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Teaching Strategies for Reading & Writing Fluency

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson discusses teaching strategies to improve students' reading and writing fluency, including retelling, content clues, step by step learning, comparing good and bad writing, and peer editing.

Reading and Writing

Reading and writing is the core of an English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. Within that curriculum, most standards address fluency. Reading and writing fluency are terms used constantly in an educational setting, but what does each truly mean?

  • Reading fluency refers to a student's ability to read at an adequate pace along with the ability to understand the text. Fluent readers recognize words easily, have smooth oral reading, and gain meaning from the text.
  • Writing fluency refers to a student's ability to write with a natural flow and rhythm. Fluent writers use grade-appropriate word patterns, vocabulary and content.

Having reviewed those terms, the question now becomes 'How do we teach those skills?' The toughest obstacle most ELA teachers face is that each student in their classroom may have a different level of reading and writing fluency. How, then, do we plan lessons to cater to each student's needs? This lesson will discuss some ideas for improving reading and writing fluency for students of all capabilities.

Reading Fluency

Retelling

Let's first look at activities focused on improving reading fluency. For struggling readers, create activities dependent on basic recollection, which includes retelling, where students summarize a story and identify important story elements.

A fun way to work on retelling is through the creation of comic strips. Design a template and have the students determine the main events of the story to represent in each box. This requires students to recall and visualize the story elements. In addition, students will improve character descriptions and setting as they have to know both in order to draw the comic.

For short stories a 3 box comic strip should suffice. For longer ones, use 6 or more boxes
comic strip

Content Clues

For average readers, improving vocabulary is an essential skill. Students need to be able to define unfamiliar words using context clues, or the hints within the text that define the word. A vocabulary hunt is a perfect activity to work on this.

Let's say your 7th grade ELA class has been reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London and has a list of vocabulary words from the novel. Assign individuals or groups to hunt for these words in the novel (narrowing down the chapter for each word). Then, they must use the context clues to determine a definition. Lastly, have all groups come back as a class to compare answers and defend their results.

Create a Larger Scope

Lastly, to improve reading skills for advanced readers, provide more difficult reading material or a larger scope of material. To create a larger scope, have these students delve into the background or historical aspect for any novel. For instance, when reading Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl these students can research the Holocaust and create reports to share with the class. These types of activities will push advanced readers to further their own understanding of the material.

Writing Fluency

Next, let's look to improve students' writing fluency. Writing is a skill; just like shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball, students need to constantly work at it in order to improve. ELA teachers should strive to have their students writing all the time. Even a few sentences each day will help.

Step By Step

For students struggling with writing fluency, provide more opportunity for planning before the actual writing takes place. In fact, breaking the whole piece of writing into manageable steps is very helpful. This prevents students from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated.

Good and Bad Comparison

For your average writers, provide plenty of samples of well-written works. Either individually or in groups, have students compare the well-written samples to ones that are poorly written. This will sharpen their analytical skills and give them ideas for adjusting their own writing.

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