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Improving Fluency in Reading
Kathleen Silvey Grand Canyon University

Abstract This paper will create a plan for improving fluency and will include a timeline, whole group activities, small group activities, individual student activities and an assessment activity. The paper will then answer the question: What do research and best practices have to say about teaching word study and fluency?

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Fluency is the ability to read with sufficient ease and accuracy so one can focus attention on the meaning and message of text. So, in order for a student to be a fluent reader, two skills need to be present, word recognition and comprehension. Fluency is like a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. So how can we, as educators, help build that bridge for our students? This paper will develop a plan to build that bridge of fluency among readers within a ten week period using group as well as individual reading activities. Students will be assessed throughout the ten weeks. An evaluation on word study and fluency research will be discussed at the conclusion of this paper. During the ten week timeline, students will engage in whole group and small group instruction of fluency by using Reader’s Theater activities. Reader’s Theater is a popular and effective way to build fluency skills. It is reading-aloud to communicate a story through oral

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interpretation rather than acting. Readers read from a “script” and reading parts are divided among the readers. As a classroom, at the beginning of each week, students will choose from a list of free scripts specially designed for Reader’s Theater by Aaron Shepard at his website: http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/RTE.html. At the end of the week, after practicing and re-reading, which is an important aspect of building fluency, the students will “perform” their scripts in the classroom for a younger group of students in the school. Drama, as many teachers are discovering, is not only fun and natural for children, it also encourages emotional growth, motivation, and engagement. Reader's Theater can also boost listening and speaking skills, enhance confidence, and transform reluctant readers into book lovers. (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/readerstheater.htm) The small group activity to build fluency is also part of the Reader’s Theater, but it involves students breaking up into groups of four or five and choosing a story book from the classroom library to turn into a script. It can be done once a week during the ten week period and may be broken down into two or more class periods if needed. The small groups will perform each script for the rest of the class, who will evaluate the performance using an evaluation sheet. This activity allows the students to really become involved in the literature, which is what Reader’s Theatre is all about. The students will be involved in analyzing the structure, characterization, and description used in the literature. They will be stimulated to creatively adapt their piece and will really "own" their presentation. (http://bms.westport.k12.ct.us/mccormick/rt/RTHOME.htm) The individual activity to build fluency uses the program, Great Leaps Reading. It has been recognized for years as a research-based program which enables students of all ages to make significant strides in reading fluency and reach an independent reading level. Student and

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teacher, aide or consultant sit down and work on the program’s reading materials daily for no more than ten minutes. This form of one-on-one guided reading have all been designed and written to not only significantly increase reading fluency, but also motivate students to continue reading. Point of view, humor, rhyme, and rhythm are all designed to contribute to a powerful fluency-building intervention. (http://www.greatleaps.com/default.asp) While instructing the individual activity, the teacher will also assess the fluency of the student by using timed reading level passages to calculate accuracy and speed. Timed reading will be for one minute and words read are counted and words that are incorrect are subtracted to get the WCPM (words correct per minute). Below is a chart for determining where students should fall, on average: Mean Words Correct Per Minute “Targets” for Average Students in Grades One through Eight Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Fall Target Not applicable 50 70 95 110 125 125 130 Winter Target 20 70 90 110 125 140 140 140 Spring Target 50 90 110 125 140 150 150 150

Johns, J. and Berglund, R. (2006). Fluency strategies and assessments. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishers.

To get the students involved in improving their fluency, use a fun chart to detail their progress throughout the ten weeks. Use jumping animals, such as rabbits, kangaroos, or frogs

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and coordinating stickers, push pins, or buttons to mark their progression. Other things that could be used creatively to show improvement are charts that look like elevators, stairs…anything that moves up! Now, to answer the question, What do research and best practices have to say about teaching word study and fluency? They say it’s a vital part of teaching reading. An example of this is a story taken from a teacher who was speaking to her class about “taking a pause” for a more dramatic effect or meaning. She saw several puzzled looks on her students’ faces and asked, “Does everyone know what a pause is?” Several students began clapping, thinking that the teacher meant applause. She explained that she did not mean “applause,” which was one word and had the letter “l” in it. She meant two words “a pause.” One student raised her hand and held up her hands like a dog begging. The teacher, again, explained that is not what she meant, although the words paws and pause sound alike, they are not spelled alike nor do they mean the same. She went on to explain the meaning of the word pause. This example shows exactly why word study is so important when it comes to fluency. Students need to know the definitions of similar words to comprehend the meaning of the text that is being read. At the Annenberg Channel’s website, www.learner.org, teacher resources and teacher professional development programming across the curriculum are featured. In all the workshops, K-12, word study and fluency are an important focus in teaching reading. The next hyperlink will link to the website’s video section. It discusses strategies for reading and understanding new words and promoting fluency for students in grades 3-5: (http://www.learner.org/channel/workshops/teachreading35/session2/sec2p1.html) In conclusion, recent research has been focusing on the importance of fluency. Many creative activities can be implemented into the curriculum to improve fluency in reading. Many programs explain that being consistent with your reading curriculum, allowing time for practice

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and re-reading, assessment in fluency, and using a variety of fluency activities can improve reading fluency in all students by the end of the school year. It is also critical to include word study into the fluency activities that occur in the classroom. If you don’t know the words, if you don’t know the meanings, you can decode all you want, but you can’t make any sense of print. (http://www.learner.org/vod/fileserve/channel/workshops/readingk2/pdf/session3/s3lecture_trans cript.pdf)

References Annenberg Media. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from www.learner.org Drama Resources for Teachers. Reader’s Theatre Basics. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from http://bms.westport.k12.ct.us/mccormick/rt/RTHOME.htm Great Leaps Reading. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from http://www.greatleaps.com/default.asp Prescott, Jennifer O. The Power of Reader’s Theater. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/readerstheater.htm Shepard, Aaron. Aaron’s RT Page. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/RTE.html