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. 

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