When students enter the room today, they find baskets of timers and reading passages at their groups. Today is the day I teach them about fluency and how to measure and track it. There are arguments for and against fluency practice. My district measures fluency and uses benchmarks set forth to assign it a grade on the report card. In addition, I find that with my kiddos, most of whom don't read enough on their own to be fluent readers, they need the practice.
Of course, upon entry, the students are intrigued by the timers, but I hold off on telling them what they're for just yet. Instead, I ask the students to show with a thumbs up/ thumbs down who has ever heard the term fluency before. A few have so I ask them to explain what it is. One of the students finally says, "It's reading smoothly and knowing all the words." I'll take that explanation for now.
I tell the students that one of the things they have to accomplish this year is reading 115 words per minute by the end of the year. I tell them that I am going to be testing them officially three times this year and that I am also going to monitor their progress several times during the year and that they are going to monitor their own progress even more than that. I also tell them that we will track the progress to be sure that everyone is working toward reaching their goal.
I put a timer and a pre- chosen reading passage under the ELMO and read it aloud to the students. I explain to them that the way I just read is considered fluent. Fluent readers read like they talk and at a steady pace. At this point, I ask for a few volunteers to read the same passage I just read.
A note here: I use reading passages from my reading program, but there are many resources available for fluency practice. This website, for example, has passages that are leveled: http://www.readinga-z.com/fluency/fluency-practice-passages. The best kinds to use have the numbers at the end of each line to make it easier for students to calculate how many words they read.
After the few volunteers take a shot at reading the passage fluently, I instruct the students to turn to their shoulder partner and for one of them to take out a timer. I work through the operation of the timer with them while I use one under the ELMO. I am sure to give each partner a turn to operate the timer since at some point, all kiddos will use it. Once they are all comfortable operating the timer, it is time to practice fluency!!
I have the partner who is NOT holding the timer take out the passage. For now, all passages are the same since the groups aren't homogeneous. Later on, when students know their starting fluency measure, the passages will be differentiated. I again, choose another student to read my passage while I begin to mark the words the student misses have told to them. I want to do all of this under the ELMO so that I can model the process.
After answering questions on what the students just saw, it is time for them to practice with each other. I know it won't be perfect, but it's a start and it's the most effective way to have a whole class tested in a short period of time. And, believe me, once we start tracking this data, they will ask to practice ALL the time!!!
After the partner practice, I show students how to use the end numbers on the passage to figure out their fluency number. Now that they all have a data point, I can hand out the charts. In my school, the students have data notebooks where they keep all sorts of information from all their classes. These graphs will go in the front of their notebooks so every time we practice or test, they can update them and see their progress.
Once I model how to record my score, I let the students graph theirs and then we talk about numbers. I remind them that their goal is 118 words per minute by the end of the year and encourage them to compare where they are to where they need to be.
To end the class, I hand out an exit ticket where students can process what they need to work on to improve this important number. After I read through the exit tickets, I am going to place them in the students data notebooks to serve as a reminder and motivator throughout the year.