Research School Network: The invisible challenge: tackling reading fluency The invisible challenge: tackling reading fluency

The invisible challenge: tackling reading fluency

The invisible challenge: tackling reading fluency

by Unity Research School
on the

An introduction from Marc Rowland, Assistant Director of Unity Research School

Our efforts to address educational disadvantage stand or fall on how well children learn to read and make the transition to reading to learn. Without this, much of our work on disadvantage will be built on sand. Strong reading will support:

  • Motivation and confidence
  • Build background knowledge – the glue that makes learning stick
  • Support social inclusion
  • Broaden vistas
  • Create joy and interest

Becoming a strong reader helps pupils to thrive academically, socially and supports personal development. It supports independence. Many pupils have lots of support, encouragement and opportunity for reading in school and at home. But not all do. Our effect size as practitioners is best measured by how we impact on pupils who do not have this support, encouragement and opportunity outside of school. What teachers and support staff do matters. And very little matters more than reading. Lauren sets out how we have approached this issue below. 

Lauren Meadows, Curriculum Developer Adviser and literacy specialist at Unity Schools Partnership

Unless you specifically look to understand the profile of a pupils’ reading fluency, it can be the unseen problem. Tim Rasinski and the Herts for Learning team have done a huge amount to lift the shroud of mystery on how to tackle poor fluency but the scale of the challenge can require more than just intervention. Indeed, the EEF Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 report dedicates a whole recommendation to this very challenge:

EEF Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 report: Recommendation 2

Support pupils to develop fluent reading capabilities: Fluent reading supports comprehension because pupils’ cognitive resources can be redirected from focusing on word recognition to comprehending the text.

We know that when pupils can read fluently, this frees up precious cognitive capacity to focus on making sense of what they have read. But how do we ensure that all pupils move rapidly towards becoming fluent, confident readers? At Unity Schools Partnership, we set out to weave this very principle into the warp and weft of our curricular offer so that every shared reading experience included explicit opportunities to develop pupils’ fluency.

In her blog, EEF blog: Shining a spotlight on reading fluency, Sarah Green outlines one potential approach to fluency instruction:

One evidence-informed approach is guided oral reading instruction. This involves an adult modelling the fluent reading of a text first and then pupils reading the same text aloud with appropriate feedback. It is an opportunity to make the implicit explicit by expertly modelling fluency through appropriate use of pace, expression, punctuation and phrasing – all important features of effective prosody.

Our ambition was to systemise these approaches to developing reading fluency by explicitly mapping them into the daily teaching diet of every pupil, in every one of our schools. Among other high utility strategies, this included:

  • Expert reading
  • Echo reading
  • Read along strategies
  • Paired and performance reading
  • Text marking
  • Repeated reading

At Unity Schools Partnership we planned these prosodic reading approaches into our Primary Reading curriculum (CUSP) and into our secondary Tutor Time Reading programme. Paired with high-quality training for every member of staff, this ensured that pupils and teachers learned the routines of strong fluency instruction and that every student was able to read and access high-demand texts in every lesson. These strategies have proven to be beneficial across all age ranges; indeed, our Secondary English Lead, Ben Godsal has reported strong use of these in KS5 A‑Level classes and our Primary EYFS Lead, Sherise Daly, has identified examples of these approaches being used to great effect in our Reception classes.

We know that some students require very specific intervention to improve their reading fluency, but we can also see great benefits of applying the EEF recommendations to schools’ wider practice to ensure that we reach every student. By systemising this directly into the curricular model, it resets the expectations of how pupils will experience fluency instruction and equips teachers with the knowledge and structures to feel confident in using these strategies across the curriculum.

More from the Unity Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more