Quick Tip Tuesday: Short bursts to build stamina

Taking a cue from his basketball coach, Max Brand describes how he and his fellow teacher and wife, Gayle Brand, “train” students with short bursts of reading activity to become more fluent readers. This week’s Quick Tip is from their book, Practical Fluency: Classroom Perspectives, Grades K-6.

I can still remember my first experience in organized sports, freshman basketball. We had a wonderful coach, Mr. Orr, who left a lasting impression on my thinking and teaching. Coach Orr had an uncanny ability to motivate us and get the team to overachieve by demonstrating basic skills (shooting, dribbling, and passing).

He provided constant feedback that was specific, so that we could continue to build skills and develop as team players. Coach Orr expected our team to achieve at a high level, and we did. Our successes were celebrated, no matter how small, which brought us together as a team and motivated us to work harder. The most memorable lessons were the drills to build stamina; “killers” we fondly named them. We would begin and end practice with forty-eight ticks on the scoreboard clock. The team had to complete a series of sprints in this amount of time or challenge ourselves again. These sprints were designed to help us build stamina, developing endurance for our ultimate test, game day.

Thinking back now, practice moved at a brisk pace, and most skill building drills were completed in a short period of time. This was done to keep us focused on the skill and use time efficiently so that we could scrimmage and become automatic with the skills while playing basketball.

When I think about planning for fluency instruction, the structure of basketball practice influences my thinking. I work with my students in short bursts of learning, consolidating skills and strategies that lead to fluency and building students’ reading and writing stamina. As teachers, we need to plan for short bursts of learning that enable students to build stamina and become fluent readers and writers.

Gayle and I plan for these short bursts of instruction by first thinking about the skill, then which instructional setting (whole class, small group, or individual) will allow our students to learn and practice this skill. Automaticity with word recognition, spelling, and writing on demand are areas of instruction we target during short, focused lessons. The skills learned during these sessions allow our students to read for extended periods of time during reading workshop and sustain their writing for long stretches during writing workshop.

When planning for fluency instruction, we look for opportunities to foster students’ automaticity with print, increase their reading rate, and read in meaningful phrased units. Richard Allington (2001, p. 75) reminds us that “providing children access with appropriately leveled texts and a noninterruptive reading environment typically produces profound changes in reading fluency and self-monitoring.”

Of course, there isn’t any right time to teach fluency. Instead, you have to look at your daily schedule and consciously plan for fluency while seizing teachable moments to stress the importance of fluency instruction. Brief fluency lessons occur during content studies and reading or writing workshops. Prior to these lessons, Gayle and I have informally assessed our students, found a specific focus for fluency instruction, and then decided which grouping structure would help us effectively and efficiently support our students. We have found that working within the context of our thematic studies or workshops allows students to quickly practice skills and then use them for purposeful reading or writing. Gayle and I adopted this thinking after reading Stanovich’s seminal article (1980), “Toward an Interactive-Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency.” We want to build fluency skills so that our students can keep pace with their peers, think about the same content, and use most of the workshop time for personal, purposeful reading and writing.

Gayle’s students scatter about the classroom, using the entire space for personal reading during independent reading time. As the students leave the meeting area, Gayle reminds them to use punctuation to guide their voices, a fluency concept she has demonstrated while reading aloud The Other Side.

Some students have been reading quickly, not fluently. They read through punctuation, sometimes getting confused because one idea runs into the next or the intended meaning was altered. This will be the focus for her individual conferences. The small-group work will continue its thread of reading punctuation but will also extend to a word-solving strategy. Gayle wants her students to use repetitive patterns and the local context of the sentence to predict unknown words. She wants them to cue on the first letter(s) as they anticipate the next word, developing automaticity with print.

Gayle will mask a handful of words in the big book, Oh No! (Cairns 1987) She will mask the word spot, a repetitive word in the text. She will reveal the s and p, covering the rest of the word with a sticky note. She will mask this word on pages 4 and 6, knowing that students will have had an opportunity to read and internalize the pattern of this text. She will mask dress on page 10 and place on page 16, allowing students to use the meaning and structure of the text and picture to predict these words. Ellie, John, Seth, Tommy, and Alya will work together with Gayle in this flexible group.

Gayle will begin this short lesson with the students writing five frequent words on wipe-off boards. She wants to build the students speed in knowing these words that appear on the word wall. Then she prompts the group to write the high frequency word see at the top of their wipe-off board, underline the s, and then write words that begin with s. The group generates high frequency words so, saw, and she, copying from the word wall. They also independently come up with sat, sand, sad, set, sit, Seth, and Stephanie. Gayle brings closure to this segment of her lesson by prompting the kids to write seen and seed. The students easily add the final consonants, laughing that they should have remembered these words. The students read the big book with masked words and after about seven minutes, find their own places in the classroom to read independently.

