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Increase Reading Fluency with Repeated Reading Strategies

by Miguel Guhlin
repeated reading

How do you increase a child’s reading fluency? It’s a question that seems to have an easy answer. One common response is that you give them more opportunities to listen to others as they read. You also make it important for them to read aloud and then provide them feedback on their reading. In this blog entry, we’ll explore a high-effect size instructional strategy that can increase reading fluency and explore some ways technology can make implementing this strategy easier.

A Quick Review

If you’ve been following the TCEA TechNotes blog, you’ve sensed our new focus on the work of John Hattie. Hattie conducted meta-analyses of research on instructional strategies. Some strategies fall above what he characterized as the “hinge point,” or an effect size of .40. Strategies that speed up student growth in one year fall above the hinge point. For example, the jigsaw approach (1.20) yields three years of growth in one year when used in a consistent way. Reciprocal teaching (.74) yields almost two year’s growth in one year.

Picking a high-effect size strategy is not enough. These strategies also fall into general categories. They include “surface,” “deep,” or “transfer” learning. That’s because Hattie defines learning in this way:

…the process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to deeper understanding such that one can appropriately transfer this learning to new tasks and situations. (Source: Visible Learning for Literacy)

Jigsaw is a surface learning approach that assists students in two ways. Fisher, Frey, and Hattie says that surface learning consists of two sub-phases. The first to help students acquire, summarize, and outline a topic. The second is to practice testing and receiving feedback. As you might imagine, the jigsaw approach works great for this.

Reciprocal teaching focuses on comprehension. As such, the goal is to assist students to transition. That transition is from surface knowledge to a deeper, conceptual understanding. Knowing when and why you will use a strategy remains important. Neither strategy (e.g. jigsaw, reciprocal teaching) would be appropriate for developing decoding as a part of reading fluency, which is our primary concern in this blog entry.

Definition: Decoding: Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven’t seen before. (Source: Reading Rockets)
Definition: Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately. (Source: Reading Rockets)

Developing Decoding Skills

Listening to teachers in TCEA’s empowerED program, one teacher pointed something out. She made a connection to the type of problem reciprocal teaching solves. “Students first need to move beyond the mechanics of reading. They need to become fluent readers first.” Reciprocal teaching, covered in detail in the empowerED program, addresses a different problem. That problem is, “What if students are fluent readers, but cannot comprehend what they read?” But what about those students who haven’t overcome the mechanics of decoding?

Why Decoding and Fluency Are Important

Students, from grades one through middle school, may encounter decoding challenges. This might also be true for older students learning a second language. Timothy Shanahan  offers the need to:

  • Get students to read the author’s words in an accurate manner.
  • Read texts at about the speed of oral language.
  • Make reading sound like language. This involves pausing in the right places so that text makes sense.

While there are several approaches for addressing decoding, repeated reading offers one approach. It works for young readers as well as middle school students. Repeated reading (effect size of .75) enables students to move from decoding to meaning:

Repeated reading involves students reading the same passage (=>3x) to teachers. When the student miscues, the teacher can read the correct word aloud. Then, the student rereads the passage until reaching a satisfactory reading level.

Repeated Reading Approach

There are several other approaches to achieve repeated reading effectively. One way is to have a student listen to a passage read aloud by the teacher. Then the student reads it to himself several times. Then, the student reads it aloud. The teacher calculates the rate, accuracy, intonation, pacing, and expressiveness and reports this to the student along with elapsed time. The student re-reads the passage again with this information in mind. The student has the goal of improving these elements.

How could classroom technologies facilitate repeated reading as a strategy? Let’s consider one of the challenges teachers and students face.

Opportunity for Repetition with Repeated Reading

One of the challenges teachers and students may encounter with repeated reading is the opportunity for repetition. A teacher with a large class may be unable to read for each child. Noam Chomsky suggested another approach that involves teachers recording a selection to audiotape. Students are then invited to record themselves as well.

With modern technologies, teachers have several options:

  • Option #1: Use Flipgrid. The teacher can read the text, modeling facial expressions and word formation for students. This is great for dramatic readings since students can see it. In return, students can record themselves reading their text. They can submit as many repeated responses as they like. What’s more, Flipgrid includes Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. This makes it a fantastic addition given Immersive Reader’s features.
  • Option #2: Seesaw. Teachers can share an audio/video recording of a reading, then invite students to leave a video/audio recording of their repeated reading. This is great because it makes archiving and tracking student growth easy for sharing via Seesaw.
  • Option #3: Google Slides or PowerPoint Online. The teacher can display text to be read on screen via a slide and then insert an audio recording. Students can then record their own versions for a particular number of times (three to five times) before turning it in to their teacher.
  • Option #4: Use web-based audio recorder. Using a web-based audio recorder, the teacher or student can record audio. Copies of recorded items can be saved to Google Drive, OneDrive, or submitted as part of Microsoft/Google Forms.

These are great options to use because they result in a record of reading, and it can be dramatic to see growth over time. What’s more, they make it easier for the teacher to provide corrective feedback. Corrective feedback has a significant impact on fluency and comprehension.

“Repeated readings has been the most researched and successful approach to improving reading fluency,” says Lauren Nienhuis. These technology tools mentioned can assist you in maximizing your impact on student readers. Give them a try for repeated reading.

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