Reading Intervention Strategies

The Importance of Modeling

Below you will find descriptions of many different strategies that a teacher can use to improve the reading of his or her students, no matter what their reading level. It is important, though, to remind you that the teacher always needs to model a strategy for his or her students. It is important to teach these reading tools starting out with simpler texts, using the strategy yourself and pointing out how you are using it and why. When your students start to use some of these strategies you should ask them questions, give them positive feedback, and encourage them to continue their use outside of the classroom. Help them to see the practicality of these strategies, use your own experience and theirs to make your point.

Strategy: Purpose Setting

When readers have a purpose in reading, they have an easier time understanding text because they know what they are looking for. According to Tovani in her book I Read It, But I Don’t Get It, a few things happen when readers do not have a purpose: they day dream, can’t stay focused, can’t relate to the topic, get bored, and more (2000, p. 24). Readers can read for different purposes: to understand one character better, to connect to the text personally, to gain information or facts, to solve the mystery, and more. Once students identify their purpose, they are able to focus on what is important to them in the text.

Strategy: Think-alouds

By modeling a “Think Aloud” strategy, you show your students how you personally make sense of the text. According to Tovani, “When teachers make invisible mental processes visible, they arm young readers with powerful weapons” (p. 27). Good readers engage in many different thought processes, and showing your students these processes will help them to understand them and then to in turn engage in them.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Pick a short text, about a page long.
2. Make sure to think about the parts of the passage that might give students difficulties before you select it. Figure out how you would solve these problems as you read.
3. Read the text out loud and stop to share what you are thinking as you read. What are your reactions to words, characters? When are you using your background knowledge? Figure out what you are doing as a good reader and model it to your students.
4. Point out what words and phrases trigger your thinking. “When I read these words ______, I am reminded of _________.” “I was confused when I read __________, and this is how I fixed it.”

Thinking aloud in front of students is a great way to model for them how good readers read. Once you’ve done this with your students a few times, they can practice doing it together and eventually do it on their own.

Strategy: Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a simple and fun way to help students better comprehend a text. Students use all or part of a text’s plot and make their own cartoon version, with each scene in a panel. Then, students may cut the panels apart and try to have other students assemble their panels in the correct order. This shows how each person’s interpretation of a story is different. For more information on storyboards, visit:

Strategy: Close Reading

There are four major components to close reading:
• understanding your purpose in reading
• understanding the author’s purpose in writing
• seeing ideas in a text as being interconnected
• looking for and understanding systems of meaning

Really good reading requires close reading. Close reading is more than surface reading - just understanding the words on the page. Close reading requires intellectual work to be done by the reader. He or she must ask questions and search for answers in the text; they must connect new ideas and old ideas and find themselves challenged when these collide.

Close reading means reading reflectively:
The reflective mind seeks meaning, monitors what is being said from paragraph to paragraph, draws a clear distinction between the thinking of an author and its own thinking. The reflective mind, being purposeful, adjusts reading to specific goals. Being integrated, it interrelates ideas in the text with ideas it already commands. Being critical, it assesses what it reads for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness. Being open to new ways of thinking, it values new ideas and learns from what it reads. (, para. 3)

Reading reflectively allows the reader to think about reading while they are reading. A good reader will not just take what they see at face value. Deep readers delve into their reading. Some good questions for those attempting to deep read to ask are:

-Can I summarize what I think the meaning of this text is?
-Can I relate my life to this text?
-Can I create images or metaphors to explain the text?
-What questions do I still have about the text?
-Can I connect this to other ideas I have or things I have read?

Take note of the literary techniques and rhetorical devices that the author uses - how are they using metaphors, irony, personification, tone, voice, imagery, etc? Why do they do this? How does this affect your reading of the text? What themes does the author include? Think of things that are both stated in the text and simply implied by the text. What do you think of these themes? Connect them to your past experiences and texts you have read in the past.

The most important part of close reading is really engaging with the text. Do not just accept what the text claims. Ask questions and require answers, compare the text to your past experiences. Annotate the text and find interconnecting points and arguments.

Strategy: Concept Mapping

A concept map can help struggling readers, visual learners, and abstract thinkers to visualize what they are reading. Concept maps have simple parts that can break down a novel, passage, or chapter. The text used for this concept map in the following explanation was Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. The three parts of a concept map are:

1. Central question

The central question is the middle of the concept map. The central question asks an open-ended question about something pertaining to the work of literature. The question asks, “How are hands compared to youth and aging?” From this question, the other two parts of the concept map become incorporated.

