Research School Network: Fluency Five – supporting reading comprehension Ways to support reading comprehension


Fluency Five – supporting reading comprehension

Ways to support reading comprehension

by Research Schools Network
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David Windle is deputy headteacher at London South research School and co-creator of Fluency Focus for the London South Research School. In this blog, he explains the fluency techniques that underpin the Fluency Focus programme, designed to support reading comprehension.

Fluency Focus is a sequence of twenty, whole-class reading lessons for Year 5 pupils, currently undergoing evaluation as a pilot programmefor the EEF. The lessons aim to improve pupils’ reading fluency and consequently their comprehension of challenging texts.

The Fluency Focus programme involves children repeatedly reading text aloud – thinking about the appropriate intonation and expression to use, and therefore unpicking what the author was trying to say through their writing.

The aim is that through this process, honing their delivery of the text, the children will uncover the meaning housed within it. 

The programme is based on five key fluency strategies:

1. Modelled reading aloud

This is such a simple, yet powerful, strategy. By hearing a fluent reader, a child’s understanding of a text and the intention behind it is enhanced. It is important to approach new vocabulary this way too – make sure the children have heard challenging words read aloud before they read them. Where in your teaching day can you find an opportunity to model expert reading to children?

2. Choral echoing

Hearing the expert model provides the perfect platform for children to practise on. In this strategy, the teacher reads a sentence out fluently and the children echo it back, trying to capture the teacher’s expression and intonation.

3. Phrase marking

This strategy helps children break a text down into readable units of meaning, as sometimes sentences contain many pieces of information.

Before reading, children spend time marking pause points in the text – using a single slash for a short pause, perhaps between two phrases, and a double slash for a long pause, perhaps at the end of a sentence. This map then allows them to navigate each sentence when they read aloud.

4. Rehearsing with a partner

Giving children the chance to read the same piece repeatedly has a huge impact on how fluently they can read it. Rehearsal time is important. In Fluency Focus, we use a fluency scale which helps children give each other feedback on different elements of their reading. However, simply asking children to read and listen to each other in an attempt to understand and express the meaning of the text could also be beneficial.

5. Performing

The final fluency strategy is performance, which can take the form of children reading together as a whole class or in groups or reading on their own. The aim is for the children to take full responsibility for communicating the meaning and energy of the text. Not only does this bring the text to life for the listener, it also demonstrates the understanding of the reader.

The process of fluent reading is not unlike the process involved in acting. Actors have a script, which depicts the thoughts and actions of some characters. The actors rehearse this script aloud while considering and discussing the underlying thoughts. Eventually, the script can be performed as the actors fully understand and inhabit it. Is this not oracy and fluency in action? 

Through discussion, listening, collaboration and the development of ideas along with the spoken-aloud element of repeated rehearsal, the text becomes completely absorbed and understood. The actors, the readers, become utterly fluent in it. 

The current, of course, flows both ways: not only are children tracing the thoughts of the author but they are also articulating their thoughts on the text. They are building language structures of their own in collaboration with the teacher and each other.

By prioritising fluency, we can support all children to make meaning from texts and deepen their comprehension of what they read. This is particularly important for children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to lack access to books and cultural experiences.

To find out more about Fluency Focus, sign up for our webinar series in February.

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