My frustration came when I constantly found myself writing down common phrases during guided reading lessons while individually listening to students read out loud. I found myself jotting things like, "Doesn't use punctuation to show meaning of the text" and "Uses 2-3 word phrases while reading" and "Reads monotone." So yes, I was able to do some prompting, modeling, and reinforcing to help correct some of these reading behaviors affecting fluency (which at the middle school age level is something that has been built up with their reading process for years and is hard to undo), but I still didn't feel like I was doing enough. So the last step after you have worked with students in small groups and identified strengths and weaknesses would obviously be to work with students to fix those specific weaknesses. It seems silly, and maybe I'm alone in this, but how often in the education field do we define a problem, talk about it, but do nothing to fix it?
While I was at the LLI conference in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a few ideas for how to work on students who have weak fluency. To me, it was that something tangible that I needed to know that I have several strategies in my toolbox to use with students who are struggling with fluency. Although the ideas come from LLI (which is a reading intervention), I really feel that the ideas can be adapted and incorporated into guided reading when necessary.
Here they are:
1. Rate Mover: Select a paragraph from the section of the guided reading book that particular groups has read for the day. Model to students how to read the paragraph slowly one time, get gradually faster the second time through, and then read at the perfect rate the third time through. Next, have them give it a try. After giving this technique a try, I have found it to be a great way for students who read too slow or too fast to really be able to focus in on an appropriate rate.
2. Echo Reading: Select a page from the reading for the day and read a sentence out loud while having members of the guided reading group taking turns echoing your reading. Prompt students to follow the text with their eyes as you read and listen for how you phrase and emphasize words. I was really surprised at how effective this technique was! Students who really struggled with fluency were able to mimic my phrasing and intonation. That practice will slowly transfer to the reading in their head and when they read out loud individually.
3. Phrased Reading: I have several students in my guided reading groups this summer who have no idea how to phrase words together and when to pause in order for the words on the page to make sense. It seems they either read way too choppy in short phrases or they never talk a breath, refusing to stop at punctuation. For this activity, I have copied a page from the reading for the day right out of the book and then went through and drawn in small dashes onto the page to show readers where to pause. I then made a copy for the students in my group and kept a copy for myself. I modeled by reading the page and pausing appropriately at the lines. I then asked my students to do the same. This was probably the activity that I saw the most immediate improvement on with my summer school guided reading students. Below is an example of what the copied off page out of the book looked like once I put in the lines for phrasing.
4. Self-Evaluation: I also think it's important for students to be aware of their fluency. I created the anchor chart below and have it displayed above my guided reading table. I've talked with my summer school groups about the different questions to ask yourself while you're reading, and I've also used it as a good reminder for myself to talk with students about their perception of their fluency.
5. Reader's Theater: Fountas and Pinnell also recommend Reader's Theater to help increase fluency. The LLI kits include prepared Reader's Theaters. However, I've also taken guided reading books with a lot of dialogue and assigned characters and a narrator to read a section of the text, and it's worked out great as well.
I hope that sharing these strategies helps you when working with readers who struggle with fluency. They're quick activities and easy to prepare for if you plan it out. I have just taken about 5 minutes after each guided reading group to try one of them per day. I would only recommend using the strategies with groups or particular students who struggle with their fluency. If readers aren't fluent, reading is probably not enjoyable and becoming a reader who can process higher level texts becomes much more unlikely.
So if you've identified readers as non-fluent, hopefully this helps with your, "Now what?"