Strategies for Supporting Striving Readers Every Day

Making a difference for students is the most important job in a reading intervention classroom. The question that many teachers have, particularly if they are new to the endeavor of helping striving readers thrive, is: how do I make a difference for every learner? One way to begin to create the conditions that cultivate reading growth is to implement the suggestions in the research on growth mindset.

Teach the Principles of Growth Mindset to Ensure Reading Growth

In his work, David Dockterman reminds us that learners need three essential conditions to thrive: a growth mindset, a sense of belonging, and to understand the purpose and relevance of the work. We need to teach our most striving learners about growth mindset as well, ensure that they are an integral part of our learning community. If you teach in a setting that has lessons on mindset built in, you’ll have to revisit those lessons many times to have the maximum effect. If you don’t utilize a curriculum that has mindset lessons, chances are that you have taught a growth mindset lesson or displayed a poster in your room about the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. If it is worth teaching, it deserves to be revisited, supported, monitored, and celebrated.

Our district uses a reading intervention program that begins the year with six lessons on growth mindset. Students learn mindset principles, hear inspiring stories from readers who once strived to read but now are thriving, and set goals for themselves. Teachers who get the most reading and personal growth from students revisit mindset often. These teachers check in with students on how the work is going, not only to hold them accountable, but to offer support and show students that it is important.

Provide Lesson Structure and Opportunity for Reflection

In the program’s handbook there is a suggested wrap-up activity at the end of each lesson. These activities vary but they offer students the ability to have a clean ending to each lesson.  A clean beginning and clean ending help students retain information and transition from one concept to the next. These brief exercises are opportunities to help students develop a growth mindset, foster a sense of belonging, and help form explicit connections between the lessons. Scripting wrap-ups into your lesson plans will increase the likelihood that you will remember to utilize them.

Support Students in Tracking—and Celebrating—Their Own Progress

Helping students monitor their own growth and success is also essential to learning. Monitoring must be intentional to emphasize how much it matters. The same techniques that we use as teachers to remember to monitor data can be taught to students. The most successful intervention teachers not only teach the mindset lessons and have students set goals; they also encourage students to put sticky notes in their books near the end of every unit. Students know that when they get to a page with a sticky note, they will get a chance to reflect on their goals. These visual reminders help both students and teachers remember to assess how they are progressing toward the target. Scheduling one-on-one goal conferences is another good way to help students see even small successes and set microgoals for areas that need fine-tuning.

Monitoring can take a visible form in a classroom so that students can self-assess their growth and accomplishments. A simple sticker chart can make success visible, in the form of a powerful bar graph or scatterplot. Graffiti walls are another great way to publish achievement toward a goal. Door signs with messages like, “A reader in this classroom has finished a book for 121 consecutive days,” show the rest of the school community how hard everyone is working while giving the students doing the work a sense of accomplishment. 

If you are going to make progress toward goals visible and celebrate them, then you need to have a plan to support students and classes as they pursue their goals. Consider these things as you craft a plan:

  • Are there scaffolds and supports in place to help students produce high-quality work independently?
  • How will you hold students accountable for producing high-quality work?
  • How will you check to see if they are progressing toward their goals? How often will you check?
  • How will you offer hope to students who don’t achieve as quickly?
  • Does your classroom have multiple ways for students to
    • access text?
    • produce their best work?
    • have small victories?
  • Are there support staff at your school who can create a cocoon of caring and support around your neediest students?

Most important, are you, as the lead learner of your community, modeling the growth mindset lifestyle? Share some challenges you have with students. Let the students be part of your support team. Appreciate your students’ strengths and work to build on them every day. Are you counting down the days until the end of the year or are you grateful that you still have days left to make a difference?

To learn more about READ 180, the intervention program used by the author’s district, visit our 180 Community.