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Easy Ways to Teaching Reading Comprehension Skills to Students with Special Needs

In all my years teaching in a self-contained special education classroom the reading curriculum offered to me was either a fluency program or an A-Z reading level. Both are great to help children learn HOW to read the words, but what about the comprehension skills that go along with reading fluently? In Ohio, we assess our students with a state test beginning in 3rd grade called the Alternative Assessment. The first year I gave this assessment my students had questions about the author’s purpose, theme, summarizing……like what??? I was using EDMARK and PCI, which are both amazing by the way, but that did not prepare my students for success on this assessment. I was bound and determined to make these skills accessible to all my students, even the non or limited readers. 

I knew that I needed a Reading Curriculum that did not just focus on the children reading independently, but on comprehending what was being read to them or reading on their own and applying the story to comprehension skills that are being taught in the general education setting. The only hang-up?? I couldn’t find ANYTHING that was appropriate for my classroom.  I designed a monthly reading curriculum that would do just this. The skills covered were taken directly from the Common Core State Standards, but were displayed in an accessible way to my students. I took the knowledge I learned from my first experience with Ohio’s Alternative Assessment, the Ohio Extended Standards, and my knowledge of my student’s way of learning (hello visuals!!!) and came up with a game changer in my classroom.

Each week is broken down into a five-day lesson plan
Day 1: Learn the vocabulary. This is broken down into three levels, pictures only, pictures and definition, and definition only. I also review the vocabulary every day before I begin each daily lesson. There is also a writing activity to use the vocabulary based on their skill level
Day 2: Learn the skill. This is where the students will practice the skill of the week. Some of the skills that are in the bundle are the main idea, character/setting/plot, making predictions, summarizing, and so many more. I know you may be thinking these skills are too much, but when you take away the stress of having to read the story and comprehend you can fully work on comprehension. Don’t get me wrong, I still work on fluency/sight words/reading basic sentences, and comprehending their meaning, but in order to expose our students to higher-level skills, we can take away stressors that can be hard for them (like decoding words) and this is when you will get the chance to do this!
Day 3: You will read one of three leveled stories (all on the same theme) to your students. I love this because they are all learning the same topic/characters/vocabulary but at their level! If the student is not a fluent reader, that is OKAY…you can read this to the student so they can focus on comprehension….. let me repeat this: You can read this to your student. This is a program to teach, practice, and assess comprehension, not fluency. PLEASE still work on fluency with other programs like PCI and EDMARK (my two favorites) or with FRY or Dloch words!
Day 4: You will take the skill and apply it to the story you read the day before. I like to reread the story with the student to keep the story fresh in their mind. Sometimes these skills are differentiated sometimes they are not it all depends on the skill and the need for pictures vs words.
Day 5: You will assess the student’s comprehension of the vocabulary, skill, and content. 

There are three ways to get this resource in your classroom
1. You can go ALL IN and purchase the yearly bundle (at a discount) by clicking here
2. You can purchase them monthly by clicking here
3. OR if you are still not sold you can join my mailing list and automatically get ONE FREE WEEK teaching your students Character and Setting by adding your e-mail into the popup on the blog! 

I legit poured my heart into this resource and it is something that I fully believe in and use when I am teaching students that are alternatively assessed. I hope you all find as much rigor out in this resource for your students as I do mine! 

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