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5 Reading Activities for 1st Grade Struggling Readers

I’ve got 5 reading activities for 1st Grade struggling readers to share with you today! These reading activities for 1st Grade will help students improve important 1st grade skills. These activities are different ways for young readers to become stronger readers throughout the school year. Read on to find out how your struggling 1st graders will benefit from these effective reading intervention strategies!

1st Grade Struggling Readers

dictation assessment

Let’s first identify some signs of 1st Grade struggling readers. These are your students who have a tough time with any of the Big 5 areas of literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. 

First graders often are decoding words with basic phonics patterns, as well as encoding those same phonics skills. A struggling reader may have a tough time identifying letter sounds in isolation, in simple words, and in longer texts. Decoding words in a fluent manner might be challenging as well as encoding where they’re breaking down the word to spell it. Actual reading of grade level text is often a struggle. Reading sight words or high frequency words with automaticity, responding to comprehension questions, and understanding vocabulary may all be areas of concern, as well.

Students may also be reluctant readers who do not have a love of reading. This can happen for younger students when they do not find reading to be a simple task. 

However, all of these areas are skills that can be worked on and improved in a fun way! It can be so difficult to see a child struggle with reading, but there are great ways to help students develop reading skills as they continue on their reading journey. Your daily lesson plans can include simple reading activities for your struggling first graders. 

Here are some different times of day that you can build in intervention time for your struggling readers:

  • small groups
  • literacy centers (giving them appropriate activities they can do without getting frustrated)
  • 1:1 with another adult who can provide extra support 

If you focus on helping readers at their reading level throughout the day in meaningful ways, you can help those struggling readers develop their early reading skills. From the beginning of the year all the way till they’re approaching second grade, you’ll be setting kids up for success by incorporating frequent development of their literacy skills. 

5 Reading Activities for 1st Grade Struggling Readers

reading activities for 1st grade

These 5 reading activities for 1st Grade focus specifically on first grade early literacy skills: decoding and encoding, high frequency word recognition, responding to texts with complete sentences, reading grade level appropriate vocabulary and texts. 

5 Reading Activities for 1st Grade

  1. Read aloud to them
  2. Word Mapping to help improve recognition of high frequency words. 
  3. Phonics Word work: breaking down words to individual sounds and building words from individual sounds
  4. Practice reading 10-20 mins a day
  5. Writing complete sentences in response to a text


Reading aloud to your students can be so beneficial. You are showing students a fluent reading model and also helping them understand how to think about a text as they read. Getting students to respond to comprehension questions about a read aloud is an important skill to focus on. They can then apply their understanding of a text when they’re reading on their own. Students will also have the opportunity to love reading as they listen to your excitement as you read aloud to them.

Word mapping is one way for students to break words down to their individual sounds. As students are working to improve their phonics skill word recognition, whether it’s a short vowels focus or more complex vowel sounds, for example, being able to break down high frequency words is super helpful.

Your word work time should be explicit when it comes to phonics patterns. You want readers to be good decoders and encoders. One of the most effective ways to help readers build decoding and encoding skills is simply spending a few minutes in small groups daily working on these skills. Students need practice putting sounds together to read a word and then doing the reverse of breaking down a word to spell it. This can be down with letter tiles, whiteboards, digital letter apps, etc.

Students need to practice reading on their own for at least 10-20 minutes each day. This can be done at school and additionally at home. The texts being read, whether they are reading passages, or actual books, should not be overly challenging for the reader. You can have students choose their text but also provide guidance for what makes a book a good fit for their independent practice. In small groups, you’ll want books that are slightly challenging where students can be reading at their ability level. This leaves room for improvement and a chance to try to apply their reading strategies, while you can guide them. Independent reading is also a great time to focus on improving reading fluency, as well as improving reading comprehension skills 

Writing sentences in response to a text is an essential skill for first graders. When students are focusing on learning how to read, we also want them to focus on reading to learn. Students can grow their writing skills by simply responding to texts in writing. They can begin with sentence starters where you provide part of the sentence and they just have to write the rest of the response. Next they can build up to writing a sentence in response to a text on their own, and then eventually writing multiple sentences to show their understanding. 

All these activities can be done in any setting: small group, literacy centers, independent work. It’s just a matter of providing students with reading materials at their reading ability levels!

3 Reading Resources for Struggling Readers

If you’re looking for reading resources to use with your struggling readers, I’ve got three fall themed resources that will help your students with 1st grade reading skills.

  • Fall Phonics Word Mats
    • The purpose of these activities is to help students focus on decoding and encoding as they develop their early literacy skills. Students can also focus on fluency as they complete the activities more than one time!
  • Fall I am a Reader Passages
    • I am a Reader! Passages and Activities are intended to build confidence in early and emergent readers. Students will not only enjoy reading the stories and completing the activities, but also will take pride in their abilities as growing readers! Reading grade level appropriate words, in context, is a huge benefit of using these passages. Students will also work on developing their comprehension skills when responding to the written questions.
  • Fall Phonics Games and Fluency Activities
    • The purpose of these activities is to help students focus on phonics and fluency as they develop their early literacy skills. Students will practice decoding in isolation and in context, as well as enjoy playing a review game.

More Reading Activities for 1st Grade

I have a blog post that will provide you with some games you can use as reading activities for 1st Grade: Must Have Phonics Games for 1st Graders

I’ve also got two free reading activities for 1st Grade students:

Try out these free Phonics Quick Check Assessments to help you determine which phonics patterns your first grade students already know and which ones they can improve. 

Then you can also try out my free I am a Reader Passages to boost reader confidence as they apply those phonics skills to decoding! 

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Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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