Goal Setting to Improve Fluency

Posted by Jennifer Jackson on 13 November 2015
Goal Setting to Improve Fluency

Part I

Our next three blog posts are devoted to sharing some ways to use goal setting powerfully in your classroom with your early years students and even with your strugglers in high school. We start off this three-part series by looking at how to improve fluency.

Does each of your students really know what kind of reader he or she is? Is it clear what they need to do to improve? What kinds of goals could your students set that would be creative, self-directed and focused on reading improvements? We will be giving you tips over the coming days so you can set up your classroom in such a way that students know where they are as readers from the start then you can  work with them to set goals to improve their literacy and challenge themselves.

Ask students to reflect on their ability to process print accurately and easily. Are they confident about tackling more challenging vocabulary? Can they remember what they have read easily? If students are struggling with these aspects of reading, more practise for improving fluency would be useful. Helping students become fluent readers involves concentrating on building automatic word recognition, enhancing the rate or speed of reading, and working on phrasing and expression in reading (prosody). Ongoing forms of informal assessment are a great way for students and teachers to gauge and reflect on current need in real time.

What could ongoing informal assessment look like?

i. Use a probe to check in on fluency with struggling readers use a stopwatch and a set text and record results, ready to compare the next time around. See our ALL website for Stopwatch Reading*.

ii. Pair students up and ask their partner to listen to how well they express themselves when they perform the piece out loud. Include a way to record the number of mistakes and how fast they are. Create a buzz by asking students to Read like a Newsreader* or perform their texts in another creative way in front of their peers. Students should record the improvements and goals where they are going to have access to it: school diary; reading record; school network class folder, or on the wall.

iii. Give students samples of scripts to read as a group. This is another fun, student-centred way of increasing confidence in reading it's a powerful practice known as Reader's Theatre*. Each student takes on a character, and they practise and rehearse before they present it to the class. Ask students to put as much expression into their voices as they can creating pace, pausing and intonation.  Radio play scripts are often the best because they rely on dialogue and what the characters say to portray action. Ask the class/audience to close their eyes to imagine the characters and events for maximum effect!

Kind regards,
The ALL Griffith team


* These Powerful Practices each have their own handy How to Guide on our website: http://www.accelerating-literacy-learning.edu.au/about-tools-for-teaching.html

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Answering Your Questions: PowerPoint Pete

Posted by Jennifer Jackson on 10 November 2015
Answering Your Questions: PowerPoint Pete

Dear ALL Team,
"I teach Year 8 Science, and we are doing a unit on Rocks. My students really struggle to access the textbook because the vocabulary is way above their level. I have taken sections of it and put it on PowerPoint so I can go through it with them bit by bit, but it is taking forever, and they just aren't engaged. I have to send emails to nearly every parent in the class to tell them that their child is struggling to grasp the content in this semester's report. What can I do?"

-PowerPoint Pete

Dear PowerPoint Pete,

Please don't feel like you are alone. Unfortunately, students reading below year level are not an uncommon story. If you feel upset and frustrated, imagine how your students feel moving from class to class, struggling to access the content.

So, how to support them?

Firstly, it sounds like your students need to work on their fluency. You may know already that fluency is not just about reading fast, although that is important. Fluency is about automaticity, prosody and pacing. Tim Rasinski (2012) has written on what fluency is (and is not) and Willemina Mostert and Kath Glasswell (2012) discuss what teachers need to focus on in the classroom to support fluency.  Rasinski says that fluency should be about automaticity where students read words accurately and automatically. Next, of course, is where students read with expression, or 'prosody', taking into consideration phrasing and understanding of impact on the reader.
Reading for performance, with an audience in mind can be lots of fun, and yes, even in a Science lesson! What about getting students to do the different types of rock formations or how sediment forms in a river?  Or rehearsing, through repeated readings, a section of a challenging text about volcanoes as a group and then sharing it with the class? Yes, because reading out loud really does help build fluency.

Secondly, PowerPoint Pete, instead of reading TO the students, why not introduce the practice of reading WITH your students Or better yet, engage students in repeated readings of short texts on important topics such as gemstones or minerals and their uses;  possibly pairing struggling readers with those who are more competent. They get to hear what a fluent reader sounds like from one of their peers and they get an opportunity to practice too. Lastly, make sure each time they read, they have a clear purpose, to create engagement and a sense of importance in the work they are doing.

