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3 Instructional Learning Strategies for Problem Readers

Janelle Cox

As educators, we are always looking for new techniques to help our struggling readers. Our job is to find learning strategies that will not only help our students succeed, but that will make it easier for them to learn, and develop a love for reading. While on your quest to present the best learning strategies that will be optimally learnable for all students, try a few of the following activities in your classroom. These instructional techniques can be used with all reading levels and represent a variety of ways to encourage proficient reading.

Directed Listening-Thinking Activity

The Directed Listening-Thinking Activity (DLTA) is an instructional technique that was developed for students who have not yet mastered independent reading. Its format is used to develop students’ predictive listing and comprehension skills. Teachers use this learning strategy to help students establish a purpose for what they are reading. This technique involves pre-reading, during reading, and post- reading discussions where students will predict what will happen in the text, talk about what happened in the text, and discuss how they knew what happened in the text.


Before Reading

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  • Using the title of the book, the teacher asks students to predict what the story will be about. He/she may take the students through a quick book walk of the story.
  • To activate prior knowledge he/she may ask a few questions to try and make students connect real-world experiences to the text.

During Reading

  • As the teacher reads the text he/she asks students to talk about what has happened so far, and discuss previous predications that they have made. The teacher can model questions, such as “I wonder why the author said that …”
  • The teacher stops throughout the story to make or revise predications.

After Reading

  • After reading the text, the teacher and students discuss the whole book and talk about their predications, comments, and try and make real-world connections.

This technique is best for students who need to check for understanding, who need to practice active thinking strategies, and for passive readers who need help in making predictions.

Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy

The Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy (VSS) is a technique that is used to help students advance and stimulate their word knowledge. Students are put into small cooperative learning groups where they select words they would like to study, and discuss why these words are important to the topic of study. 


  • After reading, a teacher selects passage students are put into small cooperative learning groups.
  • Each group’s task is to find two words they would like to study further. While in their group, members discuss where they found the word in the passage, what it might mean, and why it’s important.
  • Next, students nominate one word and each word that is nominated gets written on the front board for all to see and discuss.
  • Then, the teacher leads a class discussion about the meaning of each word and why it was chosen.
  • When the list is complete, students then record them in their notebooks along with personalized definitions.

This technique is best for students who like to learn from their peers, as well as those who prefer to use his/her own personal interest to develop word meanings.

Imagery Instruction Technique

The Imagery Instruction Technique was developed to increase students’ active comprehension, and active their background knowledge about main ideas and characters in a story, and/or the key concepts in an expository text.


The teacher selects a text and identifies the important events, characters, or key concepts in the text.

  • The teacher writes a guided journey using these key terms. Here is an example of what the teacher may say prior to reading: “Close your eyes, and relax in your seat. Now listen to the noises in the room. Now turn the noises of this room into the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. Can you hear them? As you’re at the beach walk close to the water. Notice the boat in the water. Swim over to it. Now you are in the boat floating in the water. I am leaving you now, when you are finished with your journey open your eyes.”
  • Once students have completed their guided journeys they can discuss what happened with a partner.
  • Lastly, students read the text to compare what they experienced with the actual text.

This technique is best for students who are passive readers who do not use their prior knowledge or real-world connections to the text. It is also for students who are extremely imaginative and who like to use images to construct meaning.

These instructional techniques can be modified and used in different ways in order to engage students in literacy. In order to make these modifications, the teacher must observe and evaluate how the struggling reader(s) respond the strategy, as well as how he/she instructs the technique.

Do you use any of the above instructional techniques with your students? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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