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.


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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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