Differentiated Instruction: Reluctant and Striving Readers

Strategies and tips for using Storia to engage the reluctant and struggling readers in your classroom

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Storia will engage the reluctant and struggling readers in your classroom. These readers have diverse learning needs, and there is no “one size fits all” strategy for working with them.

It helps to adopt a trial-and-error approach when working with reluctant and striving readers, to keep careful records of what works and what doesn’t work, and to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. 

Patience, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor all help when working with students who do not yet see themselves as readers.


Who Are Reluctant and Striving Readers?

  • Reluctant and striving readers are usually classified as students reading at least a grade or two below grade level.
  • While striving readers are the entire group of students reading below grade level, reluctant readers are those who, for a variety of reasons, do not like to read, do not like to expose themselves as readers, and have a hard time finding books they want to read.
  • These students may or may not receive special education services. Readers who are below grade level and do not receive intervention services still require special attention in reading instruction.
  • These students have the tendency to be self-conscious about their reading capabilities. They generally find reading to be demanding.

Teacher Chat
“My reluctant readers need more time reading than the other students in my class. Thank goodness my students see reading with Storia as a reward. It means that I can make “Reading with Storia” a privilege activity.  Of course, I stack the decks a bit to make sure these readers win plenty of Storia time. They always feel special to win this prize -- and I’m thrilled that they are reading.”


Using Storia to Teach and Motivate Reluctant and Striving Readers


Strategy 1:  Model Fluent Reading

Fluency is a fundamental part of the reading process for all students.  It is the ability to read a text accurately and at a natural rate. Fluency improves with repeated practice and constructive feedback. 

There is a link between word recognition and comprehension: The more automatic the word recognition, the more the reader can focus on comprehending the text. So the more fluent your young readers become, the greater focus they’ll be able to place on reading for meaning -- and enjoyment.

Model Fluent Reading: Step-by-Step How-to
  1. Project your read-to-me e-book onto your interactive whiteboard so it’s clearly visible for all of your students.
  2. Model fluency by reading a few lines of the text aloud, being sure to read smoothly, at a steady pace, and adhering to punctuation pauses.  You can emphasize specific text lines with the Storia highlighter to help your students focus on that text.
  3. Invite students to read with you as a shared reading activity. Your steady reading voice serves as a guide for your students as they read along with you.
  4. Send groups of learners off to practice fluent reading together.  You should monitor and listen in on each group’s successes, providing additional guidance and instruction when necessary.

Strategy 2:  Listen to, Read Along With, and Read by Oneself

Provide your students with models of fluent reading that they can interact with in several ways. Through these strategies, reluctant readers are exposed to models of reading fluency and gradually progress to more and more reading independence as they develop their skills and confidence.


Listen to, Read Along With, and Read by Oneself: Step-by-Step How-to
  1. Listen to enriched Storia books that have the read-to-me audio feature.  Your students who are still working on acquiring language skills will benefit from listening to the story and visually observing each word being highlighted as it’s read to them. By interacting with these sound symbol correlations, your reluctant readers are putting together the words, sounds, and meaning, as well as the picture cues provided by the e-book's illustrations.  Students listen three to four times to hear the repetition of sounds as they track the print. 
  2. Read along with the e-book's read-to-me feature to practice reading fluency. After gaining confidence by hearing the text as it is read, they can begin to read on their own.
  3. Reading with a partner gives students a chance to become the stars of their own audio e-books.  After each partner reads, the other partner should provide constructive feedback.  Then the student should reread again, trying to incorporate the suggested improvements. You may need to remind students about the best ways to give and receive constructive feedback.  

Teacher Tip
Remind students, or give a short mini-lesson, on what constructive feedback looks and sounds like, so each reader is truly giving and receiving ideas that help them grow and develop as readers.

Using Storia to Teach and Motivate Striving Readers Who Have Weak Comprehension Skills

Strategy 1:  Stop, Think, and Summarize

On many occasions, reluctant readers will continue reading even if they don’t understand the meaning of the text.  Since you can’t monitor every student every minute they read, it’s vital to teach your students how to self-monitor and self-correct. This not only will keep them from wasting their time, but it also will enable them to feel they can achieve success as readers. 

