Targeted and Purposeful Reading Practice - Part 1

Here is a question for you:

How does your student read? In supported practice? In partnership with you? Independently?

Did you know that your students should be engaged in reading instruction across all age and grade levels? Students should be spending time reading text they have easily mastered, text that practices their level of learning, and challenging text above their skill level. Research supports all three levels of reading practice!

When it comes to reading practice we know two critical maxims:

  1. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is called the Matthew Effect (based on a well-known quote from the gospel of Matthew), and it has been confirmed in research: students who read more become better readers, and students who read less do not grow their skills (and continue to fall behind). Struggling readers read less because their weak skills cause cognitive fatigue, and too often, other negative feelings.

  2. All texts are not created equal. We know that texts vary in their phonics and spelling demands, grammatical structure demands, vocabulary and content demands, and length, to name a few critical variables. Therefore, the types of text students read requires differing levels of skill, which impacts their reading ability over time. 

So let's talk about the various ways we educators must support our student's reading. (In Part 2, we will expand on teaching and practice using varying levels of text.)

Teaching - When we teach students a new reading skill, we teach concepts in these categories:

  • phonics & spelling patterns
  • grammatical structures
  • vocabulary & concept building
  • fluency practice
  • analysis & comprehension strategies 

Varied support - As educators, we support our student's reading based on their skill level for any given task. At Rooted in Language, we follow the teaching model: "I do it. We do it. You do it." Remember that the "we do it" phase can span days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. In general, different reading tasks and texts require these different levels of educator involvement:

  • Full support: The educator teaches a particular reading skill and helps the student successfully practice this new skill combined with their prior skills. In supported reading practice, the educator teaches strategies, and then helps the student successfully practice the new skill in reading. The focus is on acquiring and using good skills so that the student can gain independence over time.
  • Partnership: The educator uses this method to help the student become more fluent and automatic in their reading. Taking turns and partnering in a reading task helps the student increase attention and task vigilance. Turn-taking also helps the student successfully tackle more lengthy and interesting text, allowing them to experience success with more challenging contexts. Overall, partnership reading works to build confidence and extend the student's cognitive stamina over time.


  • Independence: The educator has the student read independently to build autonomy. Researchers define the independent reading level as text the student can read with an accuracy level of 95% or more. For English Language Learners, the accuracy level should be 97% or more. Download our Rooted in Language 5 Steps to Assess Your Student's Reading Skills to understand appropriate independent reading selections for your student. 

    Note for students who struggle: Have students read a portion of their independent text aloud at the start of any new reading selection. This will help you determine if the text is a good fit based on the student's reading accuracy. 

    Coming up next week, learn more about how you should vary your student's reading content in our blog: Targeted and Purposeful Reading Practice - Part 2.

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