Sunday, October 4, 2020

Supporting Your Struggling Readers- The What, Why and How of Reading Fluency

Everyone who knows about teaching reading knows about The Big Five - Comprehension, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Vocabulary. These five components are critical for effective reading instruction. One of The Big Five, fluency, is sometimes misunderstood as being less important than the other four, and perhaps even merely aesthetic. Not true! Let’s dig into the concept of fluency and learn more about its critical role in the comprehension process.

Last week, I shared with you how to dive deeper to determine a specific intervention focus for a student that may be struggling to comprehend. You can check that post out here.

Today we will be focusing specifically on Reading Fluency. 

What Exactly IS Reading Fluency?

The chart below shows the elements of Reading Fluency. All of these elements combined are what makes a reader fluent. It is important to remember that fluent reading is NOT fast reading.
Le'ts take a deeper dive into each of these components.

ACCURACY- this is the ability for students to read words correctly. Without accuracy, the reader will not have access to the author's intended meaning. If a student is reading with an accuracy rate below 90% this means that the text is at the student's frustration level.

AUTOMATICITY- is quick, effortless, and accurate word recognition.

RATE- refers to how quickly and automatically one reads connected text. Slow laborious reading of the text taxes the reader's capacity to construct ongoing meaning of the text.

PROSODY- is when a student can read with expression (pitch, tone, volume, emphasis). Poor prosody can lead to an inappropriate grouping of words or applications of expressions.

Children can gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic, engage in repeated oral reading, and engage in modeled fluent reading.

Why is Fluency Important?

The brain only has so much energy. Like a frazzled classroom teacher or an overwhelmed mother, it will try to do everything but won’t end up doing it very well.

Take reading, for example. The reader opens the book, says the word in his brain, and BOOM - understands the text - right? Not quite.

For an early or struggling reader, things are not so simple. The struggling reader must first when looking at the words on the page, figure out each sound. This is called decoding. 

When the brain puts all its energy towards decoding words, it doesn’t have much energy left to work on the natural phrasing and expression which are part of fluency. All of that decoding energy also means the reader isn’t looking for connections with his or her background knowledge.

‘Who cares about phrasing?’ one might ask. Well, it turns out your brain cares about phrasing, and cannot efficiently construct meaning without it. Further, if you think making text connections is ‘no big deal’, you’re missing the boat! Comprehension is the whole point of reading. Anything that detracts from comprehension must be addressed and fixed.

How do I implement a Fluency Intervention?

Now that you understand the what and why of fluency, I'm going to share with you a simple fluency intervention that you can most likely implement tomorrow!

The Critical Elements of Fluency Instruction:
1. Explicit modeling of fluent reading.
2. Repeated reading
3. Corrective Feedback.
4. Performance Criteria

If you plan to deliver daily fluency interventions such as the one I am going to outline below, I suggest using a passage that is at the child's instructional level. 

Below is a general daily fluency schedule that you could follow for your fluency intervention. The main objective is to model fluent reading for your students and allow them multiple practice opportunities while receiving immediate corrective feedback. 

By the end of the week, the goal for your student is to have a 30% rate increase from their cold read. Utilizing a graph is a great visual representation for your students to see and celebrate their growth and progress. 

Another fun idea is to utilize Fligrid. for your students to record their cold and hot reads. I have students watch their cold read and self assess what they need to focus on for the week. By the end of the week, the students can tell a difference in their reading and are very proud of themselves! What's nice about this is that it becomes almost like a digital portfolio. You can truly see the growth of each child from the very start of administering these interventions to the very end. 

If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!!

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Deep Dive into The Big Five: How to Determine Reading Interventions

Last week, I shared with you all about The Big Five. Today we will take a deeper dive into WHY knowing and understanding The Big 5 is important in supporting your struggling readers.

Let's pretend that Henry is in the 3rd grade and he is struggling with reading comprehension. This might be your focus for intervention and small groups, right??

We need to take a deeper dive into WHY he is struggling with comprehension. Knowing about The Big Five will help you to determine specific interventions that your students may need.  Let's take a look at this example:

These are prompts we typically use with our students right? Can YOU tell me about what you just read? For many of our students, this is what the text is like when they are reading! It could be either due to the fact that they are unable to decode the word or possibly that they simply just don't know what the word means. Both of these issues lead to a breakdown in understanding. 

We need to refer back to The Big Five and think of it as a Hierarchy of Reading Skills. 

The reason why Henry is struggling with Comprehension is likely due to several different factors. For 3rd graders, their beginning of year oral reading fluency assessments can provide a lot of information. If your student's reading rate is way below grade-level expectations and/or their accuracy rate is low, it is highly likely that your student is struggling to decode the text. They are reading slowly (and with many errors) because they are spending most of their cognitive energy trying to figure out what each word is. Since their brain is focused on this, they are unable to comprehend the text. 

