“We’re doing something called Lotta Lara,” remarked an elementary teacher.
I stared at her in puzzlement. “I don’t know what that is.”
“Well, I know what it is, but doing it is something else altogether.” Lotta Lara is a model for literacy targeting oracy and reading fluency. Recent research finds that oral reading fluency is the key to reading comprehension. In this blog entry, we’ll explore the model and how technology can amplify its benefits for students.
Lotta Lara, a Literacy Squared innovation, focuses on developing students’ oral language skills. It does this through explicitly planning oracy instruction while also increasing reading fluency and comprehension through repeated reading. One book or text is used three times in one week. Students read the text a total of nine times. While students read to increase their reading fluency and comprehension, equal emphasis is placed in oracy on the use of connected discourse and the rehearsal of pre-planned language structures (source: Literacy Squared Handout).
Introducing Lotta Lara
The National Reading Panel found the following:
If children read out loud with speed, accuracy, and proper expression, they are more likely to comprehend and remember the material than if they read with difficulty and in an efficient way.
As a language arts teacher facilitating reading instruction, I often relied on Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in my classroom. The idea behind that is that students read and develop fluency and vocabulary with texts they self-select. However, the National Reading Panel reported that SSR programs were not an effective means of teaching reading. Since then though, a significant number of research studies have re-examined sustained silent reading programs, evaluating their effectiveness with students from primary grades to graduate school. Most of these studies show that SSR is successful in promoting and improving student literacy (source: Steve Gardiner, Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading, ASCD).
Oral Reading Fluency Benefits
Encouraging oral reading fluency seldom took place in my classroom. That was a dangerous omission since oral reading benefits students when they enjoy explicit guidance and feedback. The classroom teacher provides this feedback when students are reading passages out loud.
Oral reading works only when these three factors are in play:
- Children’s oral reading is the focus.
- Ample opportunities for practice exist that allow children to read and re-read words aloud in the connected text.
- Ongoing feedback is provided as the child reads.
Estelle Lara’s research reveals that fluency gains can be achieved over a six-week period. Teachers and students must engage in echo, choral, and/or partner reading with quality stories. Let’s revisit the definitions of each approach:
- Echo reading: The teacher reads a sentence aloud, then the group rereads it aloud.
- Choral reading: The teacher leads the entire group reading aloud in unison.
- Partner reading: Pairs of readers take turns as they read text aloud.
How can we combine this with available technologies? We’ve covered repeated reading repetition with technology, but what about students reading alone? Below, find some adaptations for students reading alone or at home.
Repeated reading is an academic practice that aims to increase oral reading fluency. … During repeated reading, a student sits in a quiet location with the teacher. The student then reads a passage (50 to 200 words) aloud at least three times. The teacher determines reading fluency by calculating words correct per minute that the student has read (source: What Works Clearinghouse).
Digital Texts for Echo Reading
Students without ready access to a teacher may find it hard to engage in echo reading. However, they can rely on available digital texts. One way to accomplish this includes using age-appropriate, high-interest texts that have been read aloud online. You can ask students to use a screencasting tool to record themselves reading a text on screen after it has been read aloud. For example, a text like Too Much Glue may work, as could these other titles:
If you’d like to try an app specific to echo reading, Readability is one available tool. Another app available for free is Google’s Rivet.
For Choral and Partner Reading
These approaches can be recorded easily with several tools. A teacher equipped with Zigazoo Classroom (free) could create challenges for students who could record themselves reading a text.
Another approach could involve using Flipgrid, where can students read together or apart. Mary, a teacher, shares how she relied on Flipgrid for partner reading responses:
I recently tried using Flipgrid for partner responses to reading. If you are looking for a motivator to up your engagement for reading responses, this is a great option. . . Despite a few minor technical difficulties (which are always to be expected when trying something new), students were able to record their video responses. At the end of the recording, students were prompted to take a selfie.
You can see a lesson plan for partner reading through paired texts online:
In this example we will focus on the paired texts in the February issue of Storyworks Jr. We read each of the paired texts as a whole class, then had students do a close read independently. We asked the students to focus on the big question of the texts: How do toilets save lives? (source: StoryWorks)
Improving reading fluency can be tough since it requires one-on-one or small group work with students. Taking advantage of online tools can ease the burden during remote learning when engaging in echo, choral, or partner reading, all proven approaches to support students’ oracy and fluency development.