Suggestions for Improving Reading Fluency (grades 3-7)

Would any teachers be willing to share ideas for improving reading fluency with students in grades 3-7? Our school currently uses the Guided Reading program of Reading Plus and Read Naturally (Master's Edition). I'm looking for more creative/fun ways to improve fluency (reader's theater with costumes, perhaps?)

Tags: fluency, reading, reading_fluency

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Our second graders were practicing dialogues (English is their 2nd language) and I remembered the flip cam I had bought a few months before so I used it to film them. The video is great and when we were finished the teachers e-mailed it t each child's parents. The whole process on the flip cam is so easy even an adult can do it. And if the kids know that others will see it they really work hard to do it well.
I'm wondering what memories people have of when they became fluent readers. For me, it was in the fourth grade and reading Nancy Drew (at home). We were renting a house that had a little library, and there was a full set of Nancy Drew books. Sometimes I would fake being sick so I could stay home and finish a book : ).

After several Nancy Drew's in a row (7? 10?) I was set for life- a fast reader. I could read any book I chose from that point forward. The point is, fluency came from reading lots of material at an easy level.

I just finished reading The Book Whisperer, in which Donalyn Miller says about the same thing. But this idea is not new- I remember first hearing about this method, that some lucky kids happen to stumble upon on their own (almost always through a series that is easy and enjoyable for them to read) in the first part of Jim Trelease's book, or perhaps another educator writing around that time (Donald Graves? Murray? Someone like that)... this educator insisted that each classroom should have a minimum of 50 books per child for the students to chose from. Varied materials and the time to read them.

Remember, we're talking about developing reading fluency here. I think most students who don't like to read don't like it because they can't read quickly enough to keep their mind occupied. The story unfolds much too slowly to capture and keep anyone's interest.

In a funny way, you can be too smart, engaged, and clever to enjoy reading if you can't read fast enough!
Ellen! Thank you for your delightful anecdote about achieving your reading fluency mark. I agree completely -- once your reach a point where your reading is fluent -- from there on it's easy and as long as you continue to read new stuff (books, blogs, etc) you learn to love reading! I had similar issues with my only remedial student last year. She disliked reading. She was a hard worker and wanted to get good grades - she did well in grammar but only regressed in her reading grade-- which in turn affected her social studies grades, too! I'm, unfortunately, facing the same problem with my own high school age siblings and I can't figure out how to speed up their "Learning how to read" curve. I think the key is finding short, easy elementary-grade level books that are fun for them and take it from there. What do you think?

Personally, My problem right now is poor peripheral vision (I learned about it from Abbey Markes Beale -- writer of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Speed Reading)-- I can only see 3 words at one glance but I can read much faster than that. So my limited peripheral vision makes reading boring and frustrating sometimes. What are you thoughts on speed reading?
Mariam, that is so interesting about peripheral vision! I am going to check into that, there must be little tricks to help with that.

I was always interested in learning how to speed read for myself, but I never completed the exercises! Maybe it is like making oneself learn how to touch type when you are comfortable and not that bad at hunt and peck- hard to stay motivated! (BTW, I never would have learned to type if it wasn't for chat rooms, which is why schools are so adamant about not letting kids use them (though I think this is slowly changing- at least set up a private class chat box so the kids can talk to each other!)

Most libraries publish a list of great books for reluctant readers... and there seems to be even more suggestions when I google the subject. Give me a few days and I will happily have a little packet of suggestions (I love doing that stuff; every school librarian I have known has said I should be one of them! But honestly, I am just too LOUD- :D)

One last note about difficulty with tracking words.. I was subbing in a second grade classroom a few years ago. The teacher wasn't letting the kids use their finger to follow the words as they read (I remember my 2nd grade teacher, over 40 years ago, forbidding the same thing!) One little girl was trying very hard but having a lot of trouble, so on a whim I made her a little bookmark out of card. That simple intuition had a big impact- immediately, she could read with much greater ease! I was floored, it was so dramatic. I don't think this is usual, but it has stuck with me, how such a small adjustment or prop can make such a huge difference! (And also, sadly, that as teachers, we don't always know what we are doing or asking of our students when we make such decrees...)

Many children's eye movement coordination is simply not yet developed enough to track text efficiently. With a little support in this area, they can read just fine for their age/grade level. I'll look into the peripheral vision thing and see if I can come up with anything.
Thank you the insight and your offer to help, Ellen :)

I'm glad you mentioned the second grader-- one of the speed reading techniques that Beale talks about in her book is using an index card to help you look at one at a time. She even includes more than 8 techniques to use your fingers as tools to help you read better! Out of the list she recommends you choose the ones that suit you - they actually work!

Let me know what you come up with on peripheral vision :)
Hi Ellen!

How funny--it was Nancy Drew that did it for me too! I have been recommending series books for years for just the reasons you cite.

Sarah
Hi Sarah! Nice to meet another Nancy Drew fan ; ). Did you go on to enjoy mysteries? I just realized the other day that I didn't... Nancy Drew books are among the few from that genre I have ever read! Sure did like those stories though. What series do you like to recommend now? (I know a "special ed" student who became fluent last year reading Captain Underpants- hey, Dav Pilkey makes me laugh too!)

Last time I saw him this year (4th grade), he had a full blown novel in his hands, and reads whenever he can during the school day.

I hopped over to your page and saw that you were blogging- do you still blog?
One idea from First Steps Reading (pub: Edith Cowan University) is Buddy Reading, where buddies read to each other, either on a shared book or on separate books. This gives experience for both students to be practising their fluency sequentially. They might choose to read by paragraphs, half pages or full pages.
One of the best things I have tried is Super Speed 1000. My kids love it.
Hey there

I'm just out of high school. I think listening/speaking beats reading any day. I'd suggest presenting quality cartoon programmes to children - programmes that impart some learning, but still retain the fun element. Please have a look at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/programmes/genres/learning

Listening to BBC's English News via radio and television drastically improved my fluency in English. These days, if anyone comes over to me, and asks me a suggestion to improve their English, I immediately tell them to watch the BBC everyday. I can't think of a better way to improve English.

Those were my two cents. :-)
Hey Shankar! I went to the BBC website. It looks really cool (I like cartoons) but it's not available to my area! (US) I've noticed that about the BBC, they keep some of their great stuff for themselves :P

I think for learning to speak English as a second or other language, you are right on target- listening/speaking beats reading anyday! I had a friend many years ago from Korea who learned how to speak English by watching soap operas! And she said it only took her about 6 months! She was talented at learning languages, though, she was also fluent in German.

What most of the teachers are talking about here is how to help US kids read better. They grow up speaking English, so it's a different problem. But I hear that lots of studies have shown that using karaoke and read along books helps kids learn to read- to assoicate what they already understand verbally with the printed word.

There's another site I belong to (and I post there almost daily), EFL Classroom 2.0 I hope you get a chance to come by and take a look. You have to sign up (that's so we can post lots of copyrighted materials under the fair use clause), but it's pretty quick and painless, and completely worth it!

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