Fluency for comprehension.

How to develop fluency daily in class.

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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…

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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….

Remember, remember the 5th of November.

I really enjoy this time of year and I still find fireworks a huge thrill.  I have collected together some quick teaching ideas if Bonfire Night is something that you want to celebrate with your class.  The ideas range from poems and information texts to crafts and art – the best bits are edible of course!

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For story inspiration you could share the fantastic Philip Pullman book ‘The Firework Maker’s Daughter’ – if you Google it there are loads of ideas for sharing it with your pupils or – if you can get your hands on a copy – George Layton’s ‘The Fib and other stories’ has a short story called ‘The Firework Display’ set in 1950s England.  Here is a link that contains an extract as well as other ideas from the Lancashire Grid for Learning:

http://www.lancsngfl.ac.uk/curriculum/literacy/lit_site/html/teachers/bonfire.htm

Friendship is a sheltering tree.

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Friendship is a sheltering tree.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Autumn is on its way – a perfect time for looking at trees at the height of their beauty.  I love trees.  They are grounding and central to life itself.  There are so many shades of colour in autumn and endless art activities that can be undertaken in the classroom.  Some of my favourite stories have trees at their heart – ‘The Giving Tree’, ‘The Minpins’, ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’.

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A classic is the story of ‘The Giving Tree’ a heart-warming story that follows the life of a boy and a tree.  In spite of receiving nothing in return the simple act of giving to the one that he loves makes the tree happy. It is great to read at Autumn time, particularly if you are celebrating ‘Thanks Giving’  as it leads you beautifully into the discussion of how we can be more giving.

Here is a link to a beautiful retelling of the story on YouTube –

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I saw some lovely ideas for Giving trees or just trees in general on Pinterest.

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http://www.uniqueteachingresources.com/Giving-Tree-Lesson-Plans.html

There are more ideas on the website above, including the fact that the teacher in the first photo takes all the leaves of the tree as they enter winter and sprays the branches with fake snow! A display for all seasons!

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Trees are fantastic for evoking mysterious, magical and moody atmospheres.  Use them at the centre of a mind-map for groups of children to collect words and phrases that describe the picture and create a mood.  Those words can be saved for story writing and stuck on working walls.

Trees are fabulous for inspiring poetry.  The words collected above can be used in poems too.

Tree, gather up my thoughts
like the clouds in your branches.
Draw up my soul
like the waters in your root.

In the arteries of your trunk
bring me together.
Through your leaves
breathe out the sky.

by J. Daniel Beaudry

I have always felt the living presence
of trees

the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,

as though the woods were marrow of my bone
as though

I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one

deep in these woods,
that calls

that whispers home

by Michael S. Glaser

There are hundreds of myths and legends about trees.  The Celts used the image of ‘The Tree of Life’ in their carefully constructed knot work and folk tales talk of The Green Man, the spirit of the woods and forest.

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I found a super website that contains hundreds of trees myths and legends from around the world, poems and teaching types for science.  I would love to learn some of the tree stories from the site and the retell them orally in the true spirit of storytelling.

http://spiritoftrees.org/

It also reminds me again of a film I discussed previously ‘Avatar’.  The Na’vi talk about ‘The Tree of Souls’ which links them all together and holds memories for them. Still images from the film are simply beautiful and lend themselves beautifully to fantasy story writing.

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Woods can be terrifying places, think Blair Witch or the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter.  I always use woods or forest as a chapter in a quest story based on the idea of The Hobbit.  Short clips from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit films forest scenes are great for stimulating ideas and engaging children…obviously don’t use clips from the Blair Witch!!

Woods can also be whimsical and magical places too.  Think of the Magical Faraway tree…fairies, pixies, elves…fairy rings and toadstools.  It is where Hansel and Gretel got lost and where witches live in tumbled down cottages…

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Alone with myself

The trees bend

to caress me

The shade hugs

my heart

by Candy Polgar

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