Practice or Play – Making Fluency Less Like Work More Like An Experience

We had a plan, there was an opening, we went for it; and it turned out better than expected.  It was a great way to end our week.  Today was the day we tried out our plan for the fluency lesson from our blog post: From Skill to Strategy Access Points for Fluency.  Our goal was to support students’ comprehension through fluency work. A primary focus was to teach into flexibility while stressing that fluency work is so much more than rate alone.   Children explored how to match their reading to three genre types:  Informational, Narrative, and Poetry.   

We are deep into Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book, and Pinnell & Fountas’ Continuum of Literacy Learning.  These are very important resources.  However, in order for professional texts to become meaningful – teachers have to make them their own.  We did this by integrating their works into our instructional practices.  We believe that Adjusting (a “Within the Text” strategic action) is underutilized. Adjusting creates flexible readers who are observant and are able to negotiate text with greater facility. Genre work is really important in the classroom – students need to understand the supports and challenges of texts. Exploring genre,  gives students voice (literally) through active engagement around fluency work.

We took three of Jennifer Serravallo’s  strategies and created a new tool.  We combined: “Read Like a Storyteller”, “Use a ‘This is Interesting’ Voice”, and “Make Your Voice Match the Feeling” (we switched it from our original choice).    Then we matched them to the genres: Narrative, Informational, and Poetry.  We modeled using mentor texts and had students immediately practice on the rug using books from their bins.  Practice is the critical piece, but this practice felt like play! Students couldn’t wait to do the work – they were fully engaged, and they were doing very challenging work.  This sounds  a lot like rigor… Some students were using texts that were above their instructional level – but with the repeated practice they were highly successful.  This is what we mean when we say “texts to grow into”.  Today was a launch, and the work has just begun.  

Next Steps – Future Plans:

  • The tool we introduced today will be used for independent work.
  • Partnership work so there is reciprocity between students.  I read, you critique then we switch roles
  • Another tool to be launched is prompting rings for students to use independently, with small groups,  or in partnerships

What did they think of this work? Children applauded for each other, they cheered, they laughed.  Here are some student reflections from today’s work:

  • “I felt happy.  I liked doing this.”
  • “I felt nervous when I first did it.  When I was reading it, I practiced it.  I like to do this at home.  Once when we were in Mrs. Hayhurst’s group she told us to practice sounding like the character’s voices.  It is a little hard.  Mostly you don’t know what they really sound like unless you hear them on tape.  You can try and practice how they do it.  If you can’t, you have to try and think how they would say it.”
  • “I was feeling happy because I think this is fun to do and sometimes I do this at home with my books and I say it like the characters would.”
  • “I felt confident because I loved to be the narrator and I could really tell what was going to happen.I thought I had a good voice and was clear about it.”
  • “I felt like I was well kinda nervous and excited.  Sometimes at the library we get to read books to each other and I like to be the narrator.  You just have to practice.”
  • “I felt nervous at first and then after I done it I felt really happy.  I never really did fluency before and I always sounded like a robot when I read.  I learned how to change my voice and do emotions.”


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