Why don't you look on our website for more ideas, particularly about Content Area Oral Reading: http://www.accelerating-literacy-learning.edu.au/content-area-oral-reading.html You might be changing your name to Fluency Pete by the end of term Good luck!

Kind regards,
The ALL Griffith team

Further reading:

Mostert, W., Glasswell, K., (2012). Dreams to reality: Closing the reading achievement gap with a focus on fluency. Practically Primary, Vol 17, No. 3, Oct 2012: 16-19.

Rasinski, T., V., (2012). "Why Reading Fluency Should be Hot!"  The Reading Teacher,  Vol 65, Issue 8, pages 516522.

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Sharing Learning Intention

Posted by Jennifer Jackson on 30 October 2015

How can teachers create classrooms where the priority is student motivation, where engagement means that improved literacy is the outcome?
Mention 'goal setting' to your class, your multi-age tutor group, or even your staff in Faculty meetings, and you may well be met with a scene from the "Walking Dead"Why is that? We all know how much evidence there is to support the effectiveness of setting, and thus achieving, goals (Covey, 2009;  Glasswell, Colwill & Singh, 2011; Dweck, 2013).

We've all been there: 9Q: 22 boys, 4 girls; 1 or 2 classroom Learning Support Assistants; and writing a speech about characters and themes in a text favoured by English teachers the world over [Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men].  Students in this class are struggling readers generally, their literacy levels were below National benchmark and their motivation and self-esteem had been caught up in what they could not do, rather than what they were, or could be, setting out to achieve. There's plenty we can do as classroom practitioners to create engagement and focus on raising reading levels of attainment with each of our students. Have a clear focus or purpose for a start: ask questions, pose problems, and generate inquiry. We could organise a range of challenging and interesting reading materials, at different levels and in different groupings to create visible thinking opportunities.

In our class? At the start of the lesson students could also be asked to share with the rest of the class what each intended to do for the lesson, and what these intentions were going to actually look like in action. Get your students to verbalise their overall goal; the skills they are working on; and what the product is going to be by the end of the lesson: and ask them who they will need to become to make all of that happen.

We all know goal setting works and personalising it with students is where the power lays. In our work, the School Based Researchers know about the power of setting goals when we work with teachers, and plans are made off the back of all types of data collected, both formal and informal assessment.  Once teachers analyse their data, the power is when they go back into the classroom, setting intentions and celebrating the achievements of so many.

Further Reading::
Covey, S., (2009 ). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon & Schuster, US.

Dweck, C., (2013 ). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Little, Brown Book Group, London, UK.

Glasswell, K., Colwill, R., Singh, P., (2011). Literacy Lessons for Logan Learners: principals and teachers using data for school improvement, Curriculum and Leadership Journal, Vol 9,     Issue 22. Found at: http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/ll4ll_october_2011,34126.html?issueID=12496

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Feedback for Learning

Posted by Jennifer Jackson on 15 June 2015

When we are truly focussed on accelerating literacy learning, students and teachers need to be on the journey together, and what better way than for student engagement and motivation to be extended than the all-important effects of student-driven, teacher delivered feedback.

The idea of using assessment FOR learning, as well as OF learning (Birenbaum  et al,  2006) is all about integrating feedback into a larger conversation with our students so they are clear about how they can improve and how we, as teachers, can accelerate their literacy needs. 

According to Marzano, Pickering and Pollock in "Classroom Instruction that Works" (2001), feedback needs to be: "corrective in nature: tell students how they did in relation to specific levels of knowledge; timely and specific to a criterion".

Student A receives his test back, the actual writing of it a distant memory to him no: it was two weeks ago and he, along with the rest of the class, have moved on to the next big idea to be learned, understood and once again, tested. He reads the grade. He sees the words from his teacher, noting the heading 'to improve'. He places the inside his subject folio and asks what the next task will be. His teacher is already onto the third question and he is behind!

In this next example, the teacher creates many opportunities for the student to make decisions based around evidence from past pieces of work, the mark scheme, the task itself and thus to become cognitively engaged, meaning there is a 'willingness to exert the mental effort needed to comprehend challenging concepts and accomplish difficult tasks in different domains' (Guthrie, Wigfield and You, 2012).

