What is Fluency? Fluency is the ability to read smoothly and automatically, with expression and attention to punctuation. Correspondingly, reading with sufficient accuracy and fluency supports overall reading comprehension. Reading Foundational Fluency are areas in reading covered in the primary grades 2nd through 5th. Fluency Boot Camp will focus on four primary areas of fluency: Pace, Phrasing, Expression, and Punctuation.
Back to school reading in the primary grades usually begins in the classroom with an assessment, and part of a formal reading assessment includes reading fluency. Teachers strive for students to read grade-level texts throughout the year with purpose and understanding. Testing students in reading by using a variety of formal assessments, such as DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) or PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) provides a little insight into how well students read, but there are usually only one or two reading passages used to test measure how well a student reads out-loud.
Fluency is one area that is extremely important, but seldom practiced in classrooms. Most students read books independently for themselves. Together with phrasing, expression and punctuation, oral reading fluency opportunities happen mostly for students in the classroom during guided reading lessons. Students read out-loud in front of their teacher and their peers, but often will not receive daily practice to improve PACE.
During the first quarter of the school year, when demonstrating fluency, students are a little bit nervous about how well they read out-loud in front of their peers, and even more nervous reading with a new teacher. With a little bit of practice, students become more confident reading out-loud, but often they will not enunciate and decode words to their full potential right away. One way to improve your child's reading fluency and confidence is to help him or her brave through the first quarter of school by practicing some of the strategies introduced through the Fluency Boot Camp.
In particular, it is important that children are comfortable decoding the words on the page of the book that they are reading before evaluating his/her reading rate. Encourage children to pick a "Just Right" book before using an informal assessment tool to measure PACE.
Parents can help children select books independently that are not "Too Difficult" and not "Too Easy" but instead are "Just Right." Casually, parents can examine their child's reading rate if the child has a book that they feel comfortable reading out-loud.
The 5-Finger Rule for choosing a "Just Right" book only helps to evaluate a student's ability to read words. In order to use this strategy, have your child open a book to the middle and begin reading. For each word the child doesn't know, have them put up one finger. If at the end of the page you have:
5 or more fingers up - too difficult and challenging, save for later book
4 fingers up - very challenging
2-3 fingers up - just right
0-1 fingers up - too easy, vacation book
Does your child read slowly, at a mixed rate, or at a conversational rate? A child's reading PACE is a measure of how fast or slow their reading speed or rate is, and if monitored and tracked, actual improvement over time will be observed. A Cold Read and Hot Read are the method used to measure PACE, or reading rate. Reading Fluency Progress Charts are download able for free from a website called A Peach for A Teach. There are other viable chart options located online, and easily found on a variety of websites.
In fact, Cold and Hot Read progress charts are valuable for reading fluency practice and progress monitoring. A cold read is reading aloud from a script or other text with little or no rehearsal. Use the chart to record the word-per-minute goal for a passage. After the cold read and troubleshooting, have the child read the passage a couple of times for practice, notably called "warm" practice. After some clarification on errors in decoding made during a cold read, then send the child to practice reading out-loud independently. Last, use the chart to illustrate improvement after the final hot read.
Start by reading a book that your child can read quickly and easily, again a "Just Right" book, and chart the number of words read correctly per minute. In fact, research has proven that by repeated readings of familiar books it helps to improve a child's fluency. Encourage your child to reread a bit easier, faster, and with a lot more confidence.
Next week, in Fluency Boot Camp we will continue to explore strategies to improve PACE, or reading rate/speed. Keep reading to further uncover more Reading Foundational fluency strategies on Phrasing, Expression, and Punctuation.