Analyzing the errors also helps you to determine what the student needs. Perhaps the student is unable to read-only multi-syllabic words. This tells you that your intervention will need to focus on decoding multi-syllabic words. 

Taking a step back to analyze each component of The Big Five is necessary for truly targeting your students' intervention needs. Continue to move one step back along the hierarchy to determine a starting point for interventions. 

I hope that this post was helpful to you! If you have any questions, I'd love to answer them for you! Send me a DM over on Instagram or Facebook!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Big Five: Essential to Supporting Your Struggling Readers

Back when Response to Intervention (RTI) was a new buzzword in Education and our staff was getting initial PD on what RTI is and what we would be expected to do, I vividly remember asking “will there be training provided for HOW to deliver these research-based intervention strategies?” Not sure about your college program, but I was not trained to teach kids how to read. I taught myself strategies to get by to support my 3rd graders with what they needed to become successful readers. I once had a student that moved from another country and spoke very little English. I found myself spending hours on the internet trying to learn how to teach someone their letters, letter sounds, and how to blend. 

Fast forward a few years - I am in a different role as an instructional coach. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend many amazing PDs on reading. I’m happy to say that since that distant memory, our staff has been trained and now have tools in their belts to support struggling readers. Despite this,  I’m sure that there are many educators out there who are in the same boat I once was, so today I’d like to share with you a bit of what I’ve learned over the years. 


One big thing I learned was The Big Five, which was identified by the National Institute of Health and the National Reading Panel in a 2000 report. The Big Five refers to Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Together, these are the necessary components of quality, comprehensive reading instruction. A child who is competent in each of these aspects will likely be a good reader. 


So what is each of these components about, anyway? Rather than tackling the components alphabetically, let’s discuss The Big Five in terms of chronological order - starting with the component that appears first in a reader.

Phonemic Awareness involves listening. It is the ability to notice, think about, and work with individual sounds (phonemes) that make up words. 

Phonemic awareness develops in children between the ages of two and three. Imagine how much language a child hears in the first few years of life. ALL of this language goes into his or her development as a reader, and it all starts with phonemic awareness. 


This important building block involves listening and manipulating sounds. Although there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, there are a total of forty phonemes (sounds) and two hundred fifty spellings (/f/, /ph/, /gh/). Sometimes it’s a bit tricky.


Some of the other components of phonemic awareness include hearing rhymes, producing rhymes, identifying initial, middle, and end sounds, blending sounds, and orally segmenting and blending words. 


The next component of The Big Five is phonics. So what is the difference between phonics and phonemic awareness? In short, phonemic awareness focuses more on hearing sounds while phonics targets the relationships between letters and sounds. 


In phonics, the reader will learn about consonants and vowels (and their sounds). Further, phonics includes vowel blends (diphthongs) like -oi- as in coin and consonant digraphs such as /th/ and /sh/. Consonant blends like /dr/ and /st/ are also part of phonics.

These terms can often be confusing for upper-grade teachers, so to break it down for you Consonant blends are when two sounds are blended together, each of those sounds can be heard in the blend. Consonant digraphs are when two consonants are together and they make only one sound. Typically, this sound is changed and you cannot hear their original sounds.


Here is a great visual for you from Malia over at Playdough to Plato.  She has this as a FREEBIE over on her blog. Click here to check it out.

Reading should sound like speaking. Many teachers use this simple explanation to describe fluency to their students. 


Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression. Fluency is the bridge from learning to read to reading to learn.

When a reader is fluent, he or she is bound to better comprehend the text. The reason for this is that when a reader is fluent, he or she can focus on the meaning of words rather than decoding every single one. Thus, comprehension improves.


Vocabulary is the key to comprehension. The more words a reader knows and understands, the more he or she will be able to read, thereby learning more new words. An insufficient vocabulary can slow down comprehension significantly. Parents and teachers can build vocabulary in children by talking with them and reading aloud.


The definition of comprehension is ‘intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed during interactions between text and reader’. The ultimate goal of reading comprehension is not possible without the other four components. 


Reading comprehension involves many factors, including background knowledge, vocabulary, working memory, and exposure to language. A good reader is always asking questions internally (‘why did the character do that?’ or ‘who is this new character?’) and makes connections to the text.


Seeing the light bulb go on in the mind of a reader, when he or she is just figuring it out, is the ultimate gift for a teacher. After breaking down the reading process into its building blocks, it’s no wonder that it also seems like a miracle! 


If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!! 

