Monday, October 6, 2014

Phonics and Fluency Practice with Poetry

Timothy Rasinski, William H. Rupley and William Dee Nichols's short book Phonics & Fluency Practice with Poetry: Tapping the Power of Rhyming Verse to Improve Student's Word Recognition, Automaticity, and Prosody-- and Help Them Become Successful Readers is intended for an elementary market. I picked it up because a) most fluency materials are intended for that market, b) Rasinski is an expert in fluency, and c) I am looking for ways to improve my secondary student's fluency.

The authors see poetry as a unique and motivating way to focus on fluency and poetry. Poems contain word families and rimes which are integral to phonics instruction. Capitalizing on the high incidence of rimes in poetry provides a natural way to demonstrate to young readers the power of word families. Poems also contain rhythm and often predictable language which assists with fluency reading as well. I worked with one student for whom, poetry enabled him to demonstrate prosody in a way that he was rarely ever able to do with prose text.

Within the reading lab at Kent State where Raskinski works, poetry based fluency lessons are a daily occurrence which has helped dramatically increase reading skills. Fluency lessons need not be long- 15 minutes is sufficient, but they do need to be consistently employed. The authors present four separate examples of fluency lessons:
  • daily poem
  • three day phonics and poetry routine
  • five day fluency poetry party routine
  • fluency development lesson
The daily poem is as it sounds, introducing a poem on a daily basis that gets read repeatedly over  the day. This would be a struggle to implement in a secondary environment where students switch teachers many times a day. The three day routine involves presenting a poem and identifying word families both within it and within the students' vocabulary. The second day involves using those word families to read other rhymes and possibly create some themselves. The third day involves multiple re-readings in a variety of contexts. The five day routine involves groups or individuals preparing to present poems. Both the three and five day routines could be adapted to an ELA class at the secondary level.

The fluency development lesson (FDL) is more complex. It is designed for struggling readers. It starts with the teacher explaining fluency and modeling it with a poem. After students chorally read the poem, they practice in small groups so that each child reads it three times while their partner listens and provides encouragement. Students are encouraged to perform the poem for the class. Then the vocabulary is examined and word study is engaged in. Copies of the poem go home for practice with a new audience and the following day the poem is read again. Clearly this is not something that could be done on a daily basis in a regular classroom. It might be possible during a unit on poetry where a whole class would be expected to perform a poem. In a supplemental setting, however, there is opportunity. In my current setting where some of the students I work with I see once every four days, I would need to very carefully select poems that incorporated the phonics concepts we are also working on. Since nursery rhymes, a favorite source, might be considered too childish, alternate materials would need to be searched out. The authors provide some sources for seeking out materials, but overall, this is an area that could consume extensive time.

I am working with the Wilson Reading System. This stepped program has a section that works on closed syllable words that are an exception to the short vowel sound. One such example is -old. The poem "Black and Gold" by Nancy Byrd Turner uses -old repeatedly and then also reinforces the previously learned family, -ink. I can see using this with my students who are working at this level. The poem is short, entertaining and reinforces the target word sounds. While elementary students might enjoy illustrating the poem or creating pumpkin crafts with it, at the high school level, simply focusing on the meaning might be enough. We could also talk about imagery, rhyme schemes and parallelism.

While the authors include a chapter on writing poem parodies as an extension, this might be an area where older kids thrive. Getting students to focus on the rhyme scheme and rhythm of the poem would be helpful in their understanding and analysis of other works. Since analysis is a common thread of the Common Core, this could easily be incorporated into the mainstream curriculum. Adding the creative element could be very reinforcing as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment