Reading Intervention Resources

I’m halfway through my second year of providing intervention services on a pullout basis to struggling readers.  I thought I would share the materials I’m using with my students to increase comprehension in the hopes that this might help someone else and that you might have additional resources you might recommend.

About My Intervention

As my students are scoring below basic and far below basic on California CST (standardized tests in our state) and are scoring intensive on state-written Open Court assessments, I use only supplementary materials with them i.e. not their core language arts program, Open Court.  This is considered Tier Two Intervention in the Response to Intervention model.

I see groups of 2-12 students for periods of 20-60 minutes.


To address fluency needs there are tons of programs I have found useful.  I use a combination of Explode the Code, Phonics for Reading, and Rewards for students depending on their grade level.


I have tried reading authentic literature with struggling students and practicing using reading strategies.  I think I helped students gain confidence in reading and develop oral comprehension ability.  However, for the most part what they gained did not translate to increased test scores.

Many of my students are able to answer oral questions about text they read and yet will answer every question wrong on a multiple choice test.  I’m trying a mix of high and low level thinking.  My students need practice reading questions and choosing the best answer but they also need to be able to think outside of the box and being to problem solve.

I had been using the Steck-Vaughn Reading Comprehension Skills Series and really appreciated that the stories were engaging and that the accompanying questions not only addressed simple recall but also got to higher level thinking like inference and drawing conclusions.  Unfortunately, in the limited time I have with students I am finding that it’s a bit unruly to work through this series and manage all the paperwork and correcting necessary.  Each story, including questions, take up about five or six pages.

So…plan b.  I’m now using free printable comprehension passages from English for These are just one page and come with answer sheet.  And did I mention they’re free?  These do not get to higher level thinking but they do get to higher level test taking with several options of “all of the above” or “both a & c” that force students to read carefully.  I do one page with students and then have them do one page without me that we then correct.

For higher level thinking I’m using Mind Benders which are logic puzzles that get progressively harder.  You have to start with the lowest level even if you have upper grades students and then work  your way up.  Most students are not used to thinking in this way but once they start to grasp deductive reasoning I am hoping this increases their ability to infer and teachers them to think more critically about what they’re reading and remember to clarify misunderstandings.  (See some examples of logic puzzles here and a harder one here).

So there you have it, my mix of higher and lower level thinking.  I’ll let you know how it’s going a month from now.  Please let me know how you’re increasing comprehension in your classrooms in the comments below.

5 Responses to “Reading Intervention Resources”

  1. Tweets that mention Creating Lifelong Learners » Blog Archive » More Comprehension Resources -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mathew Needleman, Angela Cristiani. Angela Cristiani said: More Comprehension Resources #Around_The_Web #education_bloggers #education_blogging #union […]

  2. Bailey Says:

    In MA we have access to previous test questions. I found they were great resources for teaching kids how to read the passages and decode the questions. We would practice reading the questions before reading the passage to increase comprehension. We would work on recognizing key words in the questions so they would understand what the questions were asking them as our tests often have several “possible” answers if you do not read the question correctly. While I resisted teaching to the test, I found that I could teach both test taking skills and reading comprehension skills that the students required.

    One of the great beni’s was the questions were free, they reflected material the kids would see again, and scores improved.

  3. Mathew Says:

    Thank you for the reminder. We use California release questions as well.

  4. Robert Says:

    Dear Mr. Needleman
    Three years ago I was asked by my principal to move from 5th grade down to our 2nd grade team. Reluctantly I agreed to move grade levels and help improve the teamwork of our second grade. I was very impressed and grateful to find your resources to help me adapt to my new grade level. After reading your latest entry, I was moved to respond, hopefully in a heartfelt way (brother I feel your pain!). Our school is Reading First School in the Long Beach School District. Our API score was in the 600 range, recently we have been awarded as a Star School with an API score of over 800. Unfortunately with budget cuts, layoffs and transfers I don’t see those scores being sustained. However, we are all doing our best. Because of a loss of 40% of our staff this year we were able to keep our 20 to 1 student teacher ratio. I have 21 students this year, next year I fear it will be closer 25 or 30, like other schools in our district. We were chosen to receive 20 lap top computers four years ago, unfortunately our tech support and repair cost were not included with that grant, tech support budget was cut and they are overwhelmed with request for service. Somedays internet works better than others.

    With that I offer the following and hope that it benefits and helps you and others. What seems to be helping my class as a whole is readers’ theater and poetry, Open Court Intervention booklet has fluency pages where the number of words per passage are numbered. Students do multiple reads and then a partner read and then we have a class discussion using accountability sticks (students names on popsicle sticks). Ed Helper sheets below and above grade level, class read and then individual multiple reads. As you know students in second grade are willing to read the same passage over and over again. This helps both fluency and comprehension.
    For cold reads I am using Weekly Readers and Scholastic News. As a grade level we are creating comprehension questions for these passages using second grade stem questions, ie. Another good title for this story would be……
    Luckily I have some grade level readers, therefore I have some models for the other students to see what they should be doing.
    Isn’t it unfortunate that many lower readers seem to be the ones that lack focus and are difficult to motivate. The opportunity to use computers and get on or Scholastic interactive activities for second graders, both are free and Long Beach School District has a program called Lexis which actually individualizes the help that each student receives from the program.

    Mr. Needleman, our grade level has enjoyed and greatly benefited from your open court videos and resources. We always use your Look Again Unit resources. Our school actually looks like the one in your video. We are currently examining how we can better serve our students with word analysis. The Open Court language handbook is a good resource and we are finding there is a need to cycle over and over again with mini lessons on words sounds and meaning. Our test scores are up to past years, but as you know it is more than just test scores.

    We are looking for a magic wand to waive over the children that will help them improve their fluency, comprehension and most importantly joy for reading. If you find such a wand please let me know were we might able to purchase more.

    I have many first grade readers in my second grade classroom that stay after school to work in the computer lab. Starfall and the school districts’ program seem to work the best and keep the children motivated and excited.

    If you give me an address I would be happy to send you some of the resources that we are currently using. Since moving from 5th grade to 2nd grade three years ago, I have been extremely impressed and grateful for all of your resources.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    Robert Faris
    second grade teacher Lafayette Elementary School

  5. Erin Holton Says:

    Hello! My name is Erin Holton and I am an Elementary Education major at the University of South Alabama. I am in an education class called micro-computing systems, or EDM310, that covers ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. As a future teacher, I admire that you post to your blog your struggles and successes with your students. It’s encouraging to see that their our teachers out there willing to share their expertise through technology. In your recent post, you brought up several methods you are currently trying that are helping, such as Mind Benders and I had never heard of either of these but after researching them online they are definitely tools I will keep in mind for my class. It must be very difficult for you to only be able to have small amount of time with each student, and I hope your “plan B” is successful for you in helping to raise your students test scores.
    I will be summarizing your blog with a post to my blog, on 1/30. You can also view what my class is doing on our class blog at Thanks again for the advise!

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