Ideas on Teaching Fluency
Personal philosophies that have grown from this:
- Expression is so much more than just voice inflection. It can truly indicate comprehension as the students adjust their voice to show the mood/tone of the text.
- Accuracy matters most when our mistakes change the meaning of the text.
- Rate shows our ability to move through the text at a good pace...but speed loses meaning when it detracts from the expression.
- Smoothness shows that we can read in long meaningful phrases, heading punctuation. There is not much expression without smoothness.
CLICK HERE for the Fluency Rubric
Another great reading teacher (Bev) introduced me to the idea of having students use content-based reading passages to practice their fluency (and comprehension). This quickly became a regular practice. It takes one minute for a student to read a fluency passage to a partner. Another minute for their partner to give them feedback and a fluency score based on the rough running record that they took. Some benefits:
- Partner 1 is reading orally (eyes on text).
- Partner 2 is reading along and analyzing mistakes.
- Partner 1 gets specific feedback based on the rubric.
- Partner 2 practices giving feedback orally.
- 4 minutes of focused practice where everyone is engaged.
- Students are doing repeated reading of content material, reinforcing the curriculum.
You can copy and paste or write any content you want to use into Word. Make sure you have turned on the readability statistics. This will show you the number of words and will give you an idea of the reading level.
Teaching Fluency Mini-Lessons
- Introduce the Acronym and the meaning of each:
- Expression = voices for characters, tone of voice that shows mood, inflection to support punctuation
- Accuracy = number of words correctly read
- Rate = speed, how fast or slow (this will change based on the setting, mood and characters but should never be so fast so that we can't understand or so slow that we become bored or confused)
- Smoothness = reading in long meaningful phrases, heading all punctuation
- As we focus on fluency, we will use a rubric to remind us what fluent reading should sound like and what it should not.
- Read a story or passage with poor fluency. Ask the students to identify the problems. Next, fix the identified problems and try again. You will need model the importance of repeated practice continually.
- As you do this throughout your fluency lessons, help the students describe the problems more specifically, using the vocabulary on the rubric.
Guided Reading/Mini-lessons: Expression focus
- Introduce "Mood" - read a passage with good fluency but the total wrong mood and ask the students to identify what was wrong with your reading.
- Mood - (you can use the emotional wheel to help students describe moods) have students go through each page and decide the mood of the scenes and characters. Have them label these in the book with their sticky notes. In their small groups, have them do a few and then practice making their voice change with each page to reflect the mood. (The Rough Faced Girl is a good mood book that you can contrast)
- Mood - have students read various passages with a different emotion: happy, excited, mad, sad, in love, silly, serious, bored etc. Have them practice those different emotions both with you and then on their own. They will laugh and enjoy the lesson as they play with their voice. If students are feeling very shy about this, make sure you boldly model for them. If you can make them laugh or even laugh at yourself, you will lower the affective filter (maybe not enough for them to step out today, but definitely in the future).
- Mood - Show the kids one of the mash-up trailers for a children's movie. Demonstrating how if you change the music or mood you can take a well-known story and make seem very different. I like the Marry Poppins Scary Movie Trailer, you don't need to show all of it to give the kids the idea. If you think it is too scary, there are many other choices. Examples: Toy Story 3 Scary Trailer or What if Jaws was a Disney Movie.
- Mood - Facial Expressions: Explain how facial expressions are vital to expressing mood. Ask the students to watch your face as you read a picture book. Make sure you read expressively and exaggerate your facial expression. Ask what they notice (ignore the heat of your self-conscious facial capillaries as they blush from the many penetrating eyes). Next, tell your students to read a phrase (I usually choose one from a bulletin board around me). Ask the students to read it in a happy voice with a frown on their face. Have them try saying, "I am happy" with a frown on their face. Then repeat asking them to say, "I am sad" with a smile on their face. They will notice that you cannot make it really sound happy with a frown on your face and you really cannot sound sad with a smile on your face. They will giggle and think it is funny. Have them practice using facial expressions while they read. It will be uncomfortable for a while but let them know they will soon forget they are doing it; good readers do it naturally. Praise it when you see it.
- Mood: Action or drama - Good readers get into their story when reading aloud. They often use actions along with their facial expressions. Model this expressive reading then demonstrate a lack of expression. Finally, have student share the differences they noticed.
- Smoothness: model reading where you are stopping at the end of each line instead of with the punctuation. Ask the students to identify the problems. Talk about how much this changes the meaning of the text and how often it occurs. Model correctly after.
- Smoothness: a really fun activity to help students notice punctuation is to have them do actions or make sounds for each punctuation mark in a reading passage. Pause, sigh, or tap pencils once for a comma. Make a stop sign with your hand, tap twice, hop, or click your tongue twice at each period, question mark (you can shrug your shoulders here), or exclamation point. You can slide at hyphens etc.
- Smoothness: Have students work on their breathing while reading. Model being out of breath with a really long sentence. Show how punctuation helps us know when to breathe. Make sure you have some challenging sentences for them to practice with.
- Smoothness: Read the book 20 Odd Ducks. This shows how punctuation can completely change the meaning of the text. A fun extension we did was a class book where they had to write sentences about Earth Science, with different punctuation. They had to draw pictures to illustrate the various meanings.