Teaching Strategies in Reading for Elementary Students: What Really Works

Reading is an essential skill that plays a crucial role in the academic and personal development of elementary students. The ability to read fluently and comprehend texts is crucial to success in school and beyond. However, not all students learn to read with the same ease, and teachers need effective strategies to support struggling readers. This article explores the most effective teaching strategies in reading for elementary students.

The Importance of Early Literacy

Research shows that children who learn to read by the end of third grade are more likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school than those who do not. Early literacy also supports the development of critical thinking, communication, and social-emotional skills. Therefore, it is crucial to provide effective reading instruction in the early years of elementary school.

Phonics Instruction

Phonics instruction is a systematic approach to teaching reading that focuses on the relationship between sounds and letters. Phonics instruction helps students learn to decode words, which is critical for reading fluency. Research has consistently shown that phonics instruction is effective in improving reading skills, especially for struggling readers.

Guided Reading

Guided reading is an instructional approach where the teacher works with small groups of students who are reading at a similar level. The teacher provides guidance and support as the students read and help them develop reading strategies, such as predicting, questioning, and summarizing. Guided reading allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of individual students, while also providing opportunities for social interaction and discussion.

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to students is an effective way to build vocabulary, comprehension, and a love of reading. Reading aloud exposes students to a variety of texts, including those that are above their reading level, and models fluent reading. Research shows that reading aloud to students is associated with improved reading comprehension, motivation, and language development.

Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary instruction is critical to reading comprehension, as students need to understand the meanings of words to comprehend what they are reading. Effective vocabulary instruction includes explicit instruction of word meanings, opportunities for students to use and apply new vocabulary, and exposure to rich and varied texts.

Technology-Enhanced Reading Instruction

Technology-enhanced reading instruction includes the use of computer programs, apps, and online resources to support reading instruction. Technology can provide students with immediate feedback, personalized instruction, and engaging activities that can increase motivation and engagement. Research has shown that technology-enhanced reading instruction can improve reading skills, especially for struggling readers.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction involves tailoring instruction to meet the needs of individual students. This approach allows teachers to provide instruction at a student’s level and to provide support to struggling readers. Differentiated instruction can be done through small-group instruction, using leveled texts, and providing individualized support.

Writing About Reading

Writing about reading is a strategy that involves asking students to write about what they have read. This strategy helps students to develop critical thinking and comprehension skills, and also to communicate their understanding of the text. Writing about reading can be done through journaling, response logs, or structured writing prompts.

Explicit Instruction

Explicit instruction involves teaching a skill or strategy directly, through modeling and guided practice. This approach is particularly effective for teaching phonics and vocabulary skills, as well as reading comprehension strategies. Explicit instruction should be followed by opportunities for independent practice, feedback, and reinforcement.

Assessment and Progress Monitoring

Assessment and progress monitoring are critical components of effective reading instruction. Teachers should use ongoing assessments to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, inform instruction, and monitor progress over time. Assessment can include measures of fluency, comprehension, phonics, and vocabulary skills.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally responsive teaching involves recognizing and addressing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of students. Teachers can use culturally responsive teaching to help students make connections between their own experiences and the texts they read. This approach can also help to increase students’ motivation and engagement in reading.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning involves students working together in small groups to achieve a common goal. Collaborative learning can support reading instruction by providing opportunities for students to discuss and analyze texts, ask questions, and share their understanding. This approach can also help to develop social-emotional skills and foster a sense of community in the classroom.

Classroom Libraries

Classroom libraries provide students with access to a variety of books and other reading materials. Classroom libraries should be diverse, including books that represent a variety of cultures, languages, and experiences. Classroom libraries can support independent reading, provide opportunities for students to self-select texts, and foster a love of reading.

Family Involvement

Family involvement in reading instruction can support student learning and motivation. Teachers can involve families by providing resources and strategies for reading at home, inviting families to classroom events, and communicating regularly about student progress. Family involvement can also help to create a positive reading culture at home and at school.

Professional Development

Effective reading instruction requires ongoing professional development for teachers. Professional development can include training on evidence-based reading strategies, updates on current research, and opportunities for collaboration with other teachers. Professional development can also help teachers to stay informed about new technologies and teaching resources that can support reading instruction.

Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to identifying and supporting struggling readers. RTI involves the early identification of students who are at risk of reading difficulties, followed by targeted interventions to support their learning. RTI also involves ongoing progress monitoring to determine the effectiveness of interventions and to make adjustments as needed.

Positive Reading Culture

Creating a positive reading culture in the classroom and school can support students’ motivation and engagement in reading. Teachers can create a positive reading culture by celebrating reading achievements, providing opportunities for students to share their reading experiences, and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. A positive reading culture can also foster a love of reading that lasts beyond the elementary school years.


In conclusion, effective reading instruction for elementary students should include a combination of evidence-based strategies that are tailored to meet the needs of individual students. Phonics instruction, guided reading, reading aloud, vocabulary instruction, technology-enhanced instruction, differentiated instruction, writing about reading, explicit instruction, ongoing assessment, culturally responsive teaching, collaborative learning, classroom libraries, family involvement, professional development, response to intervention, a positive reading culture are all important components of effective reading instruction.

Teachers should also strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that supports student learning, motivation, and engagement. By providing high-quality reading instruction and a positive reading culture, teachers can help all students become successful readers and lifelong learners. Effective reading instruction in elementary school can set the foundation for academic success and support students’ personal and social-emotional development.

Can't Find What You'RE Looking For?

We are here to help - please use the search box below.

Leave a Comment