2. Personal examples

The bottom portion of a concept map answers the central question using personal examples. There is a one sentence answer to the central question, followed by a text box with a specific, recent, actual example from personal life.

3. Textual examples

The top portion of a concept map answers the central question using examples from the text in question. There is a one sentence answer that summarizes the textual example; the textual example, most often a quotation, is added in the text box and cited with a page number.

Strategy: Text Connections

Connecting with text is something that all readers do, but something that few readers do enough. Chris Tovani, author of I Read It, But I Don’t Get It, writes, “When information is read in isolation and not connected to existing knowledge, it is forgotten and deemed unimportant. Calling on existing knowledge and experiences is crucial if readers are to assimilate new information” (Tovani 64). There are several ways that readers can actively connect with any text that they read. Tovani outlines these strategies in her chapter called “Connecting the New to the Known.” Below is paraphrased information regarding readers and textual connections.

1. Teachers must show students that all the courses they take relate to English class and reading. Science, math, social studies, and other classes generally involve reading to understand the subject matter. It is the teacher’s job to show students how other subjects connect with literature. Students can create their own connections to English class by examining how each subject relates with reading. Tovani writes, “Good readers look for patterns in text, author style, genres, and other content areas in order to help them better understand new information” (Tovani 76).

2. Students can make connections with the text before, during, and after they read. Good readers actively search their prior background knowledge to a text; they do not wait for others to remind them of their prior knowledge. Readers who rely on background knowledge know that it will be beneficial to them before, during, and after they read.

3. Use three easy connecting strategies to jog your reading memory:
1. Text to text connections. These connections come from reading the text in question and connecting the content to another text from anything a reader has ever read.
2. Text to self connections. These connections come from reading the text in question and connecting the text with personal life experiences.
3. Text to world connections. These connections come from reading the text in question and connecting the text with current world events or past world history. These events can be as big as world issues or as small as issues going on in the readers’ school.

4. Struggling readers should relate to topics in any way that they can. By bringing general knowledge of issues to the texts they study, readers can better understand the text in question. Once the reader has established their general background knowledge of a topic, the reader can begin reading to learn even more about the topic at hand.

Strategy: SSR

Sustained silent reading (SSR) can help troubled readers to develop their reading skills by allowing readers to read materials they select by themselves at their own pace. Janice L. Pilgreen’s book, The SSR Handbook, reveals how teachers can develop, manage, and organize an SSR program.

Pilgreen rationalizes the SSR program with the use of two key points. She claims that parents and teachers want to see a rise in test scores through the SSR program; she also claims that parents and teachers want to get engage student interest in reading through the use of the SSR program.

Pilgreen outlines eight factors for SSR success. These factors will be helpful for teachers who want to implement the SSR program into their classroom in order to engage struggling readers.

Factor One: Access
Provide your students with access to books and other reading materials in your classroom.

Factor Two: Appeal
Reading materials should be interesting and engaging so that students want to read.

Factor Three: Conducive Environment
Provide students with a quiet environment in which to read, a place where they will not be interrupted.

Factor Four: Encouragement
Encourage students to read by showing them that reading is fun.

Factor Five: Staff Training
Train teachers in your school on the art of free reading.

Factor Six: Non-Accountability
Students should be able to read freely without being assessed.

Factor Seven: Follow-up Activities
Provide students with interactive activities so that they can discuss the books they have read.

Factor Eight: Distributed Time to Read
Allow students to engage in fifteen to thirty minutes of free reading each day.

Strategy: DRA

A DRA teaches students who are struggling with reading to focus on their comprehension. DRAs serve several purposes, here outlined by the National Education Association:

• “Teaches word identification skills.
• Elicits students' prior knowledge of the topic of the text.
• Teaches specific reading skills.
• Sets a purpose for reading.
• Encourages students to monitor their comprehension while they are reading”

For secondary readers, a DRA first presents a concept map. The concept map focuses on a central idea, such as the condition of schools. The concept map then gives personal examples and textual examples from their reading of the condition of schools. Once the concept map has been presented, students move on to viewing the second part of a DRA. The second part of a DRA consists of important quotations that outline the issue presented in the central idea. The student then moves on to the third part of the DRA, which is where the teacher elicits prior knowledge. There should be three key questions pertaining to the central idea in order to elicit prior knowledge from students. Teachers should ask students questions that urge connections. The three connections we have already discussed that should be used are text to self connections, text to text connections, and text to world connections. The questions that the teacher ask should encourage students to make those three connections in order to maximize the most of the eliciting prior knowledge class discussion. The fourth part of a DRA is purpose setting. Teachers should assign a purpose for reading to the students. In a DRA, purpose setting should look something like this: “Read pages 139 to 145 to find out why the condition of schools affects society” (Reed 1). By giving students a purpose for reading, teachers are helping their students focus on one particular area for comprehension. The fifth part of a DRA allows students to read the assigned passage from the purpose setting section to themselves. This should last about ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the length of the assignment. The sixth and final part of a DRA is the discussion. This should be the longest part of the DRA and should largely consist of the students discussing the questions provided by the teacher. One person talks at a time, and the teacher serves as the discussion monitor. The teacher should only speak when necessary, asking guiding questions that once again revolved around a central theme. Below is an example of a directed reading activity that I have used, except for the concept map.

