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Supporting Struggling Learners

50 Instructional Moves for the Classroom Teacher

Loaded with practical tools and templates, Supporting Struggling Learners will help you implement effective instructional moves geared to what the student needs most in that moment. Make learning accessible for all students with 50 of Patty's tried and true solutions that can be applied across subjects and grades

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As teachers, how do you meet the needs of all your students while also meeting the demands of the curriculum?  With over two decades of experience in the classroom as a teacher, staff developer, and national consultant, Patty Vitale-Reilly has been there. And with Supporting Struggling Learners, she shares 50 of her tried and true solutions that make learning accessible for all students.

With these 50 instructional moves that can be applied across subjects and grades, Patty shows you how to make a positive impact on student thinking and learning. Loaded with practical tools and templates, including forms, checklists, questionnaires, and more, Supporting Struggling Learners provides strategies and structures to help you:

  • create a clutter-free classroom environment that welcomes and supports each and every student
  • harness the power of collaborative learning and small group instruction
  • scaffold writing across the day
  • utilize visuals in instruction and practice
  • develop students’ learning, communication, and study skills
  • establish home-school connections that help support students.

Make small changes in the classroom with moves geared to what the student needs most in that moment. Supporting Struggling Learners empowers you to implement effective instructional moves that make a big difference in your students’ learning and in their lives.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction xv

What You Will Find in This Book xvii

Why This Book for Classroom Teachers? xviii

Who Are Struggling Learners? xviii

Chapter 1

Create an Inclusive Culture Through Structures and Environment

#1 Make Your Room and Walls Clutter Free (K–8)

#2 Offer Multiple, Flexible Seating Arrangements (K–5)

#3 Present Information in Multiple Media (K–8)

#4 Allow Students to Show Understanding in Multiple Forms (K–8)

#5 Embrace the Power of Yet (K–8) 13


Chapter 2

Harness the Power of Collaborative Learning 16 

#6 Practice Collaborative Work in Centers (K–8) 17 

#7 Establish a Culture of Collaboration to Support Peer Learning (1–8) 20 

#8 The Power of Two: Use Partnerships (K–8) 23 

#9 Model Collaboration by Using a Fishbowl Technique (K–8) 26

#10 Scaffold Student Talk with Scripted Options (2–8) 28

#11 Introduce Student Work Plans (2–8) 30


Chapter 3

Use Visuals in Teaching and Learning 34

#12 Incorporate Virtual Field Trips (K–8) 35 

#13 Rethink Anchor Charts (K–8) 37

#14 Improve Retention with Sticky Note Prompts (1–8) 44 

#15 Offer Support with Formula, Cue, and Goal Cards (2–8) 46 

#16 Create Response Sheets (2–8) 49 


Chapter 4

Scaffold Instruction Through Pre-Teaching 51 

#17 Activate and Build Knowledge with an Updated KWL Chart (K–8) 52 

#18 Pre-Teach so Students Can Pre-Learn (2–8) 54 

#19 Incorporate Text Previewing and Introductions (K–8) 57 

#20 Hook Students Through Authentic Digital Resources and Experiences (K–8) 59 


Chapter 5

Incorporate Small-Group Instruction 63 

#21 Decide on the Most Responsive Form of Small-Group Instruction (K–8) 63 

#22 Implement Teaching Intensives (K–8) 72 

#23 Use Planners to Manage Instruction (K–8) 75 

#24 Make Small-Group Instruction Matter: Ask, What Is Getting in the Learner’s Way? (K–8) 79 

