Friday, April 6, 2018

Tips for Building Reading Fluency Through Partner Plays

When I'd sit in RtI meetings, one of the major concerns teachers frequently brought up was fluency.

"He can decode at a level 24, but his fluency holds him back."
"I think if his fluency would improve, his comprehension would improve, too."
"It takes him so long to get through the book that he's forgotten what he read in the beginning."

Fluency is a major hurdle. It keeps kids from comprehending and from reading A LOT, which is what we need them to do. 

The trouble is, to improve kids' fluency, they need to read A LOT. But they don't want to, because reading is A LOT of work. So they don't improve their fluency. So they don't read A LOT. So they don't...

You get the picture.

We know we develop fluency when we take into consideration:
  • Students' independent reading levels (don't try to develop fluency at a frustrational level)
  • Students' reading interests (boring text = not going to engage readers, especially the reluctant ones)
  • Repeated reading opportunities (repeated readings promote fluency because the brain can attend to it rather than decoding accurately for the first time)
So What Resources Help Build Fluency?
As a classroom teacher, and later as an instructional coach, I spent a lot of time trying to help kids practice their fluency in fun, manageable ways. The tricky part is helping every kid in your class practice when they're at such a wide range of reading abilities.

So I needed a solution that met all of these requirements:
  • Short texts, so kids weren't overwhelmed.
  • High-interest texts, so kids weren't bored.
  • Texts at a variety of levels, so kids were appropriately challenged and scaffolded.
  • Texts with no prep, so kids could easily read them every day, for repeated readings.
I realized that kids LOVED reading plays. They stepped right over each other to get the roles they wanted, even if they didn't read confidently. And so I started writing Partner Plays.

Why Use Partner Plays?
Partner Plays are plays for two readers. They're so much fun to write, and even better, they meet my
  • They're two pages long: not overwhelming!
  • They're high-interest: I've written seasonal, holiday, and content area plays that are funny and interesting for kids.
  • They're low-stakes reading. There's no test, no quiz, no questions to answer. It's about reading to enjoy.
  • I include four different levels in each set, so kids can read a text that works for them and their fluency level.
  • They're seriously no prep - print and go! Kids can keep them in a folder, or you can get fancy and put them on a file folder and laminate for repeated readings and durability.
So how do I use partner plays? Well, there are a million different ways, but here are my tips for making partner plays work for you and your kids!

Tips for Using Partner Plays

1. Do a minilesson first about what fluency actually is. Ensure that kids aren't just reading for speed. They need to pay attention to the stage directions in order to really read fluently and express the character's feelings through their tone and expression. The anchor chart below might be a great way to start.

2. Assign partners. Random selection doesn't work as well when you're trying to develop fluency. You want to ensure that kids can actually read the text they're reading.

3. Preteach any words that you think kids might struggle with. It helps to pull your most struggling group of decoders and do a little minilesson with them first, before you "set them loose" to read. If they've never heard the words in the play, it will be next to impossible for them to read some of the words that aren't easily decoded.

4. Have kids read the play several times on their own before they read it with a partner. This allows them to work through challenging words and practice.

5. Repeated readings are important! Keep the same play for at least 3-5 days so kids can really develop their fluency!

Today, as part of the Blooming Readers blog hop, I've taken one of my Spring Partner Plays and made it into a forever freebie, so you can try it out with your kids!

You can just click here to head over to my TpT store and grab it. Then print and go.

Watch the video to see a part of this play being performed by my wonderful third grade buddy!

But wait! There's more!

There's an absolutely ENORMOUS giveaway! Enter the Rafflecopter below to win one of SO MANY great prizes!

Check out the next stop on the hop: Stories and Songs in Second to read about teaching prepositional phrases in reading, and grab a great freebie while you're there!
If you enjoyed this tip and want to see more, check out the whole hop!
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  1. Students LOVE plays..this is wonderful!! I also like how you addressed the importance of preteaching difficult words--that really will help put struggling readers at ease :) Thank you for sharing!
    The Techie Teacher®

  2. Thank you for sharing! I love your Cesar Chavez partner reading, too! How awesome were they in the video. Way to go, girls! :-)

  3. I love this and can't wait to use it! Thanks so much for sharing!

    This Literacy Life