As teachers, we are thrilled to hear students reading with flow and expression. While the sound of fluent reading is beautiful in and of itself, we also know that effortless reading is beautiful because it is essential to comprehension. When students read fluently – with high degree of accuracy, at a good rate, and with lots of expression – their cognitive efforts go into gaining meaning from text, rather than recognizing words.
Fluency instruction can take many forms, but it typically involves having students read orally. This allows teachers to hear how the text is being processed. In some cases, students read the same page or paragraph multiple times, which may improve a student’s ability to read automatically. But repeated reading is not the only game in town. In other cases, students read new text in a non-repetitive manner. When done with specific supports, this type of reading also builds fluency.
Over the next few blogs, we will look at instruction that builds a student’s fluency. The general categories of instruction are 1) repetitive or repeated reading and 2) supported non-repetitive reading. Up first, Jay Samuel’s Repeated Reading, a specific form of guided repeated reading.
Guided Repeated Reading
Guided repeated reading differs from independent repeated reading in that it gives readers support via guidance from either a teacher or peer. There are a variety of guided repeated reading routines and they exist on a continuum of highly formal to informal. Let’s first discuss a formal one pioneered by Dr. Jay Samuels and aptly titled Repeated Reading.
Across many decades, Repeated Reading has shown strong evidence for improving the oral reading fluency of students, from elementary to secondary, from typical learners to students with learning disabilities.
Typically, during Repeated Reading, students orally read a single passage multiple times to reach a certain percentage of accuracy rate, or to complete a prescribed number of readings. For example, students might be instructed to repeatedly read a passage until reaching 130 words correct per minute (WCPM). But because rate can be overrated and helps comprehension only up to a point, other goals should be considered. More on this in a minute.
Key components of Repeated Reading
Researchers have identified several key components of Repeated Reading instruction.
As mentioned earlier, goal setting can involve a student picking numerical goal, such as “I will read 120 WCPM on my third reading of the passage.” But studies shows that during guided repeated reading with student coaches, some peers consistently recorded inaccurate reading rates. In addition, goals that stress the number of words read correctly per minute may communicate that speed is more important than quality! So, some researchers recommend that students be taught to focus on other quantifiable reading behaviors, as well as reading strategies. Examples of these behaviors and strategies include:
Repeated Reading Lesson
A typical session of Repeated Reading involves the following:
For more details on all of this, from a teacher’s introductory lesson and a peer’s coaching to the science behind the procedure, check out the full Iowa Center for Reading Research article at iowareadingresearch.org/blog/repeated-reading-fluency. And remember these two important ideas as you think about how to build fluency: 1) Fluency is built through the rehearsal and refinement of word recognition, and 2) a what is most important is a focus on reading quality rather than reading speed.
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