Reading is a difficult process. The brain must be doing several things at once in order to make sense out of the written word. Many things can go wrong when a student is learning to read. Kids who struggle with reading struggle with life. If there is just one skill you can spend time on to help a student succeed in school and life, it would be reading.
The biggest mistake most people make is to try to teach a student to read in the same method they were taught or by using traditional methods. Well, guess what? If these methods worked, then the student would be reading and reading well. So, to start with, please understand that different methods must be used to help a struggling reader. A combination of brain, visual, visual memory, auditory, and tactile decoding training is a method that works to help students learn to read, especially when traditional methods have failed.
To start with, use brain integration activities to help balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Phonics is a left brain activity, and many right brain dominant students have a terrible time learning to read with traditional phonics based methods. Also, students with reading problems should do vision and auditory exercises to strengthen these learning systems.
Now that the brain and learning systems are primed for optimal learning, the student needs decoding practice. Most poor readers look at the first syllable or two of a word and start sounding it out. However, for some reason, this is as far as they can get, and from there they start guessing. For instance, the word dignity may be read as digital by the student. This is not an accurate method to read and causes a lot of problems, especially with comprehension.
In order to remedy this situation, the student is to sound out a decoding unit that is in color, since the right side of the brain is attracted to color. The decoding unit is placed within a larger word. There is also a picture to represent the decoding unit, once again because the right side of the brain works in pictures. For example, the decoding unit ar would have a picture of a car for the picture. Then the student reads a list of words with the ar sound imbedded within them. The words might be far, dark, remark, etc. The ar would be in color while the rest of the word is in black. The student has a picture and a color to help remember the sound.
Next, the student reads nonsense words with the ar sound. These might be something like lar, smar, cark, etc. This time there is no color or picture. The student uses a highlighter to go over the sounds while reading the nonsense words. As the student moves the marker over the letters, he reads the sounds. Once again, the color activates the right side of the brain while the student is forced to stay on the sound that he is looking at. This prevents looking at the word as a whole and guessing. (Right brain dominant students look at the whole of something as well as pictures and colors.)
Another option used with great success is to have the student pull down a coin or tile at every sound read. This involves another tactile operation while reading and also forces the student to look at sounds as he reads instead of the whole word and a mental picture that might go with it, often one that is incorrect.
The next step is to dictate the real words the student learned and have the student write them down on paper or in a gooey substance. This not only helps with spelling, but it will give you a good idea if the student has mastered the decoding unit. You would call out the words far, dark, remark, etc. and have the student write them. If the decoding unit was learned, the student will recall the unit and spell it correctly.
If the student learns one decoding unit per day, it will only take about 15 minutes per day. There are more than 52 known decoding units that can be used. Kids who have struggled with reading are raising test scores and grades, usually within six weeks. This read, touch, and write method works when all other methods have failed.