Fluency as an essential reading comprehension strategy
Fluency as a reading comprehension strategy aims to develop automatic recognition of words and writing conventions. The objective of developing reading fluency is to allow the reader’s brain to concentrate on meaning instead of focusing on word analysis. As a result, children who learn high-frequency words, participate in timed reading practices and engage reader’s theater will develop reading fluency. Furthermore, they will improve reading comprehension.
High-Frequency Words and The Decoding Reader
Many of our beginner or struggling readers are learning to decipher the sounds of the letters in a word. In addition, they may be attempting to read sentences as well but leaving long pauses between words. Under those circumstances, the brain perceives words in isolation as if they were listed and not as a part of a sentence.
Developing reading fluency allow the reader to make inferences, anticipate words based on the course of a story, autocorrect understanding, and on many occasions guess the meaning of unknown words using context clues (Wolf, 2007). Parents and teachers may promote the acquisition of reading fluency by modeling fluent reading and by offering children various opportunities to read texts with different levels of complexity and in different genres.
One of the best strategies to improve reading fluency is to memorize high-frequency words. The material to implement a sight-word memorization program may include lists of words by grade, flashcards, and games. The website SightWords.com offers very good resources that parents and teachers can download and print for non-commercial use.
To implement a high-frequency words reading program follow this steps:
1- Select the list of words for your child. Newcomer students of any age may need lists of words below their grade level.
2- Help children to create their own sight-word sticker notebook. The internet has great information.
3- Schedule consistent practices such as daily homework or peer-peer practices to memorize words.
4- Purchase reward stickers. Once your child has mastered a bord mark it with a sticker child’s sight-word sticker book.
5- Take time to listen to the child reading sight words.
6- Price the effort and encourage your children using growth-mindset feedback tools.
7- As soon as your child masters a list, provide a more advanced list.
8- Mark the lists using colors or other convention.
Farrel, Osenga, and Hunter propose integrating learning high-frequency words with phonics. In their article, A new Model for teaching High-Frequency Words, they present an alternative to teach these words to children. They divided the list of high-frequency words in two groups. The list of phonetically decodable words and the list of words with irregular spelling. They called the first list Flash Words and the second list Heart Words. All things considered, this approach takes planning and additional effort. None the less, it is a good alternative to consider for children who have difficulty learning high-frequency words. (Farrel, Osenga, and Hunter, 2013)
Timed Reading Practices
Timed reading aloud practices are fun and very helpful to engage students in the repetition of words and passages. This is a very effective reading comprehension strategy because the repetition of words enables children to develop automaticity. Once students begin to recognize words at a glance, their oral expression while reading improves. Consequently, a student who reads as she speaks has more possibilities to develop comprehension.
Timed reading practices are effective to introduce academic vocabulary within context. While teachers and parents may find reading fluency passages on grade level to download online, the best passages are designed by teachers or parents using selected vocabulary.
To create authentic an meaningful fluency reading passages follow this steps:
Start by downloading the Water Cycle Fluency Passage, which is a model of teacher created material for a second-grade class. This sample and the steps below apply for all grades and student ages.
1- Replicate the template of the downloaded model or create one that fit your needs. You may use any word processor.
2- Select the vocabulary you want to teach.
3- Write grade appropriate sentences using the selected vocabulary.
4- Use a Fluency Standards Table to determine the average reading fluency expected by grade level.
5- When writing the passage, estimate a reading time of 1 to 3 minutes.
6- Measure the readability of the passage. Some websites such as http://www.readabilityformulas.com offer free options for non-commercial use. Measuring the readability is important to make sure that the passage is not to easy or too difficult for your students.
7- Print a set of passages for your class.
8- If possible, create a fluency folder for them.
9- Integrate reading fluency practices into your daily routine.
How to integrate reading passages with your daily routine:
The reading fluency passages integrated into regular classroom routines are very effective. Some ideas to achieve this objective include reading warm-ups, homework, centers or stations and transitions. In addition, timed activities that last 1-3 minutes are entertaining and reenergizing for students of all ages. The video that follows is a good example of how a reading fluency program looks like.
Children love to perform and reader’s theater give students a great opportunity to engage in reading with a purpose. If dressing up or wearing costumes for this activity is designed by the students, their interest, engagement, and comprehension will increase. Under those circumstances, the emotional connection that children need to fully engage in reader’s theater appears. This emotional engagement is a powerful energy that motivates the reader to try and succeed.
When children rehearse to participate in reader’s theater, they develop reading fluency. Moreover, they develop comprehension. In fact, the repetition and the deliberate articulation of words to express the ideas and emotions of the characters they represent contributes to developing reading, listening and speaking skills.
To implement a reader’s theater program follow this steps:
3- Form reader’s theater groups.
4- Assign roles.
5- Discuss stage norms, costumes, and props.
6- Define a timeline to prepare and rehearse.
The video that follows is a good example of reader’s theater at the elementary level. However, this activity is suitable for all students in grades 1st to 12th.
In summary, children who have the chance to engage in fun activities that involve reading will improve their fluency and their comprehension. Fluency as a reading comprehension strategy does not focus on speed. It focuses on automaticity. Students reading in supportive and safe environments are more willing to take risks and succeed in developing reading automaticity. Thus, developing reading fluency, independent sustained reading, and comprehension, which are the ultimate goals.
Note that the activities suggested in this article are effective for the vast majority of students including English learners, newcomer students, and students with an interrupted education. Since these activities involve the use of most domains of language, they are very good tools to address the required English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) for English learners. In short, to meet the ELPS, the teacher may only need to design activities for students to use their second language consistently and with engaging activities, as observed in the videos above.
When teachers commit to providing students with the climate, opportunities, and strategies to succeed, student’s success will occur.
How are you implementing these and other reading comprehension strategies in your classroom?