I have been working on fluency skills with my group of third, fourth, and fifth grade students this month (see previous update). Mid-way through the focus on fluency, they’ve all had the chance to read and record a play podcast at least once, one group has completed the process of reading, practicing and recording a podcast twice.
This week, I realized just how difficult it is for some students to separate reading fast with reading well. Working with one student who read through the script with the cadence of a semi-truck flying down a hill with broken brakes, I stopped him over and over to try to get him to read the periods and commas. Even after I modeled the right and wrong ways to read punctuation, and explaining why reading the punctuation was important, it was really difficult for him to slow down. Part of the problem for this student was that he’s a kid who likes to get things done fast. He play sports and the faster he runs, the better. We’ve been working on math fact practice and he’s gotten better and better at doing multiplication faster and faster--the more multiplication facts he recalls in five minutes, the better he feels about his math ability. And, in some aspects, he’s been encouraged to read faster and faster. This year, he’s shown a lot of growth in his reading skills, and part of that has been the timed reading that we do together once a month for progress monitoring. His Words Correct Per Minute (the, however faulty, measure that we use to track fluency) in a third-grade reading passage has doubled since September and I know that’s something he’s proud of. So, slowing down is also an old habit that’s dying hard. By the end of the week, when he recorded his podcast, he was able to slow down a little, but it’ll be a skill we continue to work on.
Coming up, it’s Christmas all around (it’s the last week before Christmas break and, as I always feel this time of year when kids are gearing up for winter vacation and Santa’s visit, it's best to go with the holiday cheer). One group will be practicing a rendition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a play that I thought would give them a chance to practice reading with a certain curmudgeon-y, grumpy, exasperated tone that they don’t often get to employ. My other group finished their play reading and have moved on to writing a skit of their own, for the novel they’re writing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.