Oral Reading Fluency: Exploring fluency practices suggested by the work of Dr. Tim Rasinski (Part Two) by Dr. Sam Bommarito
While I was away on vacation, Dr. Tim Rasinski made a post in the Robb review that is quite relevant to our topic of reading fluency (I follow the Robb review- lots of good stuff there!). Here is a link to his post:
Key ideas included:
- The real goal of phonics instruction should be to “get kids to the point where they don’t have to use phonics.”
- Fluency is not about reading fast; fluency is about reading in a manner that promotes meaning-making. He did an ORF score (speed test score) on recordings of arguably two of the most fluently read speeches in American history – Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address “Ask Not What Your Country…”. He found that “in both cases, Dr. King and President Kennedy’s readings of their speeches may have landed them in a remedial reading class based on their very low ORF scores.”
- He urged caution in using the scores, e.g., DIBELS and AimsWeb ORF scores, or Hasbrouck and Tindal’s norms (Words Correct per Minute).
- He also said that “For fluency instruction to truly work, we need to see the goal of fluency as expressive oral (and silent) reading that reflects the meaning of the text.
Which brings us round to the story I was telling you before I left for vacation. I volunteer one day a week doing literacy work at an elementary school. I had been using the idea of teaching kids to read like a storyteller in the after-school group all year. About 20 1st and second graders participated. We used one of the several techniques Rasinski reported on when he spoke to us in St. Louis. We paired off readers and had them read/reread poems and passages from favorite books. We used several Eric Litwin’s books since they were at the right readability, were engaging and predictable. When the after-school program ended, I asked one of the first-grade teachers if she would be interested in trying the reading practice with the whole class for a couple of weeks. She agreed.
We paired readers with somewhat higher scores with readers with somewhat lower reading scores. We allowed the children to self-select from poems that they were familiar with. This included some from trade books and some from the basal program. Partners could select the same poem OR they could each select a poem of their own. Students practiced reading to each other daily. The teacher circulated in the room as the oral reading went on. The entire process took 10 minutes or so each day. I was present for this activity each Tuesday.
Students knew there would be a performance event at the end of the week. The classroom was using SeeSaw. The kids made audio recordings. The purpose of this little trial was to see if the primary teachers would be interested in trying this out during the school year next year. I’m happy to report that the results were such that both the 1st and 2nd grade is going to do this next year.
Here are some of the highlights:
The classroom teacher was surprised to see how quickly some of the “average” students improved in prosody. The stronger of the two partners were showing improvement as well. The kids coached each other in how to sound more like storytellers. One interesting anecdote came when I gave my usual talk about reading like a storyteller NOT like a robot. “Never read like a robot!” I said. One of the 1st graders raised his hand and said, “But Dr. B., what if the character is a robot? Then what?” Hmmm. Guess you know how I answered. You know, sometimes the kids learn more than you teach them!
I have parent permission to listen to the recordings, and over the summer I’ll be using the rubrics from Rasinski and Smith’s The Megabook of Fluency to assess those recordings. I’ve talked about that rubric before. It uses the acronym E.A.R.S. Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, and Smoothness. By the fall I expect to be able to use the rubric with some degree of reliability.
All four of the classes (2 first grades and 2-second grades) use the Raz Kids computer program. I already have used the message feature of that program to talk to the after-school kids and give them advice about reading. The program allows both written and recorded messages. I think feedback on oral reading might prove useful. Stay tuned- by the end of next year, I may have an action research project to report on!
Next time I want to take up the topic of the advantages of supplementing quantitative research with qualitative research. I’ll explain how the startup I just described does exactly that. I’ll also explore some of the limits and limitations of using only quantitative information.
Until next time, this is Dr. Sam signing off.
Dr. Sam Bommarito
Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.
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