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Reading Fluency Homework

What’s the best homework? Reading!

Now… independent reading is valuable for so many purposes: vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension development, self-discipline, stamina, building concentration, nurturing imagination, learning culture, and FUN!

However, many parents want and are equipped to give even more to their children. One area of reading development where parents can do an even better job than the classroom teacher is reading fluency.

Just exactly what reading fluency is gets mixed up with the instructional procedures and practice to achieve it. For example, reading fluency is not repeated reading; although that practice can certainly help improve reading fluency. A helpful way to understand the purpose of developing reading fluency is to think of it as language dexterity.

Merriam-Webster defines dexterity as “mental skill or quickness; readiness and grace in physical activity-especially skill and ease in using the hands.” I like this working definition, because when we think of dexterity in other contexts, such as physical dexterity, we think of it as a process and a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

For example, with the focus on reading speed (one goal of reading fluency), most teachers have had students who meet or exceed grade level fluency standards, in terms of both accuracy and words per minute, but don’t comprehend or retain anything that they’ve read. Reading fluency positively correlates with reading comprehension because the whole purpose of language dexterity is understanding (See this scholarly article for more.) In other words, we want to improve reading fluency in order to improve reading comprehension.

So how can parents build language dexterity in their children and practice reading fluency at home?

Select the Right Book for Fluency Practice

Parents can’t be bothered with complicated Lexile levels or other criteria. Be practical! Here’s a better alternative that all parents can do. CLICK!

Modeled Readings

I read a sentence/paragraph; you read a sentence/paragraph, mimicking my pronunciation, inflection, pacing, and attention to punctuation.

Choral Readings

Parents and children both read a section at the child’s “challenge pace.” The challenge pace should be about 15-20% faster than the child’s independent fluency level.

Repeated Readings

Parents can get their children to repeat large sections, for example, chapters, within the same reading session. A few options: 1. Read it out loud; then read it silently. 2. I read a page; you read a page. 3. We listen to an audio book chapter; you read the same chapter.

Fluency Assessment

Assessment is teaching and practice. Parents can do pre and post fluency assessments on simple timing charts. Teach parents how to quickly determine words per page (the average grades 3-5 chapter book has 200 words per page; grades 6-8 has 275). Parents can assess words per minute or pages read in 5 minutes. Click HERE for 13 free reading assessments, including a simple multi-level reading fluency assessment (The Pets Fluency Assessment) to serve as a baseline.

Other Reading Fluency Homework Options

Word Fluency

Decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Take-home Phonics Books

With the correct instructional materials, parent can help their children practice decodable and sight word fluency. The author’s guided reading  books, Sam and Friends Phonics Books, provide optimal practice for developing what we reading specialists call automaticity. These 54 take-home books are designed for remedial/reluctant readers and provide teenage characters and plots with fantastic non-juvenile cartoons. Five comprehension questions are embedded in each story. Plus, each back page includes word fluency practice to rehearse and assess (in a 30-second assessment) the focus phonics (sound-spellings) and sight words of the lesson with built-in book to book review. Teachers are licensed to print these take-home books and distribute to parents.

Multi-Speed YouTube Modeled Readings

Parents can use phones, tablets, or desktops to access the author’s Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit fluency and comprehension

The Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit

Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit

development animal articles. The teacher prints the article (with three vocabulary and five comprehension questions using the SCRIP independent reading comprehension questions) back-to-back, the progress monitoring matrix, and provides the URL.

Students complete a “cold” (unpracticed) fluency timing and record on the provided matrix.

Students practice choral reading at one of three reading speeds (selected by the teacher and/or parent) with the audio recording, following along with the reading text on the screen. Parents may elect to have their children re-read at the faster reading speed.

Students then complete a “hot” (practiced) fluency timing and record on the matrix.

These animal articles are designed in a three-tiered format: the first two paragraphs at the third grade level; the next two at the fifth grade level; and the last two at the seventh grade level. The design helps remedial readers “push through” more difficult text after having built context and confidence in the preceding text.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

The author, Mark Pennington, is an MA reading specialist who writes curriculum targeted at grades 4-8. His comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies and the Sam and Friends Phonics Books BUNDLE includes both fluency resources described in this article.

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Why Round Robin and Popcorn Reading are Poor Reading Practices

Every day in thousands of classrooms, students are called upon to  read out loud. Some teachers use round robin reading, in which every students takes a turn reading a section. Other teachers use popcorn reading, in which students call upon each other to read. For many teachers, these strategies are the primary means of working through a reading text with students.

Teachers claim that having students read out loud is important fluency and decoding practice. Teachers argue that having students read out loud holds students accountable for reading along with the class, unlike silent reading. Reading out loud builds comprehension because listening comprehension is generally at a higher level than silent reading comprehension. Reading out loud also helps the teacher formatively assess student pronunciation, attention to punctuation, and inflection. Student love to read out loud and much prefer reading a story out loud together as a class than reading the story silently and independently. Having students read out loud is as American as apple pie.

But, upon closer analysis, round robin and popcorn reading are not effective means of reading instruction. Instead, having students read out loud can actually be counterproductive.

First of all, reading out loud as a class is not good fluency practice. Effective fluency practice is leveled according to the instructional level of the student. The Read Naturally® fluency program uses a Brief Oral Screener to assess the fluency level of each student. Reading a class novel or textbook may or may not be at the instructional level for the majority of your students.

Good fluency practice uses modeled readings. Students are not the best model readers in the class. Poor student readers reinforce poor reading skills such as inattention to punctuation, mispronunciation, and poor inflection. The more the teacher interrupts to correct student mistakes, the less fluency is practiced.

Good fluency practice requires lots of reading, including repeated readings. In any given reading, an individual student may read once or twice for a grand total of, say, one minute. Hardly enough practice to improve reading fluency.

Round robin and popcorn reading is poor decoding practice. Class novels and textbooks are not decodable reading text. Real literature is filled with sight words. Additionally, students have different diagnostic decoding deficiencies. Correcting one student’s mispronunciation of the /ch/ in chorus may only address the needs of one or two students. And correction is not effective practice. Students need multiple examples, not isolated corrections, to improve decoding. Nor does correction improve syllabication skills.

Having students read out loud decreases reading comprehension. Jumping from one student to the next interrupts the flow of the reading. Reading comprehension depends upon the connection of ideas. Imagine watching a twenty-two minute episode of “The Office” with thirty different five-second commercials interrupting the show. Comprehension would obviously decrease. In round robin reading, students frequently anticipate where they will begin reading and silently practice—thus losing comprehension.

Not all students enjoy reading out loud. For some, reading out loud is the single most-feared classroom activity. Poor readers lose self-esteem when required to read out loud. Peers can be heartless and cruel. Too often, teachers use round robin or popcorn reading to “catch” students who are inattentive, which further disrupts fluency and comprehension and only serves to humiliate students.

Instead of round robin and popcorn reading, why not use reading strategies that are appropriate to the teacher’s instructional objectives. For fluency development, use a differentiated fluency plan with diagnostically assessed leveled readings with teacher read alouds or modeled readings and repeated practice. Or at least use choral readings or echo readings to provide some modeling. For decoding practice, use phonics worksheets assigned according to the diagnostically assessed needs of students. For reading comprehension, use specific guided reading comprehension strategies with the best model reader, the teacher, as the coach. For formative reading assessment, protect the self-concept of the student and the accuracy of the assessment by reading one-on-one periodically.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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