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Developing Research-Based Resources for the Balanced Reading Teacher



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Improving Fluency Instruction
Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.

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Once students develop basic word-identification skills, the next bottleneck that they must break through is fluency.  Multiple studies of young children and children with reading difficulties have suggested that most emergent and struggling readers (especially at the younger grades) have language comprehension skills that exceed what their decoding skills will allow them to read.  That is to say, these children can easily understand the concepts, vocabulary, and information contained in text -- yet they are still unable to read that text independently.

When these children are relieved of the burden of decoding text (by having the text read out loud to them by a skilled reader), their comprehension of the material is considerably enhanced.  Put in terms of the simple view of reading, their ability to read and comprehend text is primarily limited by their lack of fluency in decoding the text.

Many highly effective strategies have been developed for teaching fluency.  In fact a review of the research literature lead Dowhower (1994) to conclude that the research on the positive effects of repeated reading was so strong that repeated reading should be "woven into the very fabric of daily literacy instruction." Unfortunately, in most classrooms, fluency instruction is scant and weak.  The following books offer guidance for effective fluency instruction.
-- To learn more about a particular book, or to purchase a copy of that book, just click on the image of the book cover --
Partnering for Fluency
Mary Kay Moskal and Camille Blachowicz
Published in 2006 by Guilford Press

When I first picked up this book, I did not think I would like it much -- it starts out a little slow for the first few chapters.  But once I got past a few somewhat awkward chapters, I discovered that this book offers a wealth of great, concrete instructional strategies for building fluency.  There are also very handy resources -- forms, data-management tools, etc. -- that can be copied and used in the class.  I loved the Classroom Fluency Snapshot (CFS) and the forms for monitoring reading fluency.  

Of course, this book contains a variety of practical, "real-world" approaches to building fluency instruction into the classroom, most of which are some variant of the powerful repeated-oral-reading-with-feedback strategy that has shown to be so effective in so many studies for building automatic word-recognition skills.  But this book also focuses a great deal on the other part of fluency -- reading with expression.  Moskal and Blachowicz provide examples of students who focus too much on speed and accuracy, and offer advice to teachers on ways to help students build proper prosody, meter, and expression as well.

The final chapter was a pleasant surprise to me -- one I can't recall seeing in a professional book before.  It is a chapter offering advice and guidance for the professional development facilitator working with teachers to improve fluency instruction.  Understanding fluency instruction is one thing, but teaching other teachers how to incorporate fluency instruction into their daily routine is something else.  I for one appreciated this final chapter -- it recognizes that learning for teachers, as with students, is often a collaborative endeavor.



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Last Updated 9-24-04