Click here to check out my next post in the series: How to determine reading interventions for your struggling readers.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Distance Learning Resources to Teach Grade 3 Numbers and Operations in Base Ten Standards

All around the world, school districts are currently in conversation about how to resume schools amidst the Corona Virus Pandemic. My school came out with plans this past week. We will be doing a hybrid model where students will come to school on certain days, depending on their last name. When students are NOT in school, they will be doing distance learning at home. 

We have not received any information as far as HOW this is possible or how it will roll out, but, my guess is that it will be left up to the teachers to figure it out. 😡 At my school, teachers will have students 5 days a week during normal school hours. My biggest question is how in the world will teachers be able to plan for distance learning AND in-person instruction?? I mean, planning for a regular school year is hard enough! 

In an effort to help ease the load, I am putting together a list of videos and resources that can be used to teach your NBT standards. My hope is that this post will save you time and we all know that is something that we never have enough of! 

This video uses place value blocks and a number line to demonstrate how to round to the nearest 10. It is a great visual for students.
This video is 2 min. and 20 seconds long.

This is a fun rap for rounding to the nearest 10 and 100. 
It is 3 min. and 30 sec. long.

This is a much longer video at 7 minutes and 23 seconds, however, it is very thorough. He focuses the lesson on rounding to the nearest 10. 

To use while teaching rounding, I also have these Rounding Task Cards available for you.  Included you will get a file to print your own task cards AND  self-grading digital task cards. They are perfect to use during centers, as an exit pass or a quick check for distance learning! For more ideas on how to use task cards in the classroom, check out this post.

Melissa from Marvel Math created these Google Slides that are absolutely perfect for teaching rounding! She has this rounding to the nearest ten resource available for FREE in here TPT Store

Rounding to the nearest 100 follows the same format! You can find it here.

This is another video from the same rounding guy. Again, it is a longer video but he goes through various strategies and makes the connections for students. This video comes in at 8 minutes and 28 sec. long. 

Here is a Khan Academy Video showing how to add 3-digit numbers. This video is only 2 minutes and 25 seconds long. 

This video is another great visual using base-ten blocks for adding 3-digit numbers. This video is 5 minutes and 35 seconds long. 

Here is the subtracting 3-digit number video using base-ten blocks. 

I have these task cards available for in-person instruction and I also have a digital resource available on Google Slides for your distance learning days. You can grab both of these resources in a bundle and save 10%.

Here is another great video for teaching 3NBT3. This video is 7 minutes and 45 seconds long. 

This video is by Khan Academy and runs 3 minutes and 4 seconds long. 

I have some print task cards to practice 3NBT3 during your in-person instruction days. 

You could also send this coloring freebie home as homework or additional practice!

As you are teaching each of these NBT standards, my Quick Checks will work as a great formative assessment! I use these as exit passes at the end of my lesson. This helps me to figure out who needs additional practice or even re-teaching. 

I hope this post has saved you the time from having to search the internet for videos and/or resources! 

If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!!


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

5 Ways to Use Task Cards in the Classroom

Do you use task cards in the classroom??

I LOVE using task cards in my classroom. Over the years, I have collected, created, printed, laminated, and cut A LOT of task cards. My collection has grown quite large over the years.

Today I'll be sharing with you some of the reasons why I LOVE task cards and 5 ways to use them in your classroom.

Task cards are so great because they offer valuable practice, review, and reinforcement for students of important concepts. Being that we are a testing grade, students need lots of practice to ensure they have mastered the skills before that dreaded test. It kills me to see worksheets xeroxed, used, piled up on my desk (to be graded), returned,  stuffed into cubbies or desks, then dumped into the trash can. Task cards allow practice for students without having a gazillion worksheets to go through. The plus side of it though is that students love them too. My students often cheer when they find that it is time to work on task cards. 

The neat thing about task cards is that there are so many different ways to use them. 

Here are some of our favorite ways to use task cards in our classroom:


  1. For a game of SCOOT, students are all seated at their desks. 
  2. They each get one task card and a recording sheet. 
  3. Assign the cards around the room in number order. 
  4. Students record their answers on their recording sheet, then quietly wait until the teacher calls SCOOT. 
  5. Once SCOOT is called, students will pick up their pencils, recording sheets, and SCOOT to the next seat to answer the next task card. 
  6. Continue this rotation until all task cards have been answered.

Students LOVE SCOOT. They think of it as a game. I love it because it's a great formative assessment to see who knows what as well as to see misunderstandings they may be having. It's also a time for some peace and quiet :) 

SCOOT works best for skills that don't require much thinking time such as rounding, identifying parts of speech, fractions, etc. This would not be an ideal activity for things like word problems or elapsed time problems.

*If your desks are in an odd configuration, you will need to identify the movements around the room beforehand to avoid any confusion.