Reading Fluency and Common Core

I have this love hate relationship with reading fluency. My building uses DIBELS for all our primary students but only use the DRA decoding rubric for the intermediate students. Both of these assessments have speed ranges are the bare minimum of how fast students need to be reading.

Now factor in Common Core. Fluency is addressed starting in kindergarten with standard RF 1.4 RF.K.4 with students reading emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding. And the standard changes in first grade with RF.1.4 where students have to read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension. It remains the same through fifth grade. Common Core doesn't address in detail what that looks like. The key in reading fluency is finding that perfect balance of accuracy and understand what is being read. Common Core wants students to understand what they are reading and then have meaning deep conversation about what they are being taught. This is a hard balance and a tough shift this year for me.

It's the readability and the depth in which students have to understand material that really counts. This has more to do with Lexile Measures than DRA or Fountas and Pinnell levels than anything else. This makes for some very fun shifts in what students have to read and what they need to be able to read. The focus needs to stay on text just slightly harder than their independent reading level (at 96% to 98% accuracy and 90 to 125 wcpm) to have a conversation with the depth needed for them to demonstrate that they really understand what they are reading. The shift is in the text complexity. Check Common Core Appendix A for more information on what the Lexile expectations look like.

I'm not sure this is a huge problem for my student's who struggle with reading fluency but I do know that if they can't read fast enough, they won't finish the test. Students should not see difficult material for the first time on these tests. They have to be prepared to closely read, examine, decode, and digest material that is not within their “fluency” or comfort range.

I'm not sure if the best way to accomplish this is by giving them more challenging texts or by guiding students through have a more in-depth conversation about what they are reading.  If students can talk about what they are reading, then they can write about it.

Close Reading where students markup the text is a great way to support students. I have had student do this but I'm having problems with them transferring this idea outside of their time with me. Plus, our new assessment will be on the computer. No marking the text. Markup the text has helped them find the evidence to support their thinking which is I've been told is way more important. They need to work on telling why they picked that specific chunk of text though.

Why Fluency is important:

As great as close reading of complex text maybe for instruction, we should not measure independent reading. Also from Appendix A (p.4):

Students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading within them, both of which the Standards allow for…. Students deeply interested in a given topic, for example, may engage with texts on that subject across a range of complexity.

It's the reading easy material that a student enjoys a book and builds fluency. For independent reading recommendations, students need to read and enjoy whatever they choose, at whatever level for independent reading. That is how to build lifelong readers.

Multiplication Accommodations and Instruction Ideas

My third grade students are going back to multiplication after Christmas Break. This will be the second time they will have had the content. This time I have to get them to mastery. These guys have a working foundation of the meaning of multiplication through creating models to represent equations.

What are Accommodations for Multiplication?

These are suggestions for mathematics learning accommodations based on specific learning disabilities. These learning accommodations have been proven successful with many learning disabled students. Not all of these learning accommodations are usually needed for most of the learning disabled students. Even using all these learning accommodations may not circumvent every student's learning disability. However, in every case the learning disabled students must be taught math study skills to help compensate for their learning problems.

Visual Processing Speed/Visual Processing

  • Note-taker
  • Re-Work notes
  • Tape Recorder with tape counter
  • Large print handouts
  • Large print copies of important textbook pages
  • Taped textbook
  • Turn note book sideways
  • Take notes in different pen colors

Short-Term Memory/Auditory Processing

  • Note-takers
  • Re-work notes
  • Tape recorder with tape counter
  • Physical proximity Math video tapes
  • Tape record important tutor explanations

Fluid Reasoning/Long Term Retrieval

  • Note-takers
  • Re-work notes
  • Tape recorder with tape counter
  • Handouts
  • Math video tapes
  • Fact sheets (flash cards)
  • Color coded problem steps
  • Tape record important tutor explanations
  • Strategy Cards for Higher Grades
  • Calculators
Anchor Charts that will help these guys understand the relationship between repeated addition and arrays. Both of these will be perfect. They have to master a least one strategy to solve multiplication problems. 

Division is new for them, so I will have to teach them a couple of strategies as well. This one will take them some time but will practice I'll get them there.

Have a wonderful Christmas Break and a great break. Safe travels to all who are traveling. 


Common Core and Shifting the Cognitive Load

Since, coming back from Thanksgiving Break, I have worked to shift the cognitive load in my small groups. This has not been as easy as you may think. Why?? Well, mostly because of the rubric I'm evaluated and I do most of the work. My students will never be able to tackle more complex text, if I can't find ways for them to take that load on.

The Common Core State Standards have changed the way I look at teaching reading. I have had to shift my focus to increase the rigor and cognitive load on my students to gathering evidence, knowledge, and insights from what they read. In fact, 80-90% of the reading standards in every grade require text-dependent analysis — being able to answer questions only by referring back to the assigned text, not by drawing upon and referencing prior knowledge and experiences. This is the first year where 90% of everything my students has read has been informational text.

The hard part getting students to talk more about the text without my direct support--ie; me needing to talk way, way less. But this means that they have to take it having the conversation about the book at a depth that is meaningful and with a high level of rigor.

Gretchen Owocki's book has some many strategies to support reader and show the progression of rigor from kindergarten to fifth grade for the Common Core Standards. My students have been working on Reading Anchor 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite textural evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. (Key ideas and Details)

Students have to read closely, to determine what the text says to find the evidence to support their thinking. Easier said than done. This can be seen in what students need to be able to do on their own at the end of each reading level. One way that I have been able to build my student's ability to talk about books has been to use Accountability stems. These sentence frames have scaffolded my student's as they move towards these benchmarks.

I have many factors to keep in mind how I introduce students to the advanced language of informational text analysis because they don't have the skill set necessary to access more complex text or the relevant terminology to be successful without direct support.. Informational and narrative text features, organization, genres, comprehension questions, and constructed response tasks differ strikingly.

Accountability talk is one way that I'm able to increase the cognitive load on my students because they get to do all the talking. I have included a sample of the sentence frames I use with my students.

The ultimate goal is to ensure that students are more familiar with the text structure and content. This also gives all students daily opportunities to communicate using more sophisticated social and academic English. The more they talk the better. Have a great week.

Subtracting the Common Core Way

The beginning of the week started by teaching my 3rd grade math group subtraction. We worked on addition before leaving for break--I was amazed that they remembered how to do addition after getting back. With addition using unifix cubes and drawing the pictures out had them adding within minutes.

Common Core Standards highlight building number sense with third graders.  To build number sense, we have taught several strategies for addition and subtraction: using a hundreds chart, an open number line, and place value blocks.  

This anchor chart shows how to subtract using an open number line.  The hardest part for the students is using the skill of counting backwards, especially when going back over a ten-mark. We struggle with remembering friendly numbers.

Here is my anchor chart for using place value blocks to subtract when there is no need to regroup. We started with real place value blocks.  Then we moved to the picture model.  After a bit of modeling, my kiddos really caught on to this strategy well. When subtracting without regrouping, this method tended to be especially easy for them. 

Ultimately, the boys decided on the standard algorithm for problems needing regrouping. This poem helped them remember to regroup.

A great online manipulatives resource is from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. They have base ten blocks for addition and subtraction. This can be used from a SMART board--my students would do the problems from the board. They also have Number Pieces. This app is free and is easy for the students to build the problems and solve them.  Both work great to provide students with practice. 


I hope this gives you some inspiration on how to help students master subtraction. Common Core has many twists and turns. It's important that whatever strategy students find and have success with that they are able to explain their thinking and tell is the strategy they choose is effective and efficient.  

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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