by Natalia Harrison
October 1, 2021
The early elementary years are often dedicated to intensive reading instruction as teachers look to move students from learning to read to reading to learn. Unfortunately, not all students make this transition as easily as others, and while remediation often continues through elementary school, for some, reading fluency remains a challenge and area of relative weakness. As these students enter middle and high school, fluency instruction is usually put aside in order to focus on comprehension. I would argue, however, that regardless of grade or reading level, fluency and comprehension should continue to be taught together. This is well-supported by the research of Timothy Rasinski who states that fluency is the bridge between phonics and comprehension and as such, strong readers tend to hear themselves when reading silently (Rasinski 2012).
Traditional reading fluency programs focus on rate and accuracy. Attention is seldom given to prosody or reading with intonation and expression. However, with the new push for science and evidence-based reading instruction, Rasinski argues that we should no longer consider commercial reading programs that focus solely on rate and accuracy to be as effective, citing the work of Cassidy and Cassidy (2009). They urge for the lense to shift from how quickly and accurately a student can read to providing instruction and feedback in their ability to read with appropriate expression.
Addressing fluency at the high school level can be a tough sell. Although most reading in secondary school is done silently, research shows that practicing expressive reading orally can translate to improved silent reading comprehension (Rasinski, 2012). I would not suggest that this necessarily be done in isolation from traditional fluency exercises, but rather that prosody become a measured component of all structured reading fluency practice.
When addressing reading fluency at the high school level, I like to use Rasinski and Samuels’ MAPPS strategy (outlined in chapter 4 of What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, 2011), which stands for Modeling, Assisted reading, Practice, Phrasing, Synergy. Each area serves as a method of instruction that goes beyond rate and accuracy to provide support for reading fluently.
Through the use of the MAAPS strategy, students are provided with both a variety of instruction and a variety of feedback which serves to develop the full picture of oral reading development. This, in turn, supports a student’s silent reading and comprehension skills. As the demands for reading, particularly reading for learning, increase, students with targeted fluency practice will be better able to tackle longer and denser texts.
Natalia is an academic advisor at Landmark High School. In her 13 years at Landmark, Natalia has taught in the Language Arts, Study Skills, and Expressive Language departments. She also teaches graduate level courses in Dyslexia Studies through Southern New Hampshire University’s online program. Natalia graduated from The University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in English, and she earned her master’s degree in special education from Simmons College.
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