Reading Potholes

Learning to read can be a difficult process for many children. If the issues persist through time they obstruct learning and they tend to grow like potholes. We as teachers can runover the issues over and over again without realizing their is a gap or pothole in student’s learning. As children get older their gaps or potholes get larger and start to interfere with reading comprehension, reading analysis, and the ability to apply the information to other areas.

The best that we can do as educators and parents is looking for the areas that are causing issues and filling those in potholes. We often see in middle school that students lack comprehension and fluency both keywords that signal there is a problem and it may be deeper than just reading too quickly. The underlining issues causing potholes in reading have to do with the foundational skills of reading. Phonics, concepts of print, structure of writing may be the core problems taking away older students from understanding their reading. Just think about comprehension, how can you understand the meaning of a word or sentence if you don’t know the letter sounds in a word in the sentence, so then you don’t know it’s meaning, now how can you understand the sentence. Let’s look at an example, The ckrt is lutgeryb and prtmbg for the dogs. What? Simple sight words and single letters making their short sound are easier for students to remember and decode. When special letter groupings come together or unfamiliar words are added to a sentence then struggling students may abandon trying to figure it out. Not only do they no recognize the spelling groupings, and words but they lack the tools needed to figure it out.

How can this happen? Life, schedules, moving around, learning English, illness high absenteeism, low literacy at home, little exposure to vocabulary, lack of intervention help, child’s level of self-confidence, matching level of intervention to student needs, and inconsistent support all can contribute to a student’s needing aid and getting stuck in larger reading potholes. These potholes can spread past reading and dig into other areas of literacy and self-confidence.

How do we remediate these issues:

Build self-confidence, reteach foundational skills, model, directly instruct, and build vocabulary with consistent support for students. Finding the areas of need and building upon those with teaching, practice and application in a systematic manner can help our older students fill in their reading potholes.

Think about your struggling students, think about areas where reading and writing match, like missing sound spelling pairs (phonics), endings, and so on. Find where those skills match using the above image. Determine if it is in the area of Phonemics or Decoding or Fluency or one of the other areas? Then give an assessment on that specific area to determine which are lacking and begin to fill in those gaps with targeted and explicit instruction.

Currently I work with some fifth graders that have needs in the decoding arena specifically vowel digraphs, r-controlled, and matching sounds to spelling. While the second grade students I work with are in need of phonological and phonemic help specifically rhyming, and with phonemes… identification/segmentation/blending/addition/deletion/substitution. Once the area(s) are determined then the work can begin. If you give all students a variety of reteaching you may hit upon the correct needs but you may not as well. Find the specific areas for each student and build targeted intervention to fill in those literacy potholes.


When Older Students Can’t Read by Louisa Moats (2002)

OUSD (Accessed 2020),

Published by Curve Your Learning

Hi everyone, thank you for visiting! I'm Liz and the creator of Curve Your Learning and The Reading Curve. I created resources and drive teachers, coaches, and parents to increase student learning success. I have been in education for 17 years, have a multiple subject credential, M.S., a literacy certificate, and am working towards my Ed.D. At home, I am a boymom and wife of 16 years who loves to glamping, paddleboard, and have fun!

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