“Why do I have to read aloud? I hate reading aloud!” -a struggling 6th grade reader
A number of years ago, when my school district began our work with Response to Intervention or RTI, it became even more abundantly clear that many of our upper elementary students were struggling readers. The data gathered from the DRAs and DIBELs assessments and other baselines and inventories during that very first week of the school year truly changed everything I did as an upper elementary reading teacher moving forward.
It wasn’t that we were clueless about the struggles of our students; we knew they existed, but pinpointing their exact reading level and the number of words they could read correctly per minute from kindergarten through sixth grade provided such invaluable information. With the amazing help of district literacy specialists, we could work together and strategize how we would engage these struggling readers, help them build confidence, and move them forward as fluent and successful readers.
With so many of my BIG KIDS struggling with fluency, I worked to make it a part of my daily work with students, a Tier 1 intervention that the majority of the class could benefit from. Reading fluency incorporates three main components: speed, accuracy, and prosody, which directly impact comprehension. While I have shared a great deal about incorporating 6-Minute Solutions, here are a few other ways I worked to make fluency fun for my 6th graders.
Tip #1: Incorporate Reader’s Theater!
Reader’s theater scripts are a favorite of both mine and my students. I LOVE writing them and they LOVE performing them. Using reader’s theater helps my students to build fluency because students are reading with expressiveness in the given words and sentences they are reading aloud. In addition, a reader’s theater script can be utilized more than once in order to build a student’s comfort level with the text and allow for more expressive reading to take place, the more the script is read.
While they can be hard to incorporate into instruction EVERY week, I try to include them as often as I can. Through reader’s theaters my students are engaged in classroom read aloud sessions and either modeling, developing, or hearing prosodic reading.
Tip #2: Shared Reading
Partner reading is something my students look forward to. They enjoy the opportunity to work together and navigate text. While it is essential that students have opportunities to navigate texts independently, reading with a peer enhances student fluency. I have my students partner read in a variety of ways.
- I partner up same level readers to read aloud a text alternating paragraphs.
- I partner up a high-level reader with a struggling reader and alternate sentences.
- When students are reading text independently, stop, find a peer, and read aloud their favorite part.
Allow students to sit on the floor, at special tables, under desks, etc., to make partner reading times even more enjoyable. The idea is that text is being shared aloud so fluency practice is at work.
Tip #3: Reading Pals
Reading Buddies became a favorite activity for my 6th graders. Every other week, my 6th graders met their first grade reading buddies in the cafeteria in order to share stories. My 6th graders would bring two books to read aloud, and their first grade buddies would bring their own book bags/boxes to share stories from. The 30-minute time slot flies. Not only are all students reading or listening to reading, but they are positively engaged with one another.
While we incorporate some additional story element work and activities, this is a time slot all 6th graders and 1st graders look forward to twice a month. In addition, there is so much to be said for the relationships being formed between older and younger learners. Reading Pals not only improves fluency through practice, but it also creates an environment of teamwork and encouragement throughout our community of learners.
Tip #4: Choral Reading
Poetry is typically not something my 6th grade students looked forward to studying. One way we navigate poetry is through choral reading. Choral reading can be done with any text, but it works especially well with poems. Choral reading is reading a text in unison as a whole group. When we choral read, strong readers and less confident readers blend in together as we navigate unfamiliar text. I find that it helps my students build fluency, confidence, and motivation to tackle text independently.
We read together because it makes us stronger and more confident when we navigate text on our own.
Tip #5: Word Work
This may seem silly, but friendly competition really gets my students inspired and motivated. With Speed Spelling, we tackle studying spelling words and fluency all at once when students speed read through their word list.
Because my students have twenty spelling words each week and little studying takes place outside of the classroom, this is a fun way to get eyes on the words. Partner students, have the person on the right go first, start a timer, and give students 10-20 seconds to read through their list as quickly as possible. The partner that reads through the list most accurately and quickest wins. They don’t have to win anything other than a high five, but they are reviewing their words and reading aloud quickly. WIN! WIN!
By incorporating so many fun ways to build fluency, my students forget that they despised reading aloud at the beginning of the year. When you make word work enjoyable, the complaints and frustrations will truly go by the wayside.