All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Develop Fluency Using Content-Based Texts

Fluency is the missing piece of the reading puzzle for many older students. They can decode, but they cannot do it automatically and accurately enough to comprehend text. Here are some fluency-building activities to complement content delivery. See also Teach Students How to Fluently Read Multisyllabic Content Vocabulary.

How to get started

Choose either commercially available fluency passages that relate to your content or write your own passages based on the critical content objectives you expect your students to master. Follow these steps in writing your own passages:

  1. Identify the "big ideas" of the chapter or unit.
  2. Select five to eight key words that are essential for students to automatically and accurately identify and understand when they encounter them.
  3. Then either choose a section to rewrite at a lower reading level or write an original 125-150 word sample that explains the big ideas you have chosen and contains the key words.
  4. If you are using textbook material, compact the text (reduce the amount) by deleting unimportant or repeated information and collapsing long lists of items into a single word or phrase.
  5. Write a passage of 150 words that includes the big ideas and uses all of the key concept words. Pretend you are "talking the text" to your students. Write as simply as possible using short sentences and a minimum of unfamiliar words (except for new vocabulary).
  6. Ask a colleague to read your passage for clarity and accuracy.
  7. Determine the reading grade level of your sample using an online resource like Okapi!. Your goal is to lower the reading level by at least two to three grades.
  8. Prepare copies for students to practice reading aloud to family members several times each evening, Monday through Thursday.
  9. After you hand out the fluency passage on Monday, give a pre-test of oral reading fluency (words correct per minute). Give a post-test on Friday after students practiced reading the passage aloud for four evenings.
  10. Graph the results.

A resource to help you

Adams, G.N., & Brown, S.N. (2003). The six-minute solution: A reading fluency program. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

McEwan, E.K. (2007). Raising reading achievement in middle and high schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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