Stop, Think, and Summarize: Step-by-Step How-to
  1. Have students choose a “just right” e-book and then assign the books to their personal bookshelves.
  2. Have them read one paragraph and stop.
  3. Instruct your students to think about what that paragraph was about.
  4. Encourage your students to jot down, using the Storia notes tool, a one sentence summary of what the paragraph was mainly about.
  5. Have them repeat this technique as they continue reading, gradually increasing the length of the passages they read and decreasing the “jotting” component as their comprehension strengthens. The eventual goal is for your students to self-monitor their own comprehension as they read.
  6. Later, go back and monitor your students’ reading comprehension by reviewing their Storia notes.

Strategy 2:  Dialogue Journals and Reading Response Letters

Dialogue journals, also known as reading response letters, provide an intimate way for students and teachers to write journal entries and letters to one another in order to capture students’ thinking as they reflect on their e-reading. 

This instructional strategy builds a stronger reading and writing foundation for striving readers as the dialogue with their teacher encouraging students to evaluate their thoughts, ideas, and reading strategies. 

Dialogue Journal and Reading Response Letters: Step-by-Step How-to

Start by introducing dialogue journals or reading response letters to your students by displaying one or two student-written letters.

Explain the purpose of teacher-student dialoguing:  It will encourage readers to think and reflect upon their writing and allow teachers to further a student's thinking by asking questions and giving suggestions.

Ask your students to write their letters to you. Suggest that they use the Storia notes tool and highlighter to record ideas or confusing parts of the text, so they are ready when it’s time to write.

After reading your students’ letters, you must decide how you will further their thinking and use of reading strategies. Start by asking students to clarify their thoughts or probe deeper into a character.  You want to continue to add more purposeful elements for them to focus on as you continue to exchange letters.

Identify and acknowledge the students’ progress as readers, writers, and thinkers throughout the letter writing activity. 

Downloadable e-reading resources: For an example of a reading response letter, download the E-Reading Response Letter and Sample (PDF).


Classroom Tips for Teaching Striving Readers With Storia


  • Invest the time to help these students carefully select their independent reading books based on their reading level and interests.  By setting up individual Storia bookshelves for your striving readers, your students can choose books at their “just right” level without worrying that their classmates will see them reading books that seem too easy.
  • Setting up individual bookshelves for your striving readers will also enable you to monitor their reading more carefully. By checking their personal bookshelves, you can help guide their book selections (making sure they are not choosing books at too difficult a reading level), and you can also use the Storia Reports to monitor their reading progress.
  • Striving readers benefit from explicitly building background before they begin to read a new book. You may want to use the Storia enrichment activities to provide extra information about the book. The video enrichment, for example, is a great feature for building background and is available in many e-books.
  • Introduce new vocabulary up front and practice those new words with these students. Help them access and use the Storia dictionary. First, guide them in trying to figure out word meaning by context. If they cannot get the meaning of a word through context clues, they can tap the word to see the dictionary definition and hear the word pronounced. They can also use the Storia dictionary to check their understanding of a new word. Use the Word Meaning Web Vocabulary Organizer (PDF)  to help students make connections to newly acquired language. Certain enrichment activities, such as "Word Match," are good vocabulary builders.
  •  You may want to turn off the enriched content so these students can focus solely on the text. While the Storia enrichment activities can offer exciting information about a book, they may also serve as a distraction to your reluctant readers, making it harder for them to stick with the storyline once they begin to read. You can turn off the enrichment activities for a book by going to the Settings tab of the bookshelf to which the book is assigned. Or help these students set guidelines for using the enrichments.
  • Use visual aids, tangible objects, charts, diagrams, and graphic organizers to help your students organize all of this information and make it more accessible to them.  The Storia tools, as well as the graphic organizers, will help get you started. 

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