Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Fluency Practice: Poems for Repeated Reading

Over the years, I have written quite often about fluency instruction in reading. Fluency, the smooth, rapid processing of print when reading, is central to skilled reading. It is often what keeps young readers from advancing in their reading and it is often noticeably missing from many struggling readers efforts. Here are some of the posts I have written about fluency instruction in the past.

Fluency Instruction: Building Bridges

When Readers Struggle: Fluency

The Power of Rereading

That Thing You Do: When Readers Plateau, Try Pushing Fluency

I have always used poetry to support young and struggling readers developing fluency. With April being Poetry Month it seems to be a good time to revisit these strategies, which can be readily adapted for online or at home work. The lesson structure is as follows:

            Pre-reading Activities: Before reading the poem, activate background knowledge and interest through discussion. Using the title, illustration or an appropriate question as a stimulus, have the children make predictions about what they will read in the poem. Some possible discussion starters are included on the Teacher’s Guide page for each poem. These pre-reading discussions will help the children anticipate what they will read and aid in comprehension.

            Teacher Modeling: Read the poem aloud to the class at least once. Emphasize meaning. Read expressively. As you read, point to the words on the chart or screen in a smooth, left to right motion. Children need to hear the poem read fluently and expressively so that they can learn what fluent reading sounds like.

            Comprehension Instruction: After listening to your oral reading of the poem, have the children check their original predictions about the poem’s content. In a guided discussion help students to retell what happened in the poem. Discuss difficult vocabulary and figurative language. Comprehension discussion guide ideas can be found in the Teacher’s Guide accompanying each poem. An understanding of the meaning of the poem will support students in developing their reading fluency.

            Echo Reading: Read aloud one line of the poem and have the children echo back what has been read. Read the next line, have the children echo again and so on throughout the poem. Be sure to point to each line and keep students focusing on the text. Some students may not look at the text during echo reading, relying instead on listening memory. Guide them to keep their eyes on the words as they echo.

            Pattern Discussion: Ask students if they have noticed any rhyming words in the poems. List the words they call out on a white board or chart paper. Ask if they notice any spelling patterns that they can make generalizations about. Have students generate other words that fit the spelling pattern(s). Discuss these patterns and point out to students how they can use this knowledge to help decode new and unfamiliar words they may encounter in reading.

            Choral Reading: Lead a re-reading of the poem. Invite all students to join in the re-reading. Weaker readers can rely on classmates to help them over the difficult passages or may choose to be silent or listen. Again, remember to point to the words as you and the children read them together.

Choral and echo reading may be repeated several times until you the teacher feels that most students will be able to combine memory, sight vocabulary and decoding strategies to read the poem independently. After a few choral readings, the teacher can stop reading and have the children read chorally without the teacher’s guiding voice.

Vary choral reading as the poem warrants. Have different small groups of students alternate verses or lines or have students take the parts of speaking characters in the poem. Have pairs of students read parts of the poem or have the boys read one time and the girls another. Variety in choral reading will help keep interest and attention high.

            Paired Reading: Children are each given a copy of the poem and are asked to choose a partner. Alternatively, the teacher may assign partners. Have children find a comfortable place to read and then take turns reading the poem to each other. The listening partner is asked to play the role of helper, listening and following along closely to provide help if the reader needs it. Partners are encouraged to keep reading to each other until each can read the poem fluently.

            Teacher Conference: When children feel they have mastered the poem, they request a teacher conference. During the conference, the child reads the passage aloud, while the teacher keeps a record of general fluency, miscues and decoding strategies employed. The teacher provides specific feedback to the student on their fluency and use of strategies.

Here are two poems to help you get started from my book Snack Attack and other poems for developing fluency in young readers, Infinity Press, 2010.

Snack Attack

My mind has slipped off teacher’s track,
Because it’s nearly time for our snack.
Mine is waiting in my backpack,
In the coatroom, high up on the rack.

I try to remain cool and laid back,
But I’m hungry as a lumberjack.
Just can’t wait to look inside my sack.
I’m hoping for cookies, perhaps a whole stack.

Teacher says, “Now it’s time for your snack.”
And I hear my lips give a quick, “Smack!”
Can’t wait to tear into a pack
Of Cheese Doodles or Crackerjack.

Now the coatroom is under attack,
But woe is me and alas and alack!
Guess whose mom has forgotten to pack
Even one raisin to eat for a snack.    

Bad Bartholomew Blue

Come hear the tale of Bartholomew Blue
The meanest hombre the world ever knew.
A cutthroat, a villain, a bad buckaroo,
That nasty outlaw Bartholomew Blue.

Bart, his nickname, he had quite a few,
Roamed the old west with his dastardly crew.
Stealing gold and jewelry from good men and true,
And causing a general hullabaloo.

Bart robbed a bank on Sagebrush Avenue,
Hopped on his horse and away they both flew.
Made his escape without leaving a clue
And hit out nine days in a swampy bayou.

Bart’s the ugliest guy to come in my view.
His face was all pimply and covered with goo; 
He’d a scar on his face in the shape of a shoe;
When his ear was cut off, he repaired it with glue.

Bart had one weakness – rattlesnake barbecue.
It tastes like old socks and is sure tough to chew.
He’d eat huge helping with mooseberry stew
And wash it all down with some foul-smelling brew.

One day a posse was quick to pursue,
And followed that villain Bartholomew Blue.
They were right on his heels, would have captured him, too,
But they all lost their way in a thick foggy dew.

Then came the sad end of Bartholomew Blue,
He and his horse both came down with the flu.
By the end of the week, Bart and horse were both through,
They say he’s in heaven, I doubt that that’s true             

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