#25 Record Keeping That Is Simple, Succinct, and Specific (K–8) 84 


Chapter 6

Develop Learning and Study Skills 93 

#26 Teach the Concept of Time Management Through a Reading Record (1–8) 94 

#27 Provide Tools to Help Schedule and Manage Work and Projects (K–8) 96 

#28 Introduce and Cultivate Focus (K–8) 98 

#29 Develop Task Initiative (K–8) 100 

#30 Develop Expertise Through Review and Study Guides (3–8) 101 

#31 Explicitly Teach Study Strategies (1–8) 103 

#32 Develop Note-Taking Skills (3–8) 104 


Chapter 7

Teach Communication Skills 109 

#33 Develop Conversation Skills Through Whole-Class Conversations (2–8) 110 

#34 Support Auditory Understanding (K–8) 112 

#35 Teach Students to Self-Advocate (K–8) 114 

#36 Cultivate Presentation Skills (2–8) 115 

#37 Teach Nonverbal Communication (K–8) 117 


Chapter 8

Writing Instructional Moves That Help Students Across the Day 121 

#38 Model in a Variety of Ways (K–8) 122 

#39 Add Kinesthetic and Tactile Support for Writing (K–8) 123 

#40 Get Writing Started by Offering Choices (K–8) 124 

#41 Support Generating Ideas (K–8) 126 

#42 Get Words on the Page Through Freewriting (3–8) 129 

#43 Rehearse Writing to Plan, Organize, and Brainstorm (K–8) 130 

#44 Use What They Know to Revise (3–8) 133 

#45 Create Opportunities for Feedback (K–8) 137 

#46 Scaffold Through Paper Choice and Tools (K–2) 139 


Chapter 9

Home Support 143 

#47 Establish Communication Protocols and Communicate Often (K–8) 144 

#48 Make the Most Out of Back-to-School Nights (K–8) 146 

#49 Help Parents and Caregivers Understand Their Child as a Learner (K–8) 147 

#50 Help Parents Create Supportive Home Environments (K–8) 151 


Chapter 10

If . . . Then 153 

If You Need More Support 154 

If You Need to Progress-Monitor a Student 157 

If You Have a Co-Teacher or Teacher’s Aide 172 

Final Thoughts 179 

References 181 

In Depth

The classroom environment can either support or impede learners, so in Chapter 1, I propose small instructional moves that you can make to enable learners to access ideas and learning. I learned that peer support helps all learners, especially those who struggle. In Chapter 2 I tackle peer learning—learning centers and group projects—and suggest ways to use everyday structures to support our struggling learners.

Many students are visual learners, so in Chapter 3 I lay out simple ways to use visuals in instruction and practice for both teaching and learning. One of the ways I supported Stephen and other struggling learners was with pre- teaching. Pre-teaching can feel hard to implement. We wonder: When will I have time to pre-teach? How will I pre-teach? Whom will I pre-teach and why? In Chapter 4, I offer easy yet powerful pre-teaching strategies.

One of the most profound ways I have been able to support struggling learn- ers is through small-group instruction in reading, writing, math, and content areas. Chapter 5, which tackles small-group instruction, is chock full of samples of small- group instruction, classroom examples, and planners and other record-keeping tools. Building certain academic and life skills can benefit students who struggle, so I devoted Chapters 6 and 7 to study skills and communication skills, respectively.

Another place where we can implement instructional moves that have huge benefits is to support all students as writers. Writing is a discipline that stands alone, yet it travels with us across the day and across other disciplines. Providing students with specific writing strategies—planning, brainstorming, and organization—can help them be successful learners. Chapter 8 tackles writing across the day and includes effective strategies for our struggling students.

Chapter 9 embraces the idea that strong home-school connections support every learner. In this chapter I share my thinking around collaboration and communication as a wrap-around approach to supporting students who struggle.

Chapter 10 offers my final thoughts and suggestions organized in an If/Then structure. If a student needs more support; if you need to progress-monitor a student; if you have a co-teacher, specialist, or an instructional aide in your room with you; if your teaching is not sticking, then take a look at my go-to list of tried and true solutions, which include instructional approaches, accommodations, tools, and protocols.

— From the Introduction


Companion Resources

Supporting Struggling Learners Reading Engagement Checklist
Supporting Struggling Learners Speaking and Listening Checklist
Supporting Struggling Learners Writing Engagement Checklist

Related PD Services


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