Did you know that ‘Repeated Reading’ has an effect size of 0.67 for improving reading fluency?
Considering anything above 0.4 is considered significant, it certainly is worth considering in primary school literacy instruction.
What do we refer to as fluency?
Fluency was identified in 2000, 2005 and 2006 by the US, Australia and UK respectively as being one of the key 5 essential skills required in teaching students to be effective readers.
Reading fluency is often thought of as simply being able to read with speed. Whilst this is true in part, there are two other core components of being considered a fluent reader.
The most important element of fluency is reading with accuracy. Students need to be secure in their alphabetic code knowledge and be able to decode words efficiently, whilst also being able to read high frequency words, with automaticity.
The third component of fluency is prosody. Prosody is the expression we attach to what we read, which is most important when reading aloud. Prosody involves appropriate phrasing, stress, pitch, and rhythm (Konza, 2011)
Repeated reading and its impact on reading fluency
Repeated reading has been identified as one of the most effective ways to improve reading fluency in students (Fisher, Frey and Hattie, 2017). It involves reading a section of text a number of times to provide students with the rehearsal required to build accuracy, speed and confidence.
One way to do this, is to pair students in mixed abilities, including a more fluent reader who models the appropriate rate and intonation for a weaker reader, who then reads the passage. This process is repeated three or four times. If the material is at the less able readers’ independent level, by the third or fourth repetition, the two readers should sound almost the same. Short passages of 50-250 words are preferred so the less able reader can hold within his working memory the pattern of the fluent reading modelled for him (Konza, 2011).
Another way this can be effective is to simplify it with repeated reading of previously learnt words. This can be done using an engaging word chart template where children have a one-minute sand timer and challenge themselves to read as many words as they can, with accuracy and speed.
These strategies can be built into the Literacy Block for ten minutes each day either independently or with a more able peer, to read a passage, page, sentence or series of words to their partner at their individualised reading level, challenging themselves to improve each week. One day a week, this score could be graphed against a line graph of expected achievement to see how they are progressing. Children love challenging themselves to beat their personal best.
What is a typical fluency speed for students?
Reading fluency is measured by the number of words a child can read accurately in one minute (Words Correct Per Minute -WCPM). To give you an idea of the recommended end of year fluency rates, see below. (Rasinski, 2005)
Year 1: 30-90 WCPM
Year 2: 70-130 WCPM
Year 3: 80-140 WCPM
Year 4: 90-140 WCPM
What sort of texts should students use to build fluency?
Depending on where a child is at in their reading journey, for example if a child is still learning to decode, then decodable readers are essential for independent reading.
Assuming the text is the type suitable to the child’s ability, the next step is to ensure that it is at their instructional or fluency level. Ideally for home reading or consolidating synthetic phonics instruction in the classroom, an instructional level text should provide a 90-95% success rate. When practicing fluency however, the reading text should be slightly easier allowing for a 96-100% accuracy (Wheldell & Beaman, 1999). A simple way to work this out is to choose a text or passage with 100 words and keep track of the errors. If there are less than 4 errors in the 100 words, then that is a great level of text for practicing fluency.
Involving parents and final thoughts
Something I have found to not only be helpful for improving student outcomes but also building school community is running short parent sessions in bite sized areas of literacy. Engaging parents in simple high impact literacy strategies can be highly successful. Holding a parent session such as ‘How to build reading fluency at home through Repeated Reading’ could be a wonderful way to enhance the home reading program and involve parents in their child’s reading development.
Reading fluency is often the forgotten cousin in reading instruction. However, considering without it, students will struggle to comprehend text, which is the ultimate goal of all reading- then it is critical that it becomes a part of school-wide literacy approaches. Repeated reading is just one simple way to build this essential skill.
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Happy Literacy teaching!
Australian Government, led by Dr Ken Rowe (2205) National Inquiry into the Teaching of
Literacy. Report and Recommendations. Retrieved 24th June, 2021 from
Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Hattie, J. (2017). Teaching Literacy in the Visible Learning Classroom. Corwin Literacy: California.
Hattie, J. & Zierer, H. (2018). 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Konza, D. (2011) Research into Practice- SA DECS. Retrieved on 27th
National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/nrp/smallbook.cfm
Rasinski, (2005). Fluency Standards Table, Retrieved 24th June 2021 from https://www.readinga-z.com/fluency/fluency-standards-table/
Department for Education and skills led by Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading. Retrieved 24th June from https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5551/2/report.pdf
Wheldall, K. & Beaman, R. (1999). An Evaluation of MULTILIT ‘Making Up Lost Time In Literacy’ Executive Summary. Retrieved 25th June, 2021 from https://multilit-ecomm-media.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/18005030/ExecutiveSummary-Making-up-for-lost-time-in-literacy.pdf
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