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How to fit interventions for struggling readers into your day

Setting up centers in your classroom enables you to work with small groups or individuals

Finding time to provide extra support for struggling readers in the classroom is just one challenge busy teachers face. Often, the authors of the new edition of Interventions for Reading Success hear teachers say, “If the other 17 students were not in the room, then I could really work with my students who are most at risk.”

This would be wonderful, of course, but it’s simply not realistic. The answer to providing effective supplemental instruction for struggling readers while keeping the whole class engaged lies in planning and time management.

Interventions for Reading Success, Second Edition

Interventions for Reading Success, Second Edition

This book includes hundreds of ready-to-teach activities for supplemental small-group reading instruction


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Sample Chapter

Here are some common questions the Interventions for Reading Success authors get from teachers. See if any of their pointers will work for you:

1. What do I do with other students while I’m working with my intervention group?

Setting up centers is an effective way of managing students’ independent work time.

  • Create permanent centers, such as listening, writing, computer, and library.
  • Create dynamic centers that will change from week to week. These might include a word-making center, a game center, and individual intervention kits for each student.
  • Adjust the dynamic centers weekly, so that the letters, words, and/or books change with students’ weekly progress and skill mastery.
  • Manage student traffic at each center by having students complete a check-off card at each one. Once students have checked off their name, they must choose a different center to visit.

At the end of the week, if they have visited all of the centers, students may receive a sticker or stamp.

2. How do I make transitions between intervention activities?

  • Have your students recite the words to a nursery rhyme while they walk to their next station. They need to be in their seats by the time they finish the rhyme.
  • Have your students move from one station to the next to familiar taped music. By the time the music stops, students need to be in their new seat.

3. How do I teach all students to work independently during intervention time?

  • Introduce all activities that students will be working on during the intervention period.
  • Ahead of time, tell your students the rules for how to get help if they get stuck.
  • Make it clear that students may not interrupt you while you work with an intervention group.
  • Use simulation. Have students rotate through the activity centers and pretend to work at completing a task so that they know what expectations are.
  • Reinforce on-task behavior when you see it.

4. How do I teach students to use each center?

  • Begin the week by introducing the students to the centers. Teach the rules of each center and the academic skills needed.
  • Model the use of the materials and then have individual students demonstrate how to do the activities and ask any unanswered questions.

How one teacher organized her day to fit in reading interventions

Monday: Listening center

The purpose of the listening center is for students to listen to audio books to hear models of fluent reading. Students must learn

  • how to use the equipment
  • how to find and put away the books and tapes
  • behavior rules
  • how to record what they have done each day on a simple checklist

Tuesday: Writing center

The writing center has all of the materials necessary for students to independently work with the writing process. Directions are posted, with an example of the step-by-step procedures for the writing process. Students must learn

  • how to use the materials that are clearly labeled in the center
  • behavior rules
  • how to use a writing folder
  • how to record what students have done each day on a simple checklist

Wednesday: Fluency center

The purpose of the fluency center is to practice fluency activities using words and materials posted throughout the room and in a specific place in the classroom. Students must learn

  • how to work with a partner in timing fluency exercises
  • how to record fluency scores on a fluency graph
  • how to use the word wall and/or sight word cards for fluency practice
  • how to record activities on a simple checklist

Thursday: Word games center

The word games center is stocked with word puzzles and games that allow the students to practice decoding concepts taught in class. Teachers might also include lists of decodable words to use in pairs with a timer. Students can work in pairs or individually. Teachers will need to demonstrate

  • how to play the games or do the puzzles
  • rules for playing games and maintaining order in the center
  • how to clean up materials
  • how to record activities on a simple checklist

5. How do I teach intervention when students are working at different levels?

Explore ways to differentiate instruction. For example: Partner two students reading at different levels in a reading fluency activity. Have them work at their own level, which will minimize behavior problems while prescribing the appropriate intervention work for each student. Reading is not a one-size-fits-all-model!

How one teacher introduced centers in her classroom


When students enter the classroom, Ms. Shaw begins the day with one of the fluency activities. This focuses the entire class on beginning the day with a quick intervention activity (e.g., One Minute, Please!; Echo Reading).

Before recess:

The time between the start of school and recess is typically spent in a reading block. Structured intervention is usually part of this time unless it is scheduled for after recess or after lunchtime.

After recess:

Ms. Shaw usually conducts her math lessons after recess. When students are working independently on their follow-up assignment, she pulls a student or two aside for 5-10 minutes and gives them extra help in reading intervention.

After lunch:

Students come in from lunch and have sustained silent reading for about 10 minutes. Ms. Shaw pulls a few more students to conduct 10 minutes of reading intervention at this time. She typically works with the students who have difficulty reading alone, focusing on needed early reading intervention activities.

End of day and after school:

While the homework monitors are distributing the day’s homework assignment and students are readying themselves to go home, Ms. Shaw pulls a few students aside to read words from the word wall. Ms. Shaw has said that any spare minute is filled with reading intervention activities. There are a few students who always have permission to stay after school. Ms. Shaw gets those students and works on 10 more minutes of reading intervention.

(Originally published: April 2014)