Once a child is able to decode and recognize words in print, it is crucial that they also gain an ability to read smoothly and fluently. Stumbling and hesitating over words will undermine reading comprehension because by the time the child gets to the end of a sentence he or she will have completely forgotten what was at the beginning of the sentence!
How do you measure reading fluency in your child?
- Ask the child to read a grade level passage that they have never seen or read before.
- Using a timer have him or her read this text for one minute.
- While reading the passage, tally the errors the child makes while reading.
- Stop the child after one minute. Count the number of words read in the minute and subtract any errors made by the child. For example: if he or she read 120 words in a minute and made five errors then the child’s reading fluency rate is 115.
- Use the chart below to determine if your child’s reading rate is on target.
Mean Words Correct Per Minute “Targets” for Average Students in Grades One through Eight
|Grade||Fall Target||Winter Target||Spring Target|
Johns, J. and Berglund, R. (2006). Fluency strategies and assessments. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishers.
How do you determine a child’s reading level to test for fluency?
Probably the easiest ways to determine if a book is at an appropriate reading level for your child is the Five Finger Rule. Have the child begin reading a chapter, and put down one finger each time he struggles with a word. If he reaches the end of the page before you get to five fingers, the book is written at a comfortable level for independent reading.
What can you do to increase and improve your child’s reading fluency?
The very best way is through practice, both through oral and silent reading.
One approach to practicing reading fluency is for the child to repeatedly read the same passage or text either with a parent or teacher three to four times. Rereading text gives the child multiple opportunities to read unfamiliar words. After repeated reading, those words become familiar. The child should practice rereading aloud texts that are reasonably easy for them and at their reading level and include words that the child already knows and can decode easily. A text is considered at reading level if the child can read it with 95% accuracy. This text should also be relatively short consisting of 50-200 words. First, the parent or teacher reads the text aloud to the student. Then the student reads the same passage to the adult or chorally with the adult. Finally, the student rereads the passage again independently.
Reading frequently will also improve reading fluency since reading is a skill that improves with practice. Children can improve their reading fluency by reading independently each day for at least 20 minutes. Again it is important that the child read a book or text that is at their grade level or slightly below their grade level. Children should be encouraged and allowed to read a book of their choice – even if this doesn’t involve classic novels for their independent reading. For gaining fluency, quantity is more important than quality. Whenever possible, use their interests to guide their reading choices and give them some power in making decisions about what to read.
Memorizing Dolch sight words is another method to improve reading fluency in children. By memorizing common words like “the”, “said”, “what”, “you”, the child will read texts and stories more fluently. Many of these words are in almost anything they read. Readers will have more experiences of success if they know these words. Dolch words are service words; they give meaning and direction, which are necessary for understanding sentences.
Model good reading for your children. Share what you read with them or read what they are reading. Have discussions and talk to them about the things you find important in what you read and why. Parents and teachers need to read themselves and read in front of their children and students. Children will imitate you and will be more likely to read and read well in a house and classroom filled with all kinds of interesting books, magazines and texts.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland is the Founder of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Yes! A child can overcome reading problems if they are identified early and provided with the correct reading intervention program.
If your child is having troubles learning to read, take immediate action. Research in the field of reading says that the ideal window of opportunity for helping kids with reading problems is from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of first grade. This is still called intervention. After this window of opportunity has passed it is called remediation. Keep in mind that prevention is always easier than remediation.
The three key research conclusions from the National Institutes of Health are:
- 90% of children with reading problems will achieve grade level in reading if they receive help by the first grade.
- 75% of children whose help is delayed to age nine or later continue to struggle throughout their school careers.
- If help is given in fourth grade, rather than in late kindergarten, it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount.
Dr. G. Reid Lyon, Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health concluded that if children are identified early and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies they can overcome their reading problems.
The type of intervention program a child uses is also crucial. On the basis of a thorough evidence-based review of the reading research that met rigorous scientific standards, the National Reading Panel (NRP), convened by the NICHD and the Department of Education, found that instructional programs that provide systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, guided repeated reading to improve reading fluency, and direct instruction in vocabulary and reading comprehension strategies were significantly more effective than approaches that were less explicit and less focused on the reading skills to be taught (e.g., approaches that emphasize incidental learning of basic reading skills).
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
It may be very frustrating to learn about the importance of early intervention when that window of opportunity has already passed for your middle or high school child with dyslexia. However, acting on behalf of your child will require moving beyond this frustration point and really focusing on what needs to be done in the present. Rest assured that most middle and high school students with dyslexia can be helped and can catch up to grade level. This will take more time, more effort, and more intensity of instruction, but it is never too late to do something about reading and writing difficulties.
Poor readers in middle and high school can be brought up to grade level and kept at grade level with one to two years of instruction using a specialized program intended for students with dyslexia such as the Orton- Gillingham. This approach is multisensory and students use the visual, auditory and kinesthetic channels simultaneously when learning new skills and reading concepts. It is structured, sequential and cumulative.
Students with dyslexia in middle and high school have the same basic problems as younger poor readers and need to learn the same skills. These problems, however, are complicated by years of feeling failure and frustration. Many middle and high school dyslexics no longer believe that they can be helped.
The course of action in helping a child with dyslexia through school may seem like an eternal endeavor to most families, but eventually all the hard work pays off. The dyslexia that caused the child to have difficulties learning to read in the beginning, will also cause troubles later on with spelling, writing, learning a foreign language, and frequently in learning algebra.
