As an ELA teacher, I am always looking for ways to help my students grow in their literacy, and quickly. I have taught in New Orleans for almost 5 years now. Each year, many of my students come to me reading well below grade level. It is sometimes very overwhelming to be tasked with ensuring that I catch my students up to where they need to be. Two years ago, in an effort to learn new methods to bring into my classroom, I attended a three-week literacy institute, during which, I was introduced to fluency-building routine as a practice to help struggling readers improve quickly. I was asked to use this daily fluency routine with a group of 6th graders for two weeks of summer school.
It’s sometimes very overwhelming to be tasked with ensuring that I catch my kids up to where they need to be.
The plan was this: give my students a fluency test on day one about the first passage. Thereafter implement fluency practice for 10 minutes a day with passage 2, then retest my students on the last day, again with the first passage. I was told this strategy would yield incredible results, but I was hesitant. It didn’t seem plausible that in two weeks I would see measurable improvements in my students’ reading fluency. Each day, I took 10 minutes to run the fluency practice routine. Here’s what I did:
- I read the passage out loud to my students.
- I reread any tricky parts and had my students repeat difficult words.
- Students did a first choral read of the text and I gave them feedback around their prosody, pace, and volume.
- Students completed a second choral read of the text. I gave them final feedback around prosody, pace, and volume. We set our goals for the next day.
On the last day with my 6th grade summer schoolers, I retested them with passage #1. The results were astounding. EVERY student increased the number of words they were able to read per minute and decreased the number of errors in their reading. I couldn’t believe the incredible amount of growth my students achieved with reading fluency in 2 weeks. I instantly became a believer. Daily fluency practice should be an essential part of the daily literacy block and here are five reasons why:
1. Fluency Practice increases students’ confidence to read out loud.
Students choral read during fluency practice. This group reading takes the pressure off of students who are uncomfortable reading aloud while giving them more practice doing so. As a result, students become more fluent at reading and built their confidence. A mantra emerged from one of my students, who was pumping his teammates up. He called out to them one day before reading: “We were born to be fluent readers!” And, all of our students are.
2. Fluency practice can be implemented in ANY content area class, not just ELA.
Do you want your students to gain more exposure to content-specific topics and vocabulary? Using passages from your content area texts, fluency practice is a great way to achieve these goals in your class.
3. Fluency practice allows our students to build background knowledge.
Fluency passages give our students a snapshot of a new period of time, or character or topic. Background knowledge is one of the biggest inhibitors that keeps our students from being able to access complex texts. Incorporation of fluency practice using a variety of topics will help bridge this gap for our students.
4. Fluency may not guarantee comprehension, but disfluent reading definitely gets in the way of comprehension.
When students are not able to fluently read the words on a page they are usually struggling to sound out words or grappling with sentence structure. This leaves them with less attention to focus on comprehending what they are reading. Fluent reading smooths the path to comprehension.
5. Fluency practice takes only 10 minutes a day, and it works!
Over the past two years, I have implemented fluency practice in my ELA classroom. My students have grown leaps and bounds in their reading fluency, their love for reading, their curiosity, and in their confidence. We owe it to our students to ensure they leave our classrooms as more fluent readers than when they arrived.
Fluency practice has been incredible for my kids. They have grown in overall fluency and in particular, being able to read with expression. They’ve been able to read with so much more meaning. I can tell that they’re understanding what they’re reading. And, they’re building confidence. Each of our students comes to the classroom with the potential to read fluently. This daily routine merely contributes to unlocking that ability, and to transforming students into confident and fluent readers. I challenge you to bring this fluency routine into your classroom. Ten minutes a day. Try it for two weeks, and see the progress that your students make. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed in the results.