There are many dimensions of reading fluency, in week one of Fluency Boot Camp we discussed PACE, which is the speed at which a child reads. The goal being to read at a just right pace, not too fast and not too slow.
This week of Fluency Boot Camp, we will preview PHRASING, which is chunking the words together into meaningful phrases and not reading one word at a time. Fluency in reading and writing involves many steps taught at home or in the classroom. An activity that involves cutting-up sentences into phrases is a productive way for children who are having difficulty with reading fluency. How does phrasing and reading fluency fit together? Phrasing is a reading strategy that helps children to read with automaticity and be able to read fluently with ease.In particular, when reading continuous print out-loud, children seem to forget what they know. It is quite common that children have a tendency to stammer, while pronouncing the letters, sounds and words they have already learned. When we test in isolation, most students seem to know letter-sound relationships, phonograms, or high-frequency words; however a reader uses both pause and intonation to parse sentences into meaningful phrases. In general, this processing element can become a reading fluency challenge for most readers.
To emphasize, the research from Pinnel & Fountes, When Readers Struggle, Teaching That Works, suggests that reassembling a cut-up sentence by breaking-up the phrases helps to improve fluency because it requires learners to:
- Keep the whole sentence in their head
- Attend to the order of words and phrases in sentences
- Search for and use visual information, while thinking about letter and sound relationships
- Check by rereading
- Use known words to monitor reconstruction and rereading
What is a phrase? In order to understand phrasing, to improve reading fluency, it is necessary to understand that a phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbs. For instance, a phrase is absent a subject, such as in this example of a phrase: leaving behind the dog. While practicing phrasing, the reader will gradually sound natural, as in talking.
One example of how to teach phrasing in the the classroom or at home is a tool called Scoop the Pelican. Students practice writing 5 sentences on the strips of paper provided, which are about one inch by eleven or thirteen inches; then cut; and scoop the sentence strips into a picture of a pelican that they have pre cut-out.
In the beginning, it is advisable to have children select 5 sentences from an independent reading book of choice. In the second or third round, a teacher can gradually transition the activity to a writing center for practice throughout the school year. The idea with Scoop the Pelican is to break apart a sentence into phrases to read out-loud. For example, in the sentence: The dog barked loudly at the mailman, the student would break-apart the sentence into the following phrase:
- The dog / barked loudly / at the mailman //
Keep in mind that phrasing is the placement and length of the reader’s pauses using parse language into meaningful units for reading fluency practice. In good reading, the pauses are logically and well paced; in oral reading, they help the listener.
These are examples of sentences that are phrased:
- Jerome adopted / a cat / that refused to meow //
- With her love of Shakespeare / and knowledge of grammar / Jasmine / will someday be / a great English Teacher //
- Sarah / should have been writing / her research essay / but she couldn’t resist / another short chapter / in her Beverly Cleary book //
- If guests / are coming for dinner / we / must wash / our smelly dog //
Improving reading fluency is a process of gradually transitioning from reading one word at a time, and that is what phrasing is all about. Given these points, and with practice in phrasing, children will perform their reading motor actions more rapidly, easily, and without conscious attention!