m stupid I can’t do anything right —-> I can’t do it YET. 

I’ll never learn to read —–> The more I read the better I’ll get!

Reading is dumb —–> Did you know there’s a book about ____? 

I hate school —–> I am learning!

7 Tips for Fostering a Love for Reading: 

  1. Provide a warm and welcoming environment – make it somewhere they enjoy being, give them CHOICE!
  2. Clear directions & feedback – be kind and gentle when giving feedback on reading.
  3. Create a model for success – have the learner in on all conversations. This will foster ownership on their reading journey. Make sure goals are attainable. When the learner feels success they will want to keep going!
  4. Build on learners’ strengths – informal assessments will give you strengths to build on. 
  5. Make it Relatable – What do they enjoy? Is there a connection in the text to the learner and the main character? 
  6. Learners get some control – it’s all about learner choices!
  7. Emphasize Progress – celebrate ALL growth!


  • Comic Strips are a fun way for the learner to show comprehension and foundational skills. Can they tell you the details in a sequential order? Have them put some writing in there, but also give them the choice to draw it out!
  • Book Talks/Shelfies – learners can do a video presentation regarding their books. Teacher can set the rubric so the learner has clear expectations.
  • Book Club – have the class read a novel together. Use the template in the resources below to support discussion when meeting for your Book Club.
  • Wanted Poster – Work on characterization with this method. What are the physical traits of the main character? What are some of the emotional traits of the main character?

This Week’s Why

Early detection of learning disabilities, such as difficulty with reading and spelling, cannot be overstated.  A diagnosis of Dyslexia can have a profound impact on a learner’s ability to read, write and spell.  Without competence in these language skills, a learner who has dyslexia or weaknesses in these areas can experience preventable and lifelong educational, social and economic difficulties.  

Dyslexia is often seen as the “hidden” disability. This is why it is important to know some of the RED FLAGS for learners (Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia).

Red Flags and Strengths  for Learners Grades Kindergarten Through First Grade

Red Flags

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog
  • Does not understand that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, map, nap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound

Areas of Strength

  • Curiosity
  • Great imagination
  • Ability to figure things out; gets the gist of things
  • Eager embrace of new ideas
  • A good understanding of new concepts
  • Surprising maturity
  • A larger vocabulary than typical for age group
  • Enjoys solving puzzles
  • Talent for building models
  • Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him

Red Flags and Strengths  for Learners Grades Second Through High School

Red Flags in Reading

  • Very slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow and awkward
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word
  • Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoids reading out loud

Red Flags in Language and Speaking

  • Searches for a specific word and ends up using vague language, such as “stuff” or “thing,” without naming the object
  • Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “um’s” when speaking
  • Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean”
  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar or complicated words
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions

Red Flags in School and Life

  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists
  • Struggles to finish tests on time
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Poor spelling
  • Messy handwriting
  • Low self-esteem that may not be immediately visible

Areas of Strengths

  • Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
  • Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
  • Ability to get the “big picture”
  • A high level of understanding of what is read to him
  • The ability to read and to understand at a high level overlearned (or highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if he or she loves cooking they may be able to read food magazines and cookbooks
  • Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused—and a miniature vocabulary is developed that allows for reading in that subject area
  • A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
  • Excels in areas not dependent on reading, such as math, computers and visual arts, or in more conceptual (versus fact-driven) subjects, including philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience and creative writing


(Resource for showing what they’ve read!)


Website:  The Dyslexia Resource

Website: Top 10 Resources on Dyslexia – Reading Rockets 

Website: 100 Resources for Teaching Kids with Dyslexia – Homeschooling with Dyslexia

More Magic

Resources and templates for your instruction!


Being Makers

Being Makers

Being Makers is a team of change-making leaders from Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools focused on project-based learning and social-emotional growth.
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