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Fluency Activities

In Fluency activities, students read short sentences containing words they already recognize or else can sound out. This will be many students' first experience with real reading, an occasion to be celebrated.

The objective of the Fluency sequence of activities is to teach students to decode their first sentences in print.

You can have students read decodable connected text as soon they are able to read or decode each word with a pause of no more than three seconds.

This strand of instruction was constructed on the following principles:

  • Students build fluency with recognizing words using stories that are much more motivating and rewarding than word lists.
  • Once they can read a story accurately, they practice rereading the same story a few days later, so that they get used to a fluent reading speed (for reading out loud, this means reading the sounds like normal speech).
  • Comprehension strategies are introduced at two levels:
    • Mental imagery for individual stories
    • Question generation and answering once students are fluent with a story

Both mental imagery and question generation were listed among the eight effective strategies for reading comprehension in the report of the National Reading Panel (2000). About question generation, the panel's report said: "The strongest scientific evidence [for a comprehension instruction strategy] was found for the effectiveness of asking readers to generate questions during reading." A meta-analysis of question generation studies (Rosenshine, Meister, and Chapman, 1996) concluded: "Based on these results, we recommend that the skill of question generation be taught in classrooms. However, we would recommend, at present, that only two procedural prompts be used: (a) signal words and (b) generic questions or question stems....The data also suggest that students at all skill levels would benefit from being taught these strategies." We use signal words (Who, What, Why, etc.) rather than generic questions, since these questions are simpler for first-graders to grasp.

Note that we don't include illustrations with passages. This is deliberate. At this stage of learning to read, we want students to decode the text, not guess based on visual clues. We do suggest asking students to form a mental picture (or drawing a picture) of what the story describes. This is an essential comprehension skill that will help prepare students for longer stories.