Developing Reading Fluency with Shared Reading

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My principal, someone I greatly admire, often advises me that you "get" what you pay attention to.  What does he mean?  If you pay attention to something in the classroom, you often get results.  I think the greatest example of this in my journey has been learning to teach reading fluency. Fluency was something we were not measuring when we were awarded a grant to fund a reading specialist ten years ago.  However, when we started to universally assess students, we realized that we had a gap in our reading instruction.  We used Tim Rasinski's book The Fluent Reader to help us learn how to improve our instruction.

Reading fluency takes time to develop in primary students.  According to Rasinski, fluency instruction has two main parts: automaticity and prosody.  Automaticity is the ability to read text automatically and at a rate that promotes comprehension.  Prosody is reading with appropriate expression which also aides comprehension.  When reading is not automatic, students expend too much mental energy decoding and recognizing words, so they are unable to pay attention to meaning.  This blog post is going to focus on strategies to help young students develop the automaticity they need to read at an appropriate rate.  Of course these strategies would also be helpful for older students who are not reading at grade level.

Automaticity is developed through lots of reading practice, and it has to begin with a high degree of scaffolding which helps both developing readers and struggling readers.  Rasinski calls these strategies assisted reading, but it can also be called shared reading.  I would like to share three shared reading strategies that help develop fluency.

Choral Reading
This type of  shared reading can be done with your whole group or in small groups.  It is simply reading text together such as a chorus sings songs together.  Texts are typically short and on grade level.  Poems and songs work well but you can use any type of text.

A few types of choral reading:
  • Line per Child - Each child or small groups of two or three students, reads a line or two of text until the piece is completed.  This is planned ahead of time and all students follow along with the text.  It differs from round robin reading in the fact that students get a chance to see their part ahead of time.  
  • Cumulative Choral Reading - One group of children reads the first line.  The next group joins in to read the second line of text with the first group.  The next group joins on the third line etc.  By the end, the entire class is reading together. 
  • Echo - The teacher reads a sentence and then the class or a few students echos the lines. This can be powerful as long as you insist they are reading, not just listening to the teacher.
  • Antiphonal - Divide the class into groups and each group takes a part.  Student groups take turns reading chunks of text.  For a longer piece, the reading goes back and forth between the groups and starts to sound like a conversation.

Paired Reading
This type of shared reading happens when two readers are paired together to read at the same time, but one reader is more skilled than the other.  Some possible pairings are:
  • A parent and child
  • A teacher and child
  • A more fluent child and less fluent child

The key to this type of reading is that both readers are reading at the same time.  One reader gently pushes the other to become more fluent. This can be very effective practice.

Buddy Reading
This type of shared reading  is when two students read together.  (Buddy reading can also be call partner reading and this type can also happen at home with a parent or sibling.)  This strategy helps to keep both students accountable and creates a social environment to practice reading.  Students need to be sharing the same book for it to work well.  They can vary how they read by either taking turns or reading together but a key ingredient is that both students are reading. Teachers can help students by structuring the reading time in some way and having explicit expectations.  I have a freebie in my store that helps to structure this type of reading.  In the set below students use spinners to help the partners create a routine for buddy reading. You can grab this freebie here.



As I said before, you get what you pay attention to.  When you pay attention to fluency, you develop stronger all around readers.  There are many other ways to develop fluency so please share your strategies in the comments below!

by Camille from A Spot of Curriculum

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