Monday, November 12, 2007

Fluent Readers

Second-grade teachers in an effort to ensure that their students are fluent readers are studying the text, The Fluent Reader by Timothy Rasinski. Teachers are reading to embrace and employ reading strategies in their classrooms to help every student realize their fullest reading potential.

In chapter 1, the author outlines four ways to build reading fluency.

1) Model Good Oral Reading
2) Provide Oral Support for Readers
o Choral Reading
o Paired Reading
o Using Recorded Materials
3) Offer Plenty of Practice Opportunities
o Repeated Readings
4) Encourage Fluency Through Phrasing

Most teachers know the importance of reading aloud to students so they can hear what a fluent reader who “reads quickly, effortlessly, and efficiently with good, meaningful expression” sounds like. Not surprisingly, modeling hits the top of the list, and when I visit most classrooms I see them using this best practice.

We have also studied the importance of choral and paired reading, and use paired reading quite effectively in the Readers’ Workshop. However, we could embrace more choral reading opportunities.

This week at our 2nd Grade Teacher Meeting, teachers got a videotaped glimpse into a 1st grade CCE classroom as Maria taught a shared reading lesson. The teacher modeled fluent reading of the text before beginning the lesson. Then, she concentrated on a few pages of the text having students point out the words in italics, bold print words, and punctuation. She taught them how to read these pages fluently. Then, students chorally read the pages. She was going to do this same lesson the next day and then have students chorally read the whole text. Second grade teachers responded by brainstorming ways they could put this type of lesson into their own classrooms on a more consistent basis.

The part of this chapter that resonated with me, came with the authors writing of using recorded materials. The reader can listen to a text and simultaneously read along with the recording. This helps students become more fluent, just like choral reading. In particular, the author states that “tape-recorded books have exceptional potential for improving the reading of English language learners.” Teachers can even send home an audio recorder with ELL students. In many circumstances, the ELL parent cannot provide additional practice at home, so this reading recommendation could allow them to be involved in helping their children learn to read more fluently. At our ELL evening last week, it was apparent that these parents want to be actively involved and supportive, and this would be a great way to get started.

However, there is a pitfall when it comes to recorded texts. Students need to read the text simultaneously as they listen. If they just listen to the text, there is little to no reading benefit. I’m wondering how we could monitor whether they are reading along? If you have an idea, please leave a comment on this post. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Another beneficial tip is to have closed caption on the TV as students are watching a program. This way, students read the captions while they listen. I'm thinking of ways we could possibly do this with a lunch bunch group.

In terms of repeated readings, I think we are fully implemented. We have students check books out once a week in our Readers’ Workshop rather than every day. By keeping five to ten books in their independent bags, students in the primary grades can reread texts. Rereading these texts helps them build fluency.

The author’s final point here entails phrasing and comes with this example:
The young man the jungle gym.
Are you having difficulty reading this fluently with meaning? How about now?
The young/ man the jungle gym.

Teaching students to read in phrases rather than word- to- word is important, but they must know that they have to adjust their reading to find meaning.

Another example about phrasing comes with this sentence:

The principal said the teacher is the best in the school district.

The author wants you to read this sentence first as if the principal is the best. Then, read it so the teacher is the best. These two examples demonstrate the importance of phrasing as students grapple with reading fluency.

I'll keep you posted on our fluency journey. If you have any suggested readings, please send them my way. Good luck on your journey.

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