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Strategic Reading Intervention

A Proposal for Intervention for Struggling

Middle School Readers
Daniel Coffin
Concordia University, Nebraska
Submitted in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for EDUC 565
April 25th, 2015

Portrait of a Disfluent Reader

We have often encountered in the course of Language Arts instruction
students who:

require a much lower instructional level of text (1-2 years behind)

are reluctant to read aloud in class

read aloud at a slow pace, with irregular pauses, group words

together inappropriately, and/or without appropriate expression

do not seem to comprehend grade-level appropriate text after

reading aloud.
It may be that these students weakness is not with comprehension per
se, but with reading fluency.

What is Fluency?
Fluency can be characterized as the next step up from decoding and a
precursor to comprehension, as seen in the graphic below (Huff, 2012).

Why Does Fluency Matter?

The reading process requires two tasks: the reader must first recognize and
make meaning of individual words (decoding). Secondly, the reader must
make meaning of words grouped in sentences, paragraphs, and texts as a
whole (comprehension) (Samuels, 2012, p. 5).
For a disfluent reader, reading is slow, inefficient and mentally-intensive
because they must switch attention back and forth from decoding to making
sense of what they decoded. This effort can preclude these struggling
readers from applying the mental capacity necessary to make inferences,
relate new information to background knowledge, and respond critically to
text (Pikulsky & Chard, 2012, p. 2).

Three Components of Fluency

As beginning readers continue to practice accurately decoding highfrequency words, the process of decoding these words becomes easier
and easier to the point of automaticity. As the process of decoding
becomes faster, easier, and less demanding mentally, the reader has
greater mental resources to devote to making sense of words in context
(Samuels, 2012, p. 5).
Is this context, then, which makes it apparent to readers how certain
words and phrases should be understood and read aloud, enabling
prosodic reading.

Three Components of Fluency

The fluent reader understands that these following sentences, while
similar in structure, should be read differently based on their context:
Oh, youre so smart! the teacher said, beaming at her student.
Oh, youre so smart! the boy said, sneering at his sister.
One is genuine praise, the other is sarcasm, and both need to be read
aloud with particular intonation and phrasing to make the meaning of the
sentence clear. This reading with appropriate intonation, phrasing, and
expression is prosody.

Three Components of Fluency

These, then, are the three key components of reading fluency:
accuracy, automaticity, and prosody. Readers learn first to accurately
apply rules of phonics to make sense of individual words, then practice
with decoding until it becomes automatic, at which point readers have
the mental capacity to read with expression, intonation, and phrasing
which is both indicative of and contributes to reading comprehension
(Beers, 2003, p. 205; Paige, 2012, p. 63).
Fluent readers read with little conscious effort, devoting the majority of
their cognitive capacity to making meaning of the text (Samuels, 2012, p.

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Read-Alouds

The punctuation in written text in often insufficient to produce prosodic
reading, and so readers are left to interpret on their own how an author
intended their text to be read. Disfluent readers need modeling from
experienced readers not only in reading expressively, but also in how to
determine which sort of expression is appropriate for a given piece of text.
Read-alouds, incorporating repeated readings of a piece of text with varied
expression and intonation to call attention to how expression changes the
interpretation of text and teacher talk about strategies for determining
appropriate expression, are a good way to provide disfluent readers with the
guidance they need (Paige, 2012, p. 62-63).

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Paired Reading

Just like driving a car, fielding a ball, or any other complex task requires
practice to done smoothly, correctly, and without conscious thought, so
too do readers need practice reading fluently aloud, and lots of it (Beers,
2003, p. 205)!
Rather than engaging students in round robin reading (netting each of
the 15 students in a class two minutes of oral reading practice in a 30
minute class and six hours of practice in a school year), students should
be paired and each should read to the other (giving students 15 minutes
of practice in a class and 45 hours of practice in a school year)
(Shanahan, 2012, p. 27).

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Choral Reading

Choral reading, where a teacher and a group of students read a text
aloud together, may help disfluent readers be more comfortable reading
while also providing a model for fluent reading and tapping into the
performance aspect of oral reading to generate student interest in
reading (Paige, 2012, p. 63).
While the class read aloud, the teacher can move through the room to
listen for miscues or mispronunciations and provide individual feedback
to readers as needed after the reading (Paige, 2012, p. 66).

