Improving Reading Fluency

Using various methods with repeated readings

By Ally Jackson

What is Fluency and Why is it Important?

Fluency is the ability to read smoothly. My students know it as "not reading like a robot." Students who read like a robot are typically having a difficult time decoding words and are focusing more on what the words are rather than comprehending WHAT they are reading. I teach 3rd grade and this is a year of transition into the testing realm. It is important that students be able to read fluently in order to be successful in all subject areas and on the tests as well.

What Are Repeated Readings and How Did I Use Them In My Study?

Repeated readings are exactly what they sound like-repeated readings. Research has proven that students improve fluency by reading something multiple times. Small books, selections from texts, reading passages, song lyrics, poems, and sentences are just a few examples of what can be used to do repeated readings.

In my research project, I took several methods I had read about in my literature reviews and combined them into one study. I had four groups leveled from DIBELS, a fluency monitoring program used by our county. My students were grouped as the following: significantly below grade level, slightly below grade level, right at grade level, and then students who were below grade level at the beginning of the year and have moved onto grade level since then. The significantly below grade level group worked with me giving them immediate feedback, the below grade level group worked with peer coaches who used rubrics to help give immediate feedback and suggestions, the on grade level group used the recording device on iPads to record themselves reading and then used a rubric to rate themselves, and lastly the fourth group used a combination of the above methods.

On Mondays, students timed themselves doing a "Cold Read," which is the first time they have read the passage, and then graphed their correct words per minute in their Fluency Folders. They practiced this passage throughout the week in their groups, and on Friday they timed themselves in a "Hot Read," which is when they have become more comfortable and familiar with the passage. They graphed this score as well so they could not only see their growth since Monday, but were able to see their growth from week to week as well. This served as a motivation factor.

In the Future

In the future I plan to use fluency folders from the very beginning and train students on all of the various methods of using repeated readings to increase fluency. Students have a lot of fun with this and will get to choose which method they like the most to use themselves. They will not be bound to one method, but will have a choice and can practice their fluency as they please.