Sunday, December 21, 2014

Building Fluency, Word Recognition Ability, and Confidence in Struggling Readers

Lori G. Wilfong's article, Building Fluency, Word Recognition Ability, and Confidence in Struggling Readers: The Poetry Academy, published in 2008 in The Reading Teacher 62(1), discusses a reading intervention for third grade readers with fluency levels more than 20% below the national norms. In her research, students were provided with a weekly one-on-one 5-10 minute intervention delivered by trained volunteers. Volunteer readers read a poem to the students, read the poem with the student and then the student read the poem (repeated reading and assisted reading interventions). Students then took the poem home and read it to as many adults as possible over the course of the week. When they returned the next week, they reread the poem to their volunteer partner and then began the cycle over again. The students receiving the intervention over the course of 11 weeks, made better progress in fluency than their average performing peers. They also improved their attitudes toward reading.

Two critical components of the Poetry Academy were in providing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. The author selected poems that were fun; they had elements of humor, crudeness and rudeness that elementary students find enjoyable. The volunteers provided stickers and small pieces of candy to students who participated brought their Poetry Academy materials to the sessions. At the end of the intervention the students were promised a poetry café experience in which they each read a favorite poem to their parents and ate pizza and snacks.

It seems to me that one of the essential parts of this intervention was that students practiced at home. At the elementary level this component of the intervention is relatively easy. Parents of younger students often expect to have to help with homework. At the high school level, students are more likely to isolate their homework from their parents. Getting older students to practice with other adults or peers could be challenging.

This research strongly suggests that simple and quick interventions centered around fluency in the elementary classrooms is an effective method to remediate struggling reading interventions. Whether such an intervention could be effective with older students remains to be seen.

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