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?"
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!
The ALL Griffith team
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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