Quick Tip Tuesday: Book choice and fluency

October 6th, 2009

In this week’s Quick Tip, Pat Johnson talks about how choosing the right book can help struggling students become better, more fluent readers. In her book, One Child at a Time: Making the Most of Your Time with Struggling Readers, K-6, Pat provides a framework she has used with hundreds of students to help teachers understand and assist struggling readers.

One of the best ways a teacher can support a struggling reader who is working on fluency is to choose books carefully. A child needs some books in his basket or book box that he can read easily. Time for familiar reading each day will provide the child with opportunities to practice reading fluently. Each child needs to know what it feels like to be a fluent reader.

Juliza’s favorite book is Lazy Mary, with the chorus, “Lazy Mary, will you get up? Will you, will you, will you get up? Lazy Mary, will you get up? Will you get up today?” Oftentimes, I use that book as a way for her to gauge her own fluency. I say, “Try to make this one sound as smooth as when you are reading Lazy Mary.

We all know how young children love to join in on the refrains in familiar Big Books, like, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m the Gingerbread Man.” Teachers can use shared reading experiences with Big Books or poems on charts to talk to children about reading groups of words together. In Shared Reading for Today’s Classroom (2005) Carleen Payne gives various ideas of how to use Big Books to model, teach, and practice fluent reading with young children. Other ideas in her book include fluency activities for literacy centers, how to create Readers Theater scripts from familiar stories, and ways to reproduce familiar stories, songs, or poems to use with a take-home reading program. In Jodi Maher’s first-grade room, children love Mem Fox’s books. As you pass their room during shared reading, you can hear them reading with great expression. They love exclaiming words, such as, “Good grief!” or “Well, well!” as they enjoy Mem Fox’s repeated, singsong phrasing and delightful story lines.

Jodi: How did you know how to read this part so well? (points to the line “‘Good grief!’ said the goose.” )

Lindsey: I was sounding like the goose.

Conner: And I saw the exciting mark.

Jodi is choosing Big Books that support fluency teaching during shared reading for the whole class. She knows, however, that some children will need more of a focus on fluency than others, so for guided reading with small groups, she chooses sets of books for these readers that have singsong patterns or repetitive refrains. These books are not only fun to read, but beg to be read fluently. The list on the next page contains a few possible titles.

Carol Felderman, a second-grade teacher, noticed Gary’s choppy reading and began to try some of the suggestions I had shared with her. She was having trouble, though, finding just the right book that Gary would be willing to practice over time. Although he enjoyed and understood the books she gave him in guided reading and was beginning to improve his fluency, he rarely reread them during individual reading time. Carol knew that the familiar practice time was crucial for Gary to build fluency. I located a copy of Joy Cowley’s The Gumby Shop. This rhyming, rhythmic book is about the weird items you can buy at the Gumby Shop—from “a bear with electric hair” to “a bed made out of bread.” The humor appealed to Gary. After reading it together, I suggested that he read it to three of his friends during buddy reading time, since it was so crazy and he read it so well. He left full of excitement that he had a funny book to share with his friends.

Finding books that interest a child so that he will want to reread is not always easy. Other techniques are sometimes needed to keep children like Gary on task during individual reading time. One thing Carol found useful was to let Gary work with a tape recorder once in a while. He would tape himself reading a book, listen to his fluency, then try reading the book again to see if he could sound better. The challenge of trying to sound a little bit more phrased and fluent on the next try kept him engaged and on task.

Entry Filed under: Quick Tip Tuesday,Reading

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