Gayle scans the room noting where individuals and small groups are reading. She spots Sam sitting at a table by himself reading Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble. She makes her way over to the table, pulls up a chair alongside him and without asking, he reads orally from the middle of page 19. The text challenges Sam because he wants to read the line of text as a phrase. Gayle says, “Sam I like how you’re reading the line of words together, listen to how I read the idea.” Gayle reads, “One blue petal fell from his mouth into Henry’s hand,” from the book. “You didn’t stop at the end of the line, Mrs. Brand,” Sam comments. Sam reads to the end of the chapter similar to Gayle’s model. He reflects, “I didn’t have to reread so much, it was easier to follow the text.”

Reading workshop ends with students sharing about how they used punctuation to understand their reading. Ellie, Seth, John, Tommy, and Alya share that while reading Oh No! there are red letters and an exclamation point to tell them how to read the line. They think they should be reading them with voices that convey something is wrong, not just excitement. The students move next to word study. The group will work on making words with magnetic letters from the rime, eat.

I will also nurture fluency development by bringing Matt, T.J., Alyssa, and Alex together as a group. I will use shared reading to reading with them the Time for Kids article, “Saving Our National Parks.” I will demonstrate fluent reading by pausing and thinking about big ideas. I will begin by reading the title and subtitles and reading captions while looking at pictures. I will think out loud about what I think this article will teach me.

My reading begins by stating my purpose for reading. My purpose for reading this article is to find out how we can save our national parks. The reason this is my purpose is because I noticed the subtitle, “What Can Be Done.” I record this on the chart and begin reading. I read the article while the group follows along. Students stop me to reread sections or record important information on the chart. I bring closure to the lesson by asking the kids what they noticed. “I need to spend more time looking at what I’m going to read before reading it,” Matt comments. Alyssa reflects, “You read to the end of the sentence before stopping, not the end of the line. I need to look for periods and question marks.” T.J. reports, “I’m going to write a purpose now when I read. This will help me focus on why I’m reading. I won’t stop so much.”

The students join the rest of their classmates, sharing what they learned about national parks and reading fluently. As a class, we debrief our reading by writing a summary about national parks’ renewable resources. We use shared writing to write this summary. While rereading the summary, we discuss punctuation and fluent reading. The discussion reinforces the day’s fluency thinking.

Gayle’s primary-grade classroom also has collections of texts used for curriculum content work organized in text sets. She may spend more time reading aloud texts from these baskets than I do. Gayle’s text sets include big books that she uses for shared reading. She uses shared reading to introduce key ideas and develop schema and background knowledge that help her students learn vocabulary and ideas needed to read texts from the text set fluently. These primary-age students learn the importance of text features (pictures, captions, titles, and headings) as they read information for a variety of purposes.

Gayle not only uses big books during curriculum content study, but also uses an overhead projector to share texts. She demonstrates fluent reading, reading ideas by pointing or using an index card for reading a line at a time to focus her class on the text. By introducing key curriculum ideas and vocabulary in a shared format, she helps her students to read these ideas fluently. This helps her students internalize vocabulary and nonfiction written language
forms.

Add comment January 19th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Book choice and fluency

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.

Add comment October 6th, 2009

Quick Tip Tuesday: Building Stamina

This week’s Quick Tip comes from Max Brand and Gayle Brand, authors of Practical Fluency: Classroom Persepectives, Grades K-6. Max and Gayle have worked together with students and colleagues for many years to discover the most effective whole-class, small-group, and individual strategies and activities for building both reading and writing fluency.  They give us a glimpse into their classrooms to show how short bursts of learning help students build stamina that enables them to become fluent readers.

Short Bursts for Building Stamina

I can still remember my first experience in organized sports, freshman basketball. We had a wonderful coach, Mr. Orr, who left a lasting impression on my thinking and teaching. Coach Orr had an uncanny ability to motivate us and get the team to overachieve by demonstrating basic skills (shooting, dribbling, and passing). He provided constant feedback that was specifi c, so that we could continue to build skills and develop as team players. Coach Orr expected our team to achieve at a high level, and we did. Our successes were celebrated, no matter how small, which brought us together as a team and motivated us to work harder.

The most memorable lessons were the drills to build stamina; “killers” we fondly named them. We would begin and end practice with forty-eight ticks on the scoreboard clock. The team had to complete a series of sprints in this amount of time or challenge ourselves again. These sprints were designed to help us build stamina, developing endurance for our ultimate test, game day. Thinking back now, practice moved at a brisk pace, and most skillbuilding drills were completed in a short period of time. This was done to keep us focused on the skill and use time efficiently so that we could scrimmage and become automatic with the skills while playing basketball.

When I think about planning for fluency instruction, the structure of basketball practice influences my thinking. I work with my students in short bursts of learning, consolidating skills and strategies that lead to fluency and building students’ reading and writing stamina. As teachers, we need to plan for short bursts of learning that enable students to build stamina and become fluent readers and writers.

Gayle and I plan for these short bursts of instruction by first thinking about the skill, then which instructional setting (whole class, small group, or individual) will allow our students to learn and practice this skill. Automaticity with word recognition, spelling, and writing on demand are areas of instruction we target during short, focused lessons. The skills learned during these sessions allow our students to read for extended periods of time during reading workshop and sustain their writing for long stretches during writing workshop.

