Fluency is an area of reading that should be addressed in middle school reading instruction. It directly affects reading comprehension. Fluent readers display certain distinct behaviors. They easily recognize the 100 to 160 words a minute that they read. Rather than word by word reading that is halted and stiff, these students read in chunks of words or phrases. They make fewer mistakes and correct their errors as they read. They read with expression which indicates their comprehension of the text.
What should middle school teachers do when they have students who are not fluent readers? There are several techniques available to increase fluency. One such approach is paired or assisted reading. This is when students read a text with a partner.
Pairing middle school students to read a text has several advantages. Students can assist one another with working through more challenging parts of the text. Secondly, there is no pressure to read before the entire class. This especially helps middle school student who may be struggling with their confidence in reading. They are more motivated to read and reread the text because paired reading is a non threatening approach. Assisted reading acknowledges the social needs of middle school students.
Students can be paired randomly or by the teacher. Students who are fairly close in their reading levels should be grouped. One student who is more fluent can become frustrated with the slower reading partner. One way to pair students is to make a list of students from the highest reader to the lowest. Then pair the highest reader with the highest reader from the middle of the list. Continue this pattern down the list until all students are paired. If you have an odd number, three in a group is fine. When grouping students for assisted reading, middle school teachers should consider their personalities.
One final piece to consider when using paired reading for fluency is the material. When reading for increased fluency, middle school students should read texts at their instructional level. This means that they can read can read a text with 90-94% accuracy. To calculate this rate, divide the total number of words read accurately in one minute by all of words that were read. Reading texts at the independent level (95%-100% accuracy) or the frustration level (less than 90% accuracy) doesn’t increase fluency in middle school students.
Paired or assisted reading is a simple, but highly motivating approach to increasing fluency in middle school students. With regular use in reading instruction, middle school students are sure to increase their reading comprehension.
Book: Strategies for integrating Reading & Writing in Middle and High School Classrooms by Karen D. Wood & Janis M. Harmon