1. “ ‘When you were listing things that people find wrong with your schools, you noted that they do a poor job of preparing people to get jobs. Why do you think they do such a poor job at this?’ ” (Quinn 139-140).

2. “ ‘Once again, the essential point to note is that, for all your complaining, your schools are doing just what you actually want them to do, which is to produce workers who have no choice but to enter your economic system, presorted into various grades’ ” (Quinn 144).

3. “ ‘Mother Culture’s deception here is that schools exist to serve the needs of people. In fact, they exist to serve the needs of your economy’ ” (Quinn 144).

Eliciting prior knowledge

1. The world today places great emphasis on going to and graduating from school. Why do we as people consider school to be so important?

2. How is your school system similar to the earth systems Ishmael describes?

3. In your experience, how have you seen people who dropped out of school succeed in our world? How have you seen people who finished school succeed in our world?

Purpose for reading

Read pages 139 to 145 to find out why the condition of schools affects society.


1. Why does the condition of schools affect society?

2. Ishmael says that “schools exist to serve the needs of our economy” (Quinn 144). How do schools focus on our economy? Use the text to further explore this issue and to solidify your response.

3. Of the many wise words from Ishmael, the opening of the reading helps us explore the schools’ lack of preparation. Ishmael explains, “ ‘When you were listing things that people find wrong with your schools, you noted that they do a poor job of preparing people to get jobs. Why do you think they do such a poor job at this?’ ” (Quinn 139-140). In what ways are schools preparing their graduates? How are schools failing their graduates, in terms of survival skills?

4. How does the condition of our schools reflect the condition of our society? Use examples from the text and the author’s chain of reasoning to further explain and explore this issue.

Strategy: Vocab

Vocabulary is an important part of any reader’s personal repetoire, but it is especially essential that struggling secondary readers continue to master vocabulary. Although secondary readers are constantly bombarded with vocabulary from the Ohio Graduation Test, the SAT, and the ACT, they have trouble keeping up with the vocabulary in their own classroom. From pre-functional English Language Learners (ELLs) to intermediate readers, there is an activity that can help any struggling reader to master vocabulary. With a little extra time and extra help, the reader in your classroom with the most reading struggles will be well on his or her way once they master vocabulary.

The key to mastering vocabulary is to find a vocabulary activity that fits the struggling reader’s learning needs. Here are some vocabulary activities to help get you started. This vocabulary activity is made for use with The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. It provides vocabulary words for pre-funtional ELLs, intermediate learners, and learners who are at the grade level average for ninth grade English students.

Pre-functional vocabulary words:

Pre-functional vocabulary activities:
The pre-functional ELL student will be presented with a series of flashcards.

The flashcards will have a word on one side; the other side will have a picture symbol of what the word represents, as well as the word’s phonetic pronunciation, in easy to understand phonetics (ex: fuh-net-iks) printed below the picture.

The pre-functional ELL student will be given a time limit, such as twenty minutes, to first get an understanding of the cards. Then, the ELL student will be given guided instruction from the instructor on how to use the cards. The instructor will hold up the card to the ELL student and say the word on the card according to the phonetic pronunciation. The ELL student will be gestured to repeat and recite along with the instructor as the instructor continues to go through the cards. The ELL student will then be handed the cards and gestured by the instructor to do the same as the instructor just did, with the instructor helping the ELL student with pronunciation, when necessary.


Intermediate vocabulary activities:
For the intermediate ELL, the activity is short but effective. The student will be asked to read The House On Mango Street, just like the rest of the class, but will be asked to focus on one chapter in particular. This chapter could be “The House On Mango Street.”

The student will be asked to re-read the chapter, paying close attention to the vocabulary words used in the chapter, as indentified in the vocabulary list. The student will then be asked to draw a storyboard. The storyboard must contain at least eight panels and must provide a summary of the chapter with all of the vocabulary words in the chapter used correctly in sentences. The student should draw pictures to go along with the words of the storyboard. The student will be asked to read his or her storyboard aloud to the instructor. The instructor will pronounce any words that the student mispronounces, and the student will repeat the correct pronunciation after the instructor.

