Thursday, October 10, 2013

Practical Fluency

Fluency is an area of interest to me because I have worked with several students who are able to puzzle their way through the reading, but do so at an extremely slow pace. Often this diminishes comprehension, but practically this means students do not bother to read the assignment. Without the practice their vocabulary and reading abilities do not improve and they fall farther behind their peers.

Max and Gayle Brand's book, Practical Fluency: Classroom Perspectives, Grades K-6, addresses the issue of how to build fluency instruction into the general classroom experience. Although I work with struggling learners, I have found that good classroom instruction is good classroom instruction. My students frequently have their dyslexia compounded by mediocre to poor classroom instruction. Strategies that were not used or were not used effectively may prove very useful in intensive settings.

The book is broken down into 4 sections:
  • Read Aloud, talk and text demonstrations
  • Rereading
  • Short Bursts for Building Stamina
  • Ongoing Assessment
Several strategies are discussed in each section including beautifully woven actual descriptions of classroom experiences with them. This book does not purport to be a source for research information. If you want to know about the research on the effectiveness for each strategy you need to look elsewhere. That said, many teachers do not want to wade through the statistics and experimental design methodology that appears in such materials. For teachers who want to "see" it in action, this fits the bill.

One concept woven into the short bursts section is word work. An idea I intend to incorporate into my lessons is to give students a word and have them write as many words as neatly as they can in a two minute burst that utilize parts of the word. For example, if the word were look, students could write book, nook, took, cook, look-out, cook-out, bookmark, looking, loot, loom, loose, loofa, loo ... Connecting the writing to the reading to build fluency in both is a critical skill. To support my learner, I may start with a page divided into two with the key word  at the top; the right side could be same beginning, the left side the same ending. As progress is made we can add a section for suffixes and prefixes, and one for vowel sound. I think I even have a letter die game that I can use to try and mix it up. This kind of activity will only take a couple of minutes and everyone can engage. More capable readers can be pushed to include longer words.

We need to continue to explore ways to incorporate fluency instruction and practice into daily reading. This book offers several ways to model and practice fluent reading behaviors. After all, we want many methods to use, not just one or two.

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