Scaffolding and Comprehension for Struggling Readers


readingtokids.jpg Langer and Close (2001) described the developing ideas that go on in our minds as we read, write, speak, or think as envisionments. Within this description, they included hunches, images, confusions, ideas, connections, disagreements, and questions, among others. These envisionments aid the reader in developing an idea of what the piece and topic is about. Proficient readers recognize that these developing ideas change as the reader encounters more ideas or share their thinking with others. They understand that meaning, too, may change with each new hunch or connection.

According to Langer and Close (2001), the hunches, images and ideas, and the envisionments of struggling readers are thinly developed and easily shattered, because these less proficient readers do not have or do not use prior knowledge or experience. These readers often do not look for associations with what has been previously read. They do not recognize, as they read, that each new hunch may change meaning. They treat their growing envisionments as collections of individual ideas rather than connections to the whole piece. However, when struggling readers participate in thoughtful literary discussions, they do act like their more proficient peers. They learn to talk about their reading and share their thinking during reading ideas.

Scaffolding is a temporary structure that supports (a reader) for a particular task that could not be performed otherwise. When a teacher designs instruction to provide enough support to ensure successful reading, this is scaffolding. Scaffolding techniques provide opportunities and activities to support and guide the struggling reader. Explicit instruction in scaffolding activities guides students in recognizing developing ideas and making connections as they read.

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Be sure to view this presentation on Building Comprehension in Struggling ReadersPDF [PDF: 55 pages / 176k]

Essential Reading Strategies for the Struggling ReaderPDF [PDF] This downloadable booklet provides research-based strategies to improve fluency, phonological awareness, comprehension, word analysis and spelling through the Accelerated Reader Program.

Read this synthesis of research about how participating in classroom dialogue helps struggling readers.







Scaffolding Examples


Examples of Scaffolding Exercises

Strategy 1:

Buddy or paired reading
  • Students read aloud to each other
  • Reader 1 reads aloud to Reader 2, who then reads the same passage aloud to Reader 1
  • At the end of this assigned reading they stop and share thoughts and question
  • This procedure continues until the assigned passage is complete.


Strategy 2:

Coding the text

  • Students mark the text as they read.
  • Readers mark the text (in pencil) when they have questions or aha points which will lead to discussion of ideas. Examples are:


I have a question about this part.


I know this.


I didn't know this. Now I do.


Strategy 3:

Journal writing

  • Students record thoughts and quick insights, a variation on note taking, while reading. The writings respond to preselected prompts:

"This makes me think of..."

"I would have done this..."

"This is important/interesting because..."


Strategy 4:

Quick writes

  • At crucial points in the narrative or at the end of a section or reading, student do a quick write (they write about what they read usually for three (3) minutes) in a notebook or on a card or sticky note or do a quick draw. This will help students focus.


Strategy 5:

Encourage talking

  • Students listen to and respond to others' ideas.

"Does anyone agree or disagree with _____ statement?


Strategy 6:

Provide opportunities for multiple formats of response.

  • Role Playing
  • Think alouds
  • Dramatizations
  • Art presentations


Strategy 7:

Provide copies of standard guiding questions

  • On bookmarks
  • As sticky note reminders