: How I teach reading fluency Fluency has been one of our Trust priorities as it is a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.

How I teach reading fluency

Fluency has been one of our Trust priorities as it is a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.

by Town End Research School
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For the past few years, reading fluency and stamina have been a priority within my MAT. One reason is the increased word count and demand of the KS2 SAT, another is to increase children’s confidence, ability to access and enjoy books, and the final reason is to prepare children for the reading demands of the next stage in their learning. Reading fluency is very much on others’ agendas right now and rightly so; there are blogs aplenty covering the whys and wherefores of teaching reading fluency (one of my favourites can be found here) but less has been written about the hows.

Fluency has been one of our Trust priorities as it is a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Fluency is sometimes confused with how quickly a child can read a piece. Rate is important but fluency is also about prosody, accuracy and that all important reading for meaning.

Our structures for teaching fluency

My reading model centres around whole class reading and discussing a high-quality book which will be read in its entirety. We find our children respond better to a whole book as opposed to extracts – it enthuses them and they truly invest in it and are dedicated to it. This shared experience of a book and ultimately a repertoire of books is a powerful platform to develop meaningful, purposeful interactions and a buzz about reading.

Picking the right text is critical. We think about a variety of features of texts, including opportunities to enhance social and emotional learning, foster inclusivity, or improve background knowledge, but mainly because they are excellent books packed with literary features, and aspirational vocabulary that will motivate, provoke talk and hook the children in. Children have physical copies of the book: at least one between 2.

The rhythm of lessons is crucial: we have daily 30-minute lessons structured around a fortnightly cycle. This ensures that fluency, comprehension strategies* and the tackling and unpicking of a range of question types, for example, multiple-choice, ordering, matching, true or false, are explicitly taught during its course.

We deliberately teach and allow time to practise the three components of fluency: accuracy, automaticity and prosody. This is built into our reading model in the guise of echo, choral and repeated reading. The fluency element of the cycle requires the adult to read the text aloud to expertly model fluency in action. This also means that children who would ordinarily struggle to decode the aspirational text, still have the chance to access it. These children are often excellent comprehenders of oral language and we can still grow this: language comprehension is not wholly dependent on word recognition.

Specific techniques for teaching fluency

A favourite amongst teachers and perhaps the most impactful tool for boosting fluency is Readers Theatre. This approach is great for engaging and motivating children, whilst also incorporating the tools of repeated reading and guided oral reading instruction as mentioned in the EEF Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two guidance report. Readers Theatre​“provides an authentic reason for rereading texts.” Stayter & Allington (1991) and Worth & Broaddus (2002).

Below is a step-by-step guide to how we approach Readers Theatre (files are attached in reading order).

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Readers Theatre

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Child Fluency Rubric

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Readers Theatre Prompts

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Readers Theatre is not only a fantastic way to increase fluency but a great way to gauge children’s understanding of the text through how they perform it – if they put emphasis or expression on specific words or use volume inappropriately you can see immediately that they haven’t quite understood the text. Readers theatre encourages children to explore authorial intent; and how an author’s language, syntax, font, and SPaG choices, contribute to the meaning of a text. It supports children to recognise how a writer deliberately sets about to provoke particular responses from the reader in order to influence their thoughts, moods, attitudes or emotions through the techniques they employ. Through such a close reading of a short piece of text, children have the time and space to read between the lines, they become better able to use clues from action, interactions, dialogue and description to interpret the author’s intentions and make deductions about a character’s thoughts, feelings or motives.

Feedback is a key part of Readers Theatre. Feedback between adults and children and between children and children. Scaffolds are crucial: including speaking stems and the child-friendly multidimensional fluency scale above, which children use to praise and progress one another. Be warned: they’ve also been known to give the odd adult feedback based on their performance in step 1!

Readers Theatre also requires successful collaboration, so creating the right climate is paramount. Pupils need to communicate clearly and effectively as they decide together how to perform their section. Children work in carefully considered mixed-ability pairs or triads and get lots of practice to improve their collaborative learning capabilities through the use of scaffolds such as speaking stems.

Readers Theatre works wonderfully with non-fiction texts too. As with fiction, it is important that children carefully consider the purpose or the author’s intentions as well as their audience when reading it aloud. They can perform their section in the style of public service announcement, documentary, news item and so on.

Readers theatre incorporates many approaches that are known to be effective in developing reading fluency and it is also a very powerful way of developing reading comprehension, collaborative learning and oracy skills. Children become equipped to speak and listen confidently, appropriately and sensitively whilst increasing their fluency and deepening their understanding of a text.

*the comprehension strategies (such as questioning, prediction, clarifying etc.) are modelled and explicitly taught as part of the cycle. This isn’t done by​‘Monday: retrieval, Tuesday: summarising’ and so on, skills are interwoven and are employed as and when opportunities arise in the book depending on which need to be practised.

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