Grade level average:
social security number
(bus) fare

Grade level average vocabulary activities:


Students will be presented with the vocabulary list.

Expanding prior knowledge: The instructor will say the vocabulary words aloud one by one. The students will repeat the vocabulary words after the instructor. After each single word is pronounced by the instructor and the students, the instructor will ask the students if anyone can tell the class the definition of the word. If no one can tell the definition, the instructor will ask if anyone has a guess at what the word means. If a student knows the definition or guesses correctly, or if the students express a familiarity with the words and their definitions, the class will discuss how they know that word and how they can apply it to their everyday vocabulary.

Introducing essential lesson terms and high-utility vocabulary: All students will be asked to demonstrate an understanding of the word by completing a short answer response for each vocabulary word for homework. Students will be encouraged to look up definitions in a dictionary so that their short answer responses use the words correctly. This way, if the students do not understand the word through eliciting prior knowledge in class, they can look up the word on their own and write their own sentences, providing each student with the opportunity to personalize their education by putting vocabulary words into their own unique contexts.

Clarifying the text structure and key features: Once students turn in their completed homework, they will be presented with a worksheet containing the vocabulary words, which should be familiar to them by now. The worksheet will feature the vocabulary words as well as the sentences and page numbers from The House On Mango Street where the vocabulary words can be found. Based on the sentences and page numbers, students will turn to the page number in The House On Mango Street and skim the page for the sentence that contains their vocabulary word. Making note of the sentences around the sentence in question, students will make graphic organizers, such as cause and effect and process analysis, around a central word. This is an in class activity that will be completed in groups of two. Students will turn in their organizers at the end of the class period.

Establishing a reading purpose: Students will be sent home with a homework assignment each night to complete certain chapters in The House On Mango Street. Students will be given a purpose for reading each night that relates to their vocabulary words. For example, students will be asked to read pages 20-50 in The House On Mango Street to find out why Esperanza does not like her inherited name. The reason for their purpose for reading is because the next day in class, the students will be asked to connect the issue of inheritance to the overarching theme of the novel so far. This question will teach them the issues of immigrants inheriting names from their home country and the issue of immigration and self-identity.

Strategy: Annotation

For struggling readers, annotation can prove to be critical in reading comprehension. Annotation is the process of taking notes while reading. These notes can be taken directly in the book, on sticky notes, or on another piece of paper or a computer. Annotation helps the reader to monitor his or her progress, focus, and comprehension. Typically, annotation consists of marking the major points in a literary work. Readers should annotate using the following guidelines:

-Mark all characters when they appear in the text
-Write major characters on the front cover of the book, along with a brief description of the character.
-Mark important quotations and events, especially noting the passage of time.
-Underline unfamiliar vocabulary words in the text and define those words at the bottom of the page.
-Write a brief summary of what happened on single pages at the top of every page. These summaries should be short and to the point and are usually no more than five words, maximum.
-On the back cover, themes, motifs, and symbols should be written down, along with a page number for when each of them appears.
-At least one note should be made in each single pages’ side margin. These notes should be connections that the reader is making as he or she is reading.

With these guidelines followed, it is easy for readers of any level to go back into a text to find key points. Annotation keeps readers on track and forces readers to slow down when reading. Slowing down when reading allows for more time for connections to be made and for comprehension to occur. If and when students write essays about their papers, annotation makes it easy for students to go back and review what they have written, easily finding important quotations, characters, and scenes to add to their papers.

Strategies for getting unstuck

Sometimes a student will still get stuck in a text, even when they have all these strategies. That is when having a list of things to help get them unstuck is helpful.

-Make a connection between your life/knowledge of the world/another text and the text you are reading. This helps a reader to make the words of the novel meaningful and real, as opposed to just words on a page.

-Make a prediction about what might happen next. When readers predict, they are aware of their thinking as they read and are made more active.

-Stop and take time to think about what you have already read.

-Ask yourself a question about the text and try to answer it, or find the answer.

-Reflect in writing on what you have read.

-Visualize the text. Pictures help us to see what is going on even when the words are hard.

-Use print conventions. Key words, bold words, underlined, etc, are all used to draw our attention to certain parts of the text. Take note of the importance of these words and let them guide your thinking.

-Retell what you’ve read to someone. This helps the reader reflect and realize that they understood more than they think, usually.


-Notice patterns in the text structure.

-Adjust your reading rate.