When planning for fluency instruction, we look for opportunities to foster students’ automaticity with print, increase their reading rate, and read in meaningful phrased units. Richard Allington (2001, p. 75) reminds us that “providing children access with appropriately leveled texts and a noninterruptive reading environment typically produces profound changes in reading fluency and self-monitoring.”

Of course, there isn’t any right time to teach fluency. Instead, you have to look at your daily schedule and consciously plan for fl uency while seizing teachable moments to stress the importance of fluency instruction. Brief fluency lessons occur during content studies and reading or writing workshops. Prior to these lessons, Gayle and I have informally assessed our students, found a specifi c focus for fluency instruction, and then decided which grouping structure would help us effectively and effi ciently support our students. We have found that working within the context of our thematic studies or workshops allows students to quickly practice skills and then use them for purposeful reading or writing. Gayle and I adopted this thinking after reading Stanovich’s seminal article (1980), “Toward an Interactive-Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency.” We want to build fluency skills so that our students can keep pace with their peers, think about the same content, and use most of the workshop time for personal, purposeful reading and writing.

Gayle’s students scatter about the classroom, using the entire space for personal reading during independent reading time. As the students leave the meeting area, Gayle reminds them to use punctuation to guide their voices, a fluency concept she has demonstrated while reading aloud The Other Side.

Some students have been reading quickly, not fluently. They read through punctuation, sometimes getting confused because one idea runs into the next or the intended meaning was altered. This will be the focus for her individual conferences. The small-group work will continue its thread of reading punctuation but will also extend to a word-solving strategy. Gayle wants her students to use repetitive patterns and the local context of the sentence to predict unknown words. She wants them to cue on the fi rst letter(s) as they anticipate the next word, developing automaticity with print.

Gayle will mask a handful of words in the big book, Oh No! (Cairns 1987) She will mask the word spot, a repetitive word in the text. She will reveal the s and p, covering the rest of the word with a sticky note. She will mask this word on pages 4 and 6, knowing that students will have had an opportunity to read and internalize the pattern of this text. She will mask dress on page 10 and place on page 16, allowing students to use the meaning and structure of the text and picture to predict these words. Ellie, John, Seth, Tommy, and Alya will work together with Gayle in this flexible group.

Gayle will begin this short lesson with the students writing five frequent words on wipe-off boards. She wants to build the students speed in knowing these words that appear on the word wall. Then she prompts the group to write the high frequency word see at the top of their wipe-off board, underline the s, and then write words that begin with s. The group generates high frequency words so, saw, and she, copying from the word wall. They also independently come up with sat, sand, sad, set, sit, Seth, and Stephanie. Gayle brings closure to this segment of her lesson by prompting the kids to write seen and seed. The students easily add the final consonants, laughing that they should have remembered these words. The students read the big book with masked words and after about seven minutes, find their own places in the classroom to read independently.

Gayle scans the room noting where individuals and small groups are reading. She spots Sam sitting at a table by himself reading Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble. She makes her way over to the table, pulls up a chair alongside him and without asking, he reads orally from the middle of page 19. The text challenges Sam because he wants to read the line of text as a phrase. Gayle says, “Sam I like how you’re reading the line of words together, listen to how I read the idea.” Gayle reads, “One blue petal fell from his mouth into Henry’s hand,” from the book. “You didn’t stop at the end of the line, Mrs. Brand,” Sam comments. Sam reads to the end of the chapter similar to Gayle’s model. He reflects, “I didn’t have to reread so much, it was easier to follow the text.”

Reading workshop ends with students sharing about how they used punctuation to understand their reading. Ellie, Seth, John, Tommy, and Alya share that while reading Oh No! there are red letters and an exclamation point to tell them how to read the line. They think they should be reading them with voices that convey something is wrong, not just excitement. The students move next to word study. The group will work on making words with magnetic letters from the rime, eat.

I will also nurture fluency development by bringing Matt, T.J., Alyssa, and Alex together as a group. I will use shared reading to reading with them the Time for Kids article, “Saving Our National Parks.” I will demonstrate fluent reading by pausing and thinking about big ideas. I will begin by reading the title and subtitles and reading captions while looking at pictures. I will think out loud about what I think this article will teach me.

My reading begins by stating my purpose for reading. My purpose for reading this article is to fi nd out how we can save our national parks. The reason this is my purpose is because I noticed the subtitle, “What Can Be Done.” I record this on the chart and begin reading. I read the article while the group follows along. Students stop me to reread sections or record important information on the chart. I bring closure to the lesson by asking the kids what they noticed. “I need to spend more time looking at what I’m going to read before reading it,” Matt comments. Alyssa reflects, “You read to the end of the sentence before stopping, not the end of the line. I need to look for periods and question marks.” T.J. reports, “I’m going to write a purpose now when I read. This will help me focus on why I’m reading. I won’t stop so much.”

The students join the rest of their classmates, sharing what they learned about national parks and reading fl uently. As a class, we debrief our reading by writing a summary about national parks’ renewable resources. We use shared writing to write this summary. While rereading the summary, we discuss punctuation and fluent reading. The discussion reinforces the day’s fluency thinking.

Add comment May 12th, 2009


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