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Reading Fluency:

What is reading fluency?
Why is reading fluency so important?
How can we tell if a student is having problems with fluency?
How do we teach reading fluency?
How can I find out more about reading fluency?

Reading Coaches:

What is a reading coach?
What do reading coaches do?
What skills will a reading coach need?
How can I find out more about being a reading coach?

Differentiated Instruction:

What is "differentiated instruction"?
Does this mean that we are returning to the days of tracking students, with "high" groups and "low" groups of students?
How can a teacher manage to provide differentiated instruction? What do the other students do when the teacher is working with one small group?
How can I find out more about how to differentiate instruction?



What is reading fluency?Dr. Jan Hasbrouck's Title Page on "Reading Fluency"

Reading fluency is the ability to read text with appropriate speed and accuracy. Fluent readers also read with good expression. Return to Questions...

Why is reading fluency so important?

Reading fluency has been identified by the National Reading Panel (2000; www.nationalreadingpanel.org) as one of the five critical components of reading, along with phonemic awareness, phonics and decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension. The contribution of comprehension and vocabulary knowledge to skillful reading has long been understood by researchers and practitioners. Discussions about the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics have been continuing for decades, and an increasing body of evidence strongly underscores the fundamental roles these two elements. However, the focus on the value of fluency is relatively new.

Fluency is now understood to be a unique and fundamental component of skilled, proficient reading because of its close link to comprehension and motivation. Students who struggle with fluency, even if their phonemic awareness skills and vocabulary knowledge is strong, and even if they have good word analysis, phonics and decoding skills, will most likely have difficulty understanding what they have read. These students will also be much less likely to read for pleasure and enjoyment.

If a student is struggling with reading, we must check to see if fluency is contributing to their difficulty, rather than just focusing in on helping improve that student's comprehension skills. As Joe Torgeson has stated: "There is no comprehension strategy that compensates for difficulty reading words accurately & fluently." Return to Questions...

How can we tell if a student is having problems with fluency?

There are 3 different roles for fluency assessments: screening, diagnosis, and progress monitoring.

Screening: Screening assessments are used to FIND those students who may be having problems in reading. The "gold standard" of screening tools all use some kind of fluency measure (accuracy + speed/rate) such as The Reading Fluency Benchmark Assessor (RFBA) or DIBELS. The assessment of oral reading fluency by listening to a one minute sample of oral reading from unpracticed, grade level text, has been shown to predict overall reading ability with a high degree of accuracy, especially in the primary grades. Oral reading fluency scores of words correct per minute (wcpm) can be compared to benchmark norms to determine if a student may need assistance in reading. The Hasbrouck & Tindal norms were developed for this purpose.

Hasbrouck, J., & Tindal. G. (2005). Oral Reading Fluency Norms Grades 1-8. Table summarized from Behavioral Research & Teaching (2005, January). Oral Reading Fluency: 90 Years of Assessment (BRT Technical Report No. 33), Eugene, OR: Author. http://www.brtprojects.org.

Hasbrouck, J., & Tindal, G. A. (2006) Oral reading fluency norms: A valuable assessment tool for reading teachers. The Reading Teacher, 59(7), 636-644.

Diagnosis: Once it has been determined that a student is having problems with reading, it is important to determine "why"? What is contributing to or causing these problems? Diagnostic assessments are used by teachers to determine a student's strengths and needs in the five key areas of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Diagnostic assessments of fluency are similar to the screening assessments, except now the one minute assessments of oral reading fluency are conducted in instructional level text rather than grade level text. For example, if a 5th grade student is reading at about the 3rd grade level, we would assess his fluency using unpracticed passages of 3rd grade text. That score can then be compared to benchmark scores of 3rd graders to determine if that student's fluency is on track for their level of reading development. (NOTE: a 5th grader who is reading at the 3rd grade level will clearly need a serious reading intervention that will likely include some fluency practice. It is also possible that diagnostic assessments will indicate that the cause of this student's reading problems are primarily in the areas of phonics/decoding or even phonemic awareness.)

To diagnose phonics and decoding concerns, you may want to use a tool like the Quick Phonics Screener (QPS), developed by Dr. Jan Hasbrouck. The QPS is an informal, individually administered diagnostic assessment. Teachers can use the results to plan students' instructional or intervention programs in basic word reading and decoding skills and to monitor students' progress as their phonics skills develop.The QPS is available at www.readnaturally.com

Progress monitoring: Fluency measures are also used to help determine if a student's SKILLS ARE IMPROVING in an instruction or intervention program. Using weekly or bimonthly one minute assessments of oral reading fluency using unpracticed passages at a student's instructional level or goal level can be used by a teacher to make decisions about the effectiveness of an instructional program.Return to Questions...

How do we teach reading fluency?

