Martin's Musings

April 11, 2016

But We Have Always Done That

"'Sustained silent reading' is another conventional method that most experts now say is outmoded." SSR, DIRT, DEAR not effective? Them's fighting words!! A National Reading Panel said that there was insufficient evidence to support that SSR increased fluency. So if this cherished classroom reading activity may not be a fluency strengthener, what steps can we take to increase fluency?

Since we know that fluency is a necessary for increasing comprehension, it a skill we cannot afford to leave up to chance. Fluency is much more than just words per minute. In fact, fluent readers often slow themselves down to reflect on a particular passage, reread an engaging phrase, or double check their grasp of an idea.

The first step to increasing a student's fluency, is to determine what is holding them back. Is it a lack of sight words? Perhaps they don't possess the necessary decoding skills. We have several master reading teachers at Sunshine. If you are struggling to identify why a student's fluency is not increasing, reach out to a colleague. There are also district reading specialists that would be glad to drop by and listen to one of your struggling readers read and help with diagnosis and interventions.

Since SSR is not the fluency silver bullet, how can we help a student become a more fluent reader?

First and foremost, approach fluency as a skill that CAN and MUST be explicitly taught. We cannot just hope that students become more fluent readers just because they read more.

Some strategies you might want to try:

Repeated Oral Reading (ROR) with feedback and guidance. This strategy involves a teacher sitting one-on-one with a student and timing the student as they read the same short passage several times. They keep working this passage until they can read it at an acceptable fluency level. Some students even set a goal and graph their progress. HOWEVER, the danger is that speed becomes the end goal. Encourage the student to not only read quickly, but with expression, and of course comprehension.

To combat the "speed only" mentality, some experts recommend ROR using poetry. The natural phrasing of poetry will force students to focus on phrasing and flow.

Echo Reading is another researched-based approach to increasing fluency. This technique is modeled in this short video clip. Echo Reading

There is no one strategy that will magically increase a student's reading fluency. It involved intentional, consistent, sustained work on both the part of the teacher and the student.

Oh, yeah, I am not advocating or even suggesting we ditch SSR, DEAR, and DIRT, but let's make sure we are not depending on those acronyms for our fluent reading instruction.

Reading Fluency Viewed as a Neglected Skill

Liana Heitin

When's the last time you danced like no one was watching?

Dancing Kid