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Helping Struggling Readers Using the 3-2-1 Reading Strategy

By Margo Dill

This instructional strategy, 3-2-1, can be used with struggling readers to help them comprehend what they are reading, especially nonfiction texts such as social studies and science textbooks. Students, who are reading below grade level, need strategies to help them retain information.

What is 3-2-1?

3-2-1 reading strategy is an easy instructional strategy to remember and use when helping struggling readers. Here's how it works:

· The "3" stands for three discoveries. Students write down three things they learned from reading the text. For example, if they are reading about worker honeybees, they may write down a list such as all workers are female; they are the ones who collect pollen, and they have different jobs in their lives such as nurse and guard.

· The "2" stands for interesting facts. Students should write down two things they found interesting, and they want to learn more about, or they think they may learn more about in the text they are reading. So, for honeybees, an example of the "2" might be: Why are all worker bees female? Why do they die when they sting something?

· The "1" in the 3-2-1 reading strategy stands for something they mastered. What is one fact or concept they will remember next week when asked about honeybees? This could be one of the same things they discovered during the "3" step. For example, once struggling readers learn all worker bees are female, they may remember this forever. This may be their mastered step.

This instructional strategy is useful for all students, but especially for helping struggling readers.

3-2-1 with Remedial Reading Students

The best thing to remember when helping struggling readers is that reading, especially social studies and science texts, is difficult for them. They often do not enjoy it and don't want more work added to their already large load. Therefore, when an instructional strategy, such as the 3-2-1 reading strategy, is presented to them, they may think: "I don't want to write down anything when I am finished reading." So, modify the strategy for them.

*Can they record their 3-2-1 reading strategy steps into an MP3 player or even old-fashioned tape recorder? Then they can listen to what they said before they continue reading and working with this reading strategy. Using audio recordings, such as audio books or even teachers or parents reading into a recorder, can also help struggling readers understand the text, so they can use the 3-2-1 strategy for further comprehension.

*Assign small sections of the text to do the 3-2-1 reading strategy with. Don't expect struggling readers (or students just learning the strategy) to read an entire chapter, and then write down three discoveries and so on.

*If you have a pull-out program for helping struggling readers, do the 3-2-1 strategy in your class. Let them use markers or chart paper to write down their discoveries, interesting facts, and the one mastered fact.

An instructional strategy should make learning easier for your students and not make them feel more stressed out or confused.