Student B has got his test back within days of when it was written. He takes note of his grade on the outside of the folio and then is directed about what notes to take for feedback.

  • He finds the general comments at the end of the test, highlighting the key word.
  • He reads through the paper and finds comments from the teacher to highlight
  • He writes down questions, concerns and clarifications based on his work and teacher responses
  • He creates three goals based around three areas of the mark scheme, and one about the product of his efforts for the year, remembering that as Sadler and Black & William say: 'Students can only achieve learning goals if they understand these goals, assume some ownership of them, and can assess progress (cited in Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2007).

The teacher calls him for an individual feedback meeting, where he asks her the questions he has created from the words she has written in and around the paper.  This conversation creates a quality teacher-student relationship, as well as giving the student some autonomy in self-efficacy. The questions are to do with:

  1. Clarifying what was meant by the teacher comment
  2. Direct relationship to rubric/mark scheme
  3. Connections to task requirements mode, audience, purpose, outcomes
  4. Opportunities to re-sit aspects of the text to put feedback into practise

They then go back over his previous results and goals, looking at areas for improvement, as well as celebrations. His teacher knows she needs to be more about setting a supportive tone creating challenge, not sugar coating the bad news either side of constructive comments. It is always worthwhile taking the time to reset the relationship, so he trusts his teacher.  They set goals and intentions, based on the feedback and teacher's prior knowledge.

When teachers give 'specific direction to students about the effectiveness of their strategy for performing work, and help students set realistic goals in their learning domain', then the steps towards performing academic tasks successfully [such as reading comprehension] improve dramatically (Guthrie et al, 2012). Many have written about the positive impact of the 'quantity' of feedback (the simplest prescription for improving education must be 'dollops of feedback' John Hattie, as cited in Marzano et al) but creating trusting and supportive conversations in directing students to higher order learning goals the quality - is the optimum chemistry!


Reference List:
Birenbaum, M., Breuer, K., Cascallar, E., Dochy F., Dori. Y., & Ridgway. J., (2006). A Learning Integrated Assessment System, Educational Research Review (1, 2006, 61-67)
Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., & You, W., (2012). Instructional Contexts for Engagement and Achievement in Reading. Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. DOI 10. 1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_29
Marzano, R. J., Pickering D. J., & Pollock J. E., (2001). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement , ASCD, Virginia, USA.
Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D., (2007). Formative Assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education: 31:2, 199-218, DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090

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...and they thought they were just singing and having fun!

Posted by Willemina Mostert on 26 May 2015

What do you do when you have tested your class for reading comprehension [TORCH] and the data shows the majority of your Year 7 class are between one and four years below the national mean? The experts [think Allington, Samuels, Rasinski, Shanahan, Pikulski, Chard for starters] say teaching fluency and, in particular, engaging students in repeated reading of an instructional text will increase their reading ability. Here comes the dilemma: these same Year 7 students, situated in a low SES area, are largely disengaged...hard enough to get them to read a text once let alone repeatedly!

Enter music...their music! Music that is motivational, inspirational and moral. [These are my criteria. If we are going to spend time with these texts they need to do some work as well!]

Songs are really poems set to music and poems are texts. Lyrics are texts. This was the "ah-ha" moment! What if a compilation of motivational and inspirational lyrics was made into a booklet and presented as the reading material and instead of repeatedly reading them, we actually sang them over and over again? This is exactly what I did. The kids loved it. We sang every day for 10-15 minutes just before morning break. They were singing vocabulary that they had not encountered before and were discussing the themes and meanings of the songs. These disengaged readers would ask for singing every day and certainly remind me if it looked like I was forgetting to set up the data projector. This was one component of a wider reading program a fun component!

To start with I used the complete You Tube clips, then removed the video component so only the lyrics were on screen and a couple of weeks later we relied solely on the audio with the students now totally reliant upon their lyric booklet. I limited the number of songs to four to ensure we were getting the repeated readings in. Each term we chose another four together.

Did it work? 68% of students improved their TORCH scale scores in the mid-year testing round. There were many other benefits as well to be covered in a later blog.

The kids' favourites were: Hey! Hey! Hey! [Michael Franti and the Spearheads], Caught in the Crowd [Kate Miller-Heidke], Just Be You [India Arie], Roar [Katie Perry] and Que Sera [Justice Crew].

Give it a go. Your kids will thank you for it!

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