Thursday, 15 March 2012

Original Lesson 14: Team-based fluent reading

This fluent reading lesson works best over two one hour sessions. I ran it because so many of my placement upper primary students' self-designated reading goals centred on improving their fluency. Plus there is the undeniable link between fluency and comprehension.

I prepare by making a visit to my school or local library and borrowing about eight sophisticated picture books (eg Graeme Base works well), splitting the class into productive groups of three and allocating each student 1-3 pages through post-it notes on the front of each book.

Firstly, I brainstorm with students the key elements of fluency on the whiteboard. Following from this, I show a clip of about 2-3 minutes from a fantastic fluent reading modelling website called Storyline Online. Some of the best expressive reading I have ever heard is on this site, most notably the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

Afterwards, students add to our initial brainstorm and then proceed to practise reading their pages fluently in groups. Students worked in the 'break out' area, an open space between classrooms, to reduce noise interruptions and also to allow groups to face each other, working in close proximity at all times. The key to the success and extremely high student engagement in this lesson was handing out 'Team fluency sheets', which contained prompt statements such as:

- Can you try saying that part faster/slower?

- Can you make that character voice really interesting (eg deep/high/croaky)?

- Try pausing for longer at full stops.

- Try saying that part with real excitement because there's an exclamation mark (!) at the end of it.

Students were told that they would be assessed as a 'team' and therefore, in order to succeed, they would need to assist their team mates with their fluency, but to do so tactfully and respectfully.

Students then present to the class. It's best to split the presentations over two sessions, ie one groups presents one lesson, the other groups present on another lesson but all students repeat the same cycle of Storyline Online, new page practices and peer-tutoring. If one group starts to muck up in the second lesson knowing they will not be presenting because they presented before, tell them they have now earnt the privillege of presenting twice.

After each presentation, invite students to provide some peer feedback, using the two stars and one wish format on the overall team as opposed to individuals. Some teachers may think that 'forcing' all students in the class to present may showcase the worst readers. However, in my experience, this does not occur; students are surprisingly tactful and respectful of their peers, even those outside their friendship groups. This may be, in part, due to the fact that they too - at some point in these sessions - must occupy the spotlight and throw themselves on the mercy of an audience of their peers.


How do you teach fluent/expressive reading to your class?

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