Thursday, December 25, 2014

Helping Students Become Accurate, Expressive Readers

Melanie Kuhn's article, Helping Students Become Accurate, Expressive Readers: Fluency Instruction for Small Groups, from the December 2004/January 2005 edition of The Reading Teacher, describes a comparison study examining ways to improve fluency in struggling second graders. She set up four groups:
  1. a repeated reading strategy  (FOOR)
  2. wide reading
  3. listening 
  4. control
Over six weeks groups of 6 students met three times a week for 15-20 minutes. Students in the control group were not removed from class while the other students were pulled for instruction.

She found that both wide reading and  FOOR improved in their ability to identify words in isolation. They also showed greater gains in reading rate in context than the other two groups. The wide reading group showed gains in comprehension that the others did not. The author speculated that this might be attributed to the focus during the wide reading sessions was both expressive reading and comprehension whereas the focus of the FOOR sessions was on prosody. Perhaps, as the authors observes, if there had been more focus on comprehension, gains could have been achieved there as well. Since the listening group did not make either of these gains the author commented that, "while reading aloud is important in fostering a love of reading, learners must actively engage in the reading of connected text if they are to become skilled readers" (p. 342).

The author points out implications for the classroom. First that grouping flexibly by ability, needs and/or interests is essential in meeting the needs of the students. Second the needs of the students need to point to instructional strategies: FOOR for students who need to work on the mechanics of reading, automaticity and prosody but wide reading for those who need support in word recognition, prosody and comprehension.

Overall her approach could be considered a Tier 2 intervention in a response to intervention framework. If her research can be applied to older students who have not yet mastered reading with fluency is unknown and deserves further research. Other authors have certainly supported using a multipronged intervention for older students: direct instruction in phonics and vocabulary, wide reading, repeated reading and listening. Understanding what each student's unique profile would best benefit from is where art and science have not yet met. Clearly students who have not made significant progress under one approach should have the nature of their instruction altered in a timely manner so as to maximize learning time. The six week time frame seems adequate to determine if an intervention is going to be effective with a particular student at that time.

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