Fluency is the ability to read a text quickly, accurately , and with intonation. It is vital as without it children are unable to comprehend what they are reading – too much mental energy goes in to reading each word, sometimes still painstakingly sounding them out, for there to be much understanding.
After a lack of success last year in our KS2 Reading SAT I decided to investigate things further…QLA pointed out inference, as always, and a lack of answers beyond question 30. There were many reasons why some of the children couldn’t plough through the text – EAL, SEN, etc but for others it wasn’t clear. I decided the key was to measure fluency…
We tested the Year 5 pupils and found that the majority of them had fluency scores well below what would be needed to comfortably access the SATs test next year. This meant that we needed to ensure that fluency was developed daily in all year groups.
Already, in this relatively short space of time, children have increased in confidence, stamina and expression and can accurately read more words per minute. There are a few easy approaches that we that we use:
- Choral reading – The children read with the teacher who models expression. This can be used during English lessons, guided reading, story time or at anytime across the curriculum when texts are shared.
- Cloze reading – The teacher reads a text and misses out words which are then read aloud by the class. This approach is great for ensure children focus on the text. They need to follow it closely with ruler or finger so they can quickly read the missing word. A word of warning is that fluency can be ruined if too many words are left for the children to read – remember the key to success is fantastic modelling of fluency by the adult.
- Echo reading – The teacher reads a short section e.g. sentence, with lots of expression and the children repeat it. Sometimes it is necessary to break down more complex sentences into clauses or smaller sections so children can remember and repeat effectively with expression.
- Paired reading – In pairs pupils read to one another. It often works best when more able readers are paired with weaker readers and use elements of echo reading. Middle ability pupils often work well reading together.
- Reader’s Theatre – The children work in groups on a dramatic ‘radio’ reading of a text extract. This works brilliantly for class assemblies.
- Poetry recital – Pupils learn a poem by heart. They then perform these either in groups or alone. We learn a minimum of one per term. Again this is great for class assemblies.
We ensure a variety of these approaches are used daily. The children love them and engage much more positively with reading lessons.
These approaches work just as effectively with new to English, EAL or SEN pupils as they have opportunities to hear brilliant reading and can join in as they feel comfortable, without the fear of everyone listening to them alone.
It is vital that we build class story into our busy days as this is a fantastic opportunity for children to hear fluency modelled and where possible have copies of the books so children can follow as the teacher reads or even have a go at reading aloud themselves.
Audio books are a great way to expose your child to complex language, expressive reading, and amazing stories. Listening to audio books also gives them the valuable experience of using their own imaginations to visualize the people and to play their ‘mind movie’. It seemed to fall out of fashion to have ‘listening centres’ in classrooms, but the are hugely important – children can even record themselves reading aloud to be listened to by other class members.
A final point for thought….if a child struggles to read accurately and quickly then silent reading, DEAR (drop everything and read) or ERIC (everybody reading in class) will not help them to develop fluency. This does not mean don’t read silently in class, just consider why you are doing it….