5 Clues Your Student May Need a Different Approach to Reading

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Do you have a student who just doesn’t seem to be progressing his reading ability? Or a student who speaks with beautiful vocabulary but then her writing looks far below her grade level?

First, I want to start off by saying this isn’t because of your teaching - you are a rockstar teacher. I know this because you are reading blogs about teaching! Here’s the bigger surprise, it’s not your student’s fault either. It’s likely that there is a disconnect between the curriculum being used in the classroom and your student’s learning style.

It’s also likely that you have more than one student in your classroom struggling to learn to read or write at a level you would expect from that child.

So how can you pinpoint and identify these struggling students? We have five tips to get you started on identifying these students immediately. Don’t forget to download or mini-assessment to get a really solid picture of which students you likely need to keep your eye on.

Signs to watch out for

  1. Your student rocks the spelling test (or they don’t and that’s a major clue in itself) and then doesn’t apply any of those spelling rules to his or her writing.

  2. When you read along with your student he or she may struggle with the actual words or will substitute words like mom for mother, the for a, of for from, and other little changes to the print in front of them. Often your struggling or at-risk readers CAN read but they are providing clues that they will struggle later on when they can’t memorize all the words and need a different approach.

  3. Your student reads slowly or is consistently repeating words, phrases, and/or entire sentences. When students rely solely on visual memory for reading and don’t have other strategies locked down you will likely see really labored reading. Difficulty with tracking, which impacts fluency, is a major clue that something’s not quite right.

  4. Your student memorizes sight word lists in isolation but seems to be unable to recognize those same words in sentences or passages.

  5. Your student frequently runs into a “tip of the tongue” phenomenon trying to describe around a concept because he or she just can’t think of the word he or she wants to say quickly. This lack of word finding ability is a big clue that your student may need a more structured and systematic approach to reading and writing.


If you are reading this with a particular student (or students!) in mind, they may be dealing with an underling learning disability. We designed this “Simple Screening Tool” to help you get a glimpse of your students reading abilities and better identify those of your students that are struggling.

Grab the Simple Screening Tool here.

If you have a student that is struggling, (and research tells us that your do! When 1 in 5 kids are dyslexic, chances are you have a few students in your classroom with dyslexia) it may be time to refer them for testing. Click here to read more.

Corey Pollard