Helenann Steensen, Fountas & Pinnell Consultant
Would you say it is best practice to put a student who does not read fluently (slow rate and little to no intonation) in guided reading groups at said student’s independent level, in order to focus on building fluency within the guided reading groups for that student?
Also...if the focus for the guided reading group that day is solely to teach to read the punctuation, or another aspect of fluency...is it best practice to use an independent level or yesterday’s instructional level as a re-read?
It is very difficult to respond to this question, without knowing the child and without seeing the reading record. You need to look back, analyze... What specifically is lacking? Is it phrasing? Stopping at punctuation? etc... What kinds of errors specifically is the reader making? Is lack of fluency due to decoding? High Frequency word recall? Is the child able to ‘make meaning with their voice’? What does the comprehension conversation look like?
Fountas and Pinnell encourage us to find out exactly what is affecting the fluency. They provide the Six Dimensions of Fluency Rubric located in the Online Benchmark Assessment Resources to guide our observation.
In the section: A Range of Instructional Procedures to Support Phrased, Fluent Reading, page 440, from Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Fountas and Pinnell state: “One of the simplest approaches with early readers is engaging students in rereading familiar texts.” They go on to give several suggestions for supporting/teaching for fluency.
In summary, they state: Teaching for Fluency
“There are many factors involved in the building of a processing system. All dimensions of fluent reading contribute to the building of a smooth, efficient process and fluent reading is a characteristic of effective processing. You need to monitor how reading sounds, and teach hard for phrased, fluent reading whenever you do not observe it.
Fluent reading will arise from teacher attention to the role of oral language, and thinking and meaning, and increasing experience with the visual information in print, and practice in orchestrating complex processing on just difficult enough texts. It is a matter of successful experience over a period of time moving up a gradient of difficulty of text which can support fluent and successful reading.” (Clay 1993, 53)
Effective reading at every level of text (with the exception of levels A and B, with C as a transition) is essential to reading for meaning using the language and print. Your readers need to develop a concept of fluency and your teaching needs to show persistence and insistence on reading with phrasing that reflects the language and interprets the author’s meaning with the voice.”
In “When Readers Struggle”, Fountas and Pinnell state that fluency is the hardest thing we will ever teach. To me, this means there is not one simple solution, but many approaches required, dependent upon the individual case.
Regarding using a rereading of yesterday’s new text, Fountas and Pinnell state: When you ask students to revisit a text they have previously read, you have an excellent opportunity to do some effective teaching for fluency. The content of the entire text is available to readers and they have already thought about and talked about the meaning. They have processed the language structure once before and worked out the unfamiliar words. Now their attention can go to how the reading should sound.
Although using an independent level book can be helpful to establish their ear to hearing fluency, it could be very discouraging to drop a reader’s guided reading placement to their independent level, especially if they will be rereading books they have already read. However, it may be necessary.
Sometimes, you can talk with the child about what you are seeing and help them understand what you are going to help them with.. i.e. the next steps.
You could start (as you suggested) by using their familiar text for teaching fluency. You will need to teach hard and do lots of modeling, as you suggested! To develop fluency, you can: 1) Use a reread 2) Give lots of opportunities to read and reread independent level books 3) Use poetry 4) Mark copied familiar passages into phrases with a pencil to first model, read together, read with a partner, read independently (then use the passage without markings to practice) and 5) Buddy Read: i.e. read familiar text aloud with a partner for practice.
These are only a few suggestions. There are many more. But the ultimate answer to your question is you will have to first analyze what is interfering with fluency and then teach hard to get it.
We wish you success as you develop fluency with your readers.
Helenann Steensen, Official Fountas & Pinnell Consultant, Heinemann