Friday, February 6, 2015

Fluency Instruction: Best Practices for Older Readers

The Ohio Resources Center ( in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Education publishes Adolescent Literacy In Perspective. The September 2006 edition is subtitled Fluency Instruction: Best Practices for Older Readers. This newsletter contains a series of articles: Timothy Rasinski's "Reading Fluency for Adolescent: Why Should we Care," Marcia W. Punsalan's "Fluency in the School Classroom: One Teacher's Method," Regina Rees and Mary Lou Di Pillo's "Reader's Theater: A Strategy to Make Social Studies Click," Carol Brown Dodson's "Reading Stamina," Sheila Cantlebary's feature "For Your Bookshelf" describing several texts and a description of resources available at the parent site.

Rasinski opens with a rationale of teaching fluency to adolescents: fluency is a central feature of reading that either contributes to or distracts from reading, depending on its level. He quotes a study by Duke, Pressley and Hilden that estimates 75 to 90% of reading comprehension issues arise from poor fluency. He also cites a study he worked with, identifying 10% of high school readers as reading at less than 100 words correct per minute (wcpm). The Basic Reading Skills and Literacy of America's Least Literate  Adults presents the basic literacy level as 125 wcpm on prose. 36% of individual who read  75-89 wcpm were able to achieve basic literacy. No one with a wcpm below 75 was able to reach basic literacy. Therefore, if we want students to be literate adults, it seems that we must target a minimum fluency rate of 75 wcpm. This study confirms Rasinski's premise that fluency is critical to adolescent success. He goes on to propose a MAP strategy for teaching fluency:
  • Model- read to students and talk about why you read it the way you read it..
  • Assist- simultaneous reading. Struggling readers read with more proficient readers.
  • Practice- needs a purpose- performance is an excellent option.

Punsalan goes on to describe the importance of reading to students. Reflecting Rasinski's modeling, even high school students like to be read to. It also increases motivation to read. My favorite quote from her is, "As one of six children, I remember my mother reading to us daily, in her words, 'to keep us from killing each other.' " (p. 5) As one of eight children whose mother also read to us I think there is a lot to be said for providing time when the children will not be fighting. When they are being read to, children listen. She ends her article with a list of suggestions for read alouds. These are general such as poetry, but they start the reader on the path to find materials that might interest students in his individual classroom.

Rees and DiPillo go on talking about readers theater in sixth grade social studies classes. They rewrote textbook sections as scripts and had students perform them. The also had students write scripts. Students enjoyed the activity and thought they learned more as a result of rereading scripts, something they were unlikely to do with textbook passages. Readers theater provides that motivation to reread that Rasinski mentions as important. Students who are going to perform need to be ready.

Dodson continues with her article on reading stamina. All too often our struggling readers cannot read medium and long passages. They tune out and miss chunks of meaning. She continues with highlighting some best practice lessons on the resource center website.

Overall this newsletter is a wonderful resource that might be useful as a focus of a high school faculty meeting. Getting teachers to see the issue and then brainstorming ways to work with it is essential if we want out struggling readers to improve.

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