Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Fluency

For decades, the battle of ideas has raged over reading instruction.  There are many ideas, opinions, and methods for achieving the same goal.  Many teachers and districts today use reading workshop.  That method is not well-accepted in my district.  Reading instruction in my district is very skills based and data-driven.  It is an approach that is working very well. 

One element of comprehensive reading instruction is building fluency.  A quick one-minute timing of a child's oral reading can yield a wealth of information.  Easy and inexpensive to administer, these timings provide a snapshot that is invaluable in collecting data and tracking student performance and learning trends over the course of the year.  Reading fluency has been shown to be a reliable predictor of performance on high-stakes tests.

Automaticity--how quickly and effortlessly a child can process words--is a key factor in identifying children who struggle and why they struggle.  During a fluency timing itt is easy to identify children who guess at words rather than decode them, children who don't read the endings of words, children who skip words, and so on.  Reading rate is important in measuring the extent of automaticity.

An effective way to build fluency is through repeated readings.  This method is research-tested and proven.  The child reads a passage cold, and the number of correct words per minute is recorded.  They then read through the passage with adult, and practice the same passage repeatedly until they are fluent.  They do a final timed-reading, which is recorded.  Students are able to compare their reading rates and accuracy rates from the first reading to the final one.  Seeing their own growth gives a big boost in confidence. Students who are struggling, start out with reading passages below their grade level.  As their automaticity improves, they progress to passages that are more difficult.