Researchers have identified three ways to improve students' reading fluency: teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring. The Read Naturally strategy has combined these three components:

    1. A student reads a challenging piece of text aloud and
        records the words correct per minute score on a
    2. The student then reads along, aloud, while that same
        piece of text is read aloud by a narrator (on an audio
        tape, CD, computer, or read by a teacher or tutor).
        The purpose of this step is to build the student's
        accuracy in reading the text. It will typically take
        about 3 readings of the text to develop sufficient
        comfort and accuracy of each reading,
        until a predetermined goal is met (usually about 30
        to 40 words above the original
        reading in Step #1.) Students will often need to do
        about 4 or 5 practice readings to meet their goal.
    3. The teacher listens to the student read the text to
        determine if the fluency goal has been met.
    4. The student gets to graph this new, successful score
        on the graph in a second color.
    5. Additional activities can be added to these steps,
        including an oral or written retell, answering questions
        about the passage,etc. Return to Questions...

How can I find out more about reading fluency?

A Focus on Fluency is a free publication available through the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (www.prel.org)

Read Naturally has a wealth of information about teaching and assessing reading fluency at their website (www.readnaturally.com)

Developing Fluent Readers Link to White Paper www.readnaturally.com/support/developingfluentreaders.htm

Return to Questions...

What is a "reading coach"? Front cover of Dr. Jan Hasbrouck's etal book " The Reading Coaches"

A reading coach can be defined as: "an experienced teacher who has a strong knowledge base in reading and experience providing effective reading instruction to students, especially struggling readers. In addition, a reading coach has been trained to work effectively with peer colleagues to help them improve their students' reading outcomes and receives support in the school for providing coaching." (Hasbrouck & Denton, 2005).Return to Questions...

What do reading coaches do?

Many people think that the primary role of a reading coach doing is to watch a teacher teach a reading lesson, and then provide feedback to that teacher, including making suggestions for how to improve the lesson.

This is certainly something that reading coaches can do. It may even be the centerpiece of their coaching efforts, but…coaching is much more complex and involved than this.

In order to observe and provide feedback to a teacher, the coach first has to establish a professional relationship with that teacher. Given that the role of "reading coach" is so new to most schools, the role itself needs to be introduced to the teachers and administrator. Decisions will need to be made about several issues: What services will the coach be providing? How will the coach be evaluated by the principal/supervisor? How will issues of confidentiality be handled? How will the coach find the time to provide coaching services to colleagues?Return to Questions...

What skills will a reading coach need?

Coaches who are skillful and experienced reading teachers will often need to learn several new skills to become an equally skillful coach. These skills include:

establishing a professional, collaborative relationship with colleagues (trust building/"entry");
managing professional time
communicating effectively with colleagues, parents, and administrators, especially when discussing emotionally challenging topics;
working effectively with a team to address student or school concerns;
collecting and analyzing data for problem-solving and coaching (conducting interviews, observations, and assessments);
providing specific feedback to a teacher for improving instructional skills and strategies;
designing and conducting professional inservice trainings
helping provide systems-level consultation to address school-wide or district-wide concerns.Return to Questions...

How can I find out more about being a reading coach?

The Reading Coach: A How-to Manual for Success by Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D. and Carolyn Denton, Ph.D. published by Sopris West (www.sopriswest.com) Return to Questions...

What is "differentiated instructions?

This term means different things to different people. In general when educators talk about differentiating instruction they mean planning lessons and providing instruction and practice activities that are appropriate for each student's individual background and skill levels. It suggests that at least some instruction would be provided to small groups of students. Return to Questions...

Does this mean that we are returning to the days of tracking students, with "high" groups and "low" groups of students?

Creating permanent, homogeneous groups of students based on their academic ability has been shown to be an ineffective way to differentiate instruction. The small groups should instead by flexible and reformed from time to time to allow groupings of students for different reasons and sometimes even pair students at different skill levels. Return to Questions...

How can a teacher manage to provide differentiated instruction? What do the other students do when the teacher is working with one small group?

This is an important question that must be addressed if a teacher is going to be successful with differentiating instruction. A key place to start is to rethink how the classroom is organized and managed that will allow a teacher to work with the whole class but also have the time to work with small groups. To get started, an instructional schedule needs to be developed, to map out the blocks of time to provide whole class instruction and a few blocks of 20-25 minute periods where the teacher can teach smaller groups of students. Teachers should also think about creating a list of jobs for students-and train them how to do the jobs-- so students can manage their time while the teacher is busy teaching. A system for managing paperwork, supplies, and learning centers also need to be developed. Return to Questions...

How can I find out more about how to differentiate instruction?

Differentiated Instruction: Grouping for Success by Vicki Gibson, Ph.D., and Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D. published by McGraw Hill Higher Education (www.mhprofessional.com) Return to Questions...

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