5 Scaffolding & Differentiating Strategies for Struggling Readers

Are you struggling with how to help your struggling readers? Research recommends a two-pronged approach to literacy instruction:
  1. Supply the appropriate support each student needs to become a proficient reader.
  2. Differentiate your teaching to address the needs of individual students.


Scaffolding + Differentiating = Reading Success!

Scaffolding Strategies

Scaffolding your instruction increases your students' comprehension of the information they will encounter in a text. Scaffolding enables students to access and understand a text that otherwise would be too difficult to understand.

Differentiated Instruction

Meeting your students where they are in the learning process makes it much easier to move them forward, by providing them with just the right level of support to keep them engaged in reading.

Scaffolding and differentiating are two very different things; however, when used together, will help you meet the needs of every student where they are and ensure their reading success.


5 Scaffolding & Differentiating Strategies for Your Struggling Readers

5 Scaffolding and Differentiating Strategies for Your Struggling Readers

1) Access Prior Knowledge

Relating the content in the lesson to their own personal experiences helps students connect the text to their own lives. Going one step further, differentiate by identifying how much each student understands about the content prior to teaching—unfamiliar; partly familiar; or fully familiar—and assign tasks based on that knowledge to ensure that the content is presented in a way each student can access it.

2) Pre-Teach Vocabulary

Identifying and defining new words, prior to using them in context, will keep students interested when they encounter a challenging text. Support struggling readers by offering them different ways to connect to the new vocabulary: drawing a picture to support the meaning, sorting the words into related groups, sounding out the words slowly, or predicting how the words will be used in the text.

3) Use Visual Aides

Often referred to as the "training wheels," visual aides such as graphic organizers, charts, graphs, and photographs support students until they have a firm grasp of the new information. Every student has a preferred learning style: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and verbal. Identifying your students' individual styles helps you to differentiate and enrich their learning experience.

4) Utilize Structured Talk Time

Incorporate time throughout the lesson for students to process the text verbally within their community of learners. Allowing students a few moments to turn and talk encourages them to verbally process and articulate their learning. Placing students into different groups in a flexible classroom environment, with various configurations and furniture that support group and individual work, is an effective differentiation instructional tool for all levels of learners.

5) Assess Understanding

Periodically stop and ask strategic questions, giving the class plenty of time to think about the answer. If every student absorbs the content in their own way, it stands to reason they will have a unique way of demonstrating what they have learned. Allowing them to choose the activity—writing a book report, creating a graphic organizer, giving an oral presentation, or building a diorama—empowers and motivates them.

For more information about scaffolding and differentiating in your classroom, download a complimentary Steps to Comprehension Teacher Guide Sampler!


NEW! Steps to Comprehension (Grades K–8)

Steps to Comprehension Meet the Needs of Students Reading 6–12 Months Below Basic Level

Steps to Comprehension features engaging leveled books supported by systematic and explicit instruction!

  • Accelerate learning with scaffolded instruction and easy-to-use strategies.
  • Offer differentiated reading comprehension instruction with fast-paced lessons and consistent routines.
  • Prepare below-level students to become strategic readers with engaging fiction and nonfiction books.
  • Provide multiple practice opportunities and assessment.

Learn more about this dynamic new program and how to reach your struggling readers!


If you need help with choosing materials for your struggling readers, contact your local rep, email us, or give us a call at 800-343-8204.

Complimentary Samplers!

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Steps to Comprehension

Bring Low-Achieving Readers to Grade-Level Proficiency

Steps to Comprehension Teacher Guide Sampler
Teacher Guide
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Differentiate and scaffold your instruction with explicit strategies for below-level students.

Big Books
Model specific strategies and clarify the understanding of comprehension skills.

Student Books
Engage and develop struggling readers with considerate, high-interest leveled fiction and nonfiction.

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Blackline Masters Books
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Practice and Assessment Worksheets for each Leveled Reader offer multiple practice opportunities.


Discovery Links Science

(Grades K–5)

Meet the Needs, Interests, and Skill Levels of Your Diverse Classroom

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