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Repeated

Repeated reading, in which students reread the same section of text
multiple times, gives students the opportunity to practice challenging text,
each time building automaticity with difficult words and phrases and
developing fluency with the text as a whole. Students wont just get really
good at reading one particular selection aloud, as these benefits are
transferrable to other text selections (Rasinski, 2010, p. 88-89).

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Performance

Performance reading, whether in the form of recorded student readalouds, readers theatre, or poetry recitation, requires students to
practice expressive reading, which promotes repeated reading (Rasinski,
2010, p. 116). Students like to perform, and readers theatre or poetry
recitation are entertaining and motivating for students, particularly if they
can perform for a real audience (Rasinski, 2010, p. 118).

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Chunking Texts

Another strategy to help build fluency is to provide students with modified
text in which difficult words have been chunked, or broken into their
constituent syllables, in order to provide students with cues for
appropriate pronunciation (e.g. IN-ter-sti-tial for interstitial) (Pikulsky &
Chard, 2003, p. 7).
This modification can be gradually phased out as readers grow in
decoding accuracy.

Techniques for Fluency Instruction: Vocabulary

In addition to reviewing word meaning when introducing new vocabulary
terms, teachers should also explicitly teach pronunciation and spelling of
new vocabulary words, to help reinforce patterns of spelling which will
enable students to quickly recognize and decode the words (Samuels,
2012, p. 7).
Explicit instruction in Greek/Latin word parts can be beneficial as
knowledge of how words work and specific roots and affixes can help
students to unlock the meanings of words not yet taught (Beers, 2003, p.
187-188) and will reinforce the concept of chunking words into
identifiable pieces.

Assessing Fluency
There are three key aspects of oral reading to assess diagnostically,
formatively, and summatively:

oral reading accuracy (Is the student decoding correctly?)

oral reading rate (Is the student decoding quickly?)
oral reading quality (Is the student reading with prosody?)

It is also important to ensure that students are reading with

comprehension, as the ultimate goal for intervention is to support reading
for meaning-making (Pikulsky & Chard, 2003, p. 8-9).

Identifying Students and Implementing Strategic

Reading Intervention
It is my proposal that we target all students one year or more behind in
summer MAP Reading or Language Usage scores. Students in this
population can be enrolled in Reading Intervention during the time frame
typically reserved for DEAR. Students can be enrolled for the semester, with
the potential to test out if supported by the winter MAP scores and ongoing
fluency assessments.
Sustained silent reading is an important part of the curriculum, but if students
are less likely to read independently anyway due to disfluency, then using the
DEAR period for intervention would present less of an impact on the rest of
the school schedule while still providing a valuable reading experience to

Portrait of a Fluent Reader

Students who successfully complete the program will:

read 100-160 words correct per minute (WCPM).

have automatic word-recognition skills.

group words into meaningful phrases.

read with meaningful expression.

read accurately and self-correct when errors are made.

understand and be able to critically respond to grade-level appropriate

In short, students will be able to read with little conscious effort, freeing them
to focus on comprehending text (Denton, Vaughn, Wexler, Bryan, & Reed,
2012, p. 191).

Beers, K. (2003). When kids can't read, what teachers can do: A guide for
teachers, 6-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Denton, C.A., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Bryan, D., & Reed, D. (2012). Effective
instruction for middle school students with reading difficulties: The reading
teachers sourcebook. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing Co.
Huff, E. (2012). Why should parents care about phonics instruction? Retrieved
Paige, D. (2012). The importance of adolescent fluency. In Rasinski, T.,
Blachowicz, C., & Lems, K. (Eds.), Fluency instruction, second edition:
Research-based best practices (pp. 55-71). New York, NY: Guilford.
Pikulsky, J.J. & Chard, D.J. (2003). Fluency: the bridge from decoding to
reading comprehension. Retrieved from

Samuels, S.J. (2012). Reading fluency: Its past, present, and future. In
Rasinski, T., Blachowicz, C., & Lems, K. (Eds.), Fluency instruction, second
edition: Research-based best practices (pp. 3-16). New York, NY: Guilford.
Shanahan, T. (2012). Developing fluency in the context of effective literacy
education. In Rasinski, T., Blachowicz, C., & Lems, K. (Eds.), Fluency
instruction, second edition: Research-based best practices (pp. 17-34). New
York, NY: Guilford.
Rasinski, T. (2010). The fluent reader: Oral and silent reading strategies for
building fluency, word recognition & comprehension. New York, NY: Scholastic.