Author Bio: Today’s guest post comes from Toni, an elementary school teacher with a specialty in differentiated instruction and designing hands-on lessons that incorporate the multiple intelligences. You can often find Toni writing for TeacherLingo.com, where teachers can buy and sell their original lesson plans, worksheets, and more. She is married to a middle school math teacher and is a mom to a mystery loving 7 year old sweetie-girl and a quirky little light saber toting 3 year old.
Reading fluency is one of the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension strategies. Students should be able to read with proper inflection and prosody. Beginning and struggling readers often read without attention to their intonation, loudness or timing even if their pronunciation of the words themselves does not pose a difficulty. Ideally, we want our beginning readers to read like they speak conversationally.
Have you ever run before? You can follow blogs about running, subscribe to running magazines and take a class on proper running technique, but there is a direct correlation between how many miles you put on your sneakers and how good of a runner you are. Reading fluency is just like running. Fluent readers read, and they read often. All too often our reading blocks are filled with reading instruction, but leave very little time for students to actually read.
In order to develop fluent readers within our classroom students must hear fluent readers read. Modeling fluent reading through daily read alouds and a well stocked listening center will help your students develop an ear for what fluent reading sounds like. Students also need daily opportunities to revisit text both silently and orally.
So, how do we engage our students in a way that they not only have time to read, but actually want to read? There are usually a few students who would happily read the same book for the entire reading block, but most students need a variety of reading opportunities to keep them engaged.
Poems are a very powerful way to improve student fluency. They usually are full of excellent vocabulary and multisyllabic words, but are ‘bite sized’ and easy for students to read again and again or to buddy read with a friend. Silly poems like those of Shel Silverstein will usually engage even the most reluctant reader. Assign a poem to each student on Monday and give them time to practice it silently as well as with a buddy the first few minutes of reading each day. At the end of each week hold a class ‘poetry slam’ where students can share their poem with their classmates.
Give students a reason to read. Each week assign small groups of students a short play or reader’s theater. Give them time to read their script to themselves and then rehearse it with their group during center time. They may also take it home to practice for homework. When students have a purpose to read they don’t mind rereading the same text multiple times. Have each group perform their plays on Friday and videotape their performance. When all the groups have performed allow them to watch the video. This allows them to see how they sound and self correct any non-fluent behaviors like mumbling or speaking to fast or slow.
A ‘double dare’ station can encourage children to read in order to learn how to do something new. This station can be filled with all kinds of ‘how to’ books explaining how to juggle, draw, take care of a puppy, perform magic card tricks, and just about anything else your students may want to learn. Make sure to include anything they may need to perform their task in the center as well. Klutz books are very readable and include all necessary objects. At the beginning each week double dare your students to learn how to do something new like learn how to juggle. Set aside a special show-and-tell time each week where students can show off their new skills to their classmates.
Pique your student’s curiosity. When students are curious about something they are intrinsically motivated to learn more about it by reading. Allow students to pick topics of interest like knights and castles, the Olympics or theTitanic and set up a curiosity station (that sounds much more fun than research station doesn’t it?) in your room. For each topic place several books of varying levels in a basket and label it. Each week your students can select a topic of interest to become an expert in. As students finish their research allow them to sign up to share what they learned with their classmates.
By intentionally providing the necessary time and resources for your students to practice their fluency you will help to inspire a classroom of confident and avid readers.