Skipping the basic skills of reading is a huge mistake. An older student with dyslexia who lacks basic awareness of speech sounds cannot learn to read unless this problem is addressed. This student will need to begin with phonological awareness, followed by sound-letter correspondences. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to learning how to decode words fluently and accurately, and no way to bypass this stage altogether of learning to read. Although it is tough in the beginning, nothing is more motivating than success, once students experience appropriate Orton-Gillingham instruction.
A middle and high school student with dyslexia will need an Orton-Gillingham program that is intense enough to close the reading gap. Up to two hours daily may be needed to bring a student to grade level. In general, the larger the gap between the student’s skills and the grade level, the more intense the intervention must be to catch up.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland is the Founder of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a Certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at email@example.com or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Learning to read in English would be such a simple task if all similar-sounding phonemes were spelled the same. They aren’t. English is such an unfair language with so many iniquitous rules! For most of us, learning to read means memorizing the symbolic code of letter combinations and then using them in new contexts. Many of us just read naturally, understanding that these letter combinations create words and sounds. Linguists call these sounds ‘phonemes.’ Our brains just register the words and are equipped to read three or four words ahead of time. We are also mentally able to pull words apart, separate them into syllables and apply all of those unfair spelling rules easily and logically.
For a student with a reading disability, this process of reading does NOT come naturally. Students with dyslexia, for example, do not use the process of sounding out phonemes (decoding) while reading and applying spelling rules while writing (encoding). Dyslexics, in general, memorize words in entirety and make mental pictures of each word they learn. The predicament with this strategy is that when they get to a word that they are unfamiliar with, they have no coping mechanisms to attack that particular word.
An example of the difficulty for some of us to learn which combination of letters creates which phoneme is the sound of the letter ‘a’ as in the word ‘cake.’ The long ‘a’ sound is written differently in different words, as in baby, ape, sail, play, steak, vein, eight and they. For students with reading disabilities, something interferes with the acquisition of these written phonemes, and in order to learn, these students must be taught how to read in a different way. One such way is using a multi-sensory method.
Students with a reading disability often struggle with auditory and/or visual processing. They have troubles recalling words and how they are pronounced. This means that they do not comprehend the roles that sounds play in words. These students have difficulties rhyming words as well as blending sounds together to form words. These students do not understand or acquire the alphabetic system expected of them in the early years. If a student with a learning difference is given a task that uses just hearing and vision, without drawing upon other senses, this student will be at a disadvantage. When taught with a multi-sensory approach, students will learn alphabetic patterns, phonemes and words by utilizing all pathways – hearing (auditory), seeing (visual), touching (tactile) and moving (kinesthetic).
When learning the vowel combination ‘oa,’ for example, the student might first look at the letter combination on a picture of a GOAT, then close his/her eyes and listen to the sound, then trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud. This combination of listening, looking, and moving around creates a lasting impression for the student as things will connect to each other and become memorable. Using a multi-sensory approach to reading will benefit ALL learners, not just those with reading disabilities.
The other significant component in helping a struggling reader learn to read and write is utilizing an Orton-Gillingham approach. In Orton-Gillingham, the phonemes are introduced in a systematic, sequential and cumulative process. The Orton-Gillingham teacher begins with the most basic elements of the English language. Using repetition and the sequential building blocks of our language, phonemes are taught one at a time. This includes the consonants and sounds of the consonants. By presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student can apply it with automaticity and fluency, students have no reading gaps in their word-decoding skills. As the students progress to short vowels, they begin reading and writing sounds in isolation. From there they progress to digraphs, blends and diphthongs.
Students are taught how to listen to words or syllables and break them into individual phonemes. They also take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change the sounds in the words, delete sounds, and compare sounds. For example, “…in the word steak, what is the first sound you hear? What is the vowel combination you hear? What is the last sound you hear? Students are also taught to recognize and manipulate these sounds. “…what sound does the ‘ea’ make in the word steak? Say steak. Say steak again but instead of the ‘st’ say ‘br.’- BREAK!
Every lesson the student learns is in a structured and orderly fashion. The student is taught a skill and doesn’t progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the student’s long-term memory. While learning these skills, students focus on phonemic awareness. There are 181 phonemes or rules in Orton-Gillingham for students to learn. Advanced students will study the rules of English language, syllable patterns, and how to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to study words. By teaching how to combine the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form words and how to break longer words into smaller pieces, both synthetic and analytic phonics are taught throughout the entire Orton-Gillingham program.
Students with reading disabilities need more structure, repetition and differentiation in their reading instruction. They need to learn basic language sounds and the letters that make them, starting from the very beginning and moving forward in a gradual step by step process. This needs to be delivered in a systematic, sequential and cumulative approach. For all of this to “stick” the students will need to do this by using their eyes, ears, voices, and hands.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Managing Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist. She speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the website www.pridelearningcenter.com
I know many adults who truly believe that they cannot spell, saying “I can’t spell” in the same manner that they would say, “I can’t swim.” But spelling, like swimming, can be taught. However, while most teachers know how to test for spelling, very few know how to teach spelling.
There is a misconception that spelling is a form of dyslexia, a disorder where one is unable to recognize words or sound them out phonetically. The acts of reading and writing occur mainly in the left temporal lobe of your brain – the part of the brain near your left ear. The act of spelling, however, occurs mainly in the occipital lobe of your brain – the visual cortex in the back of your head responsible for forming and retrieving visual memories. So, to remember how to spell a word, you must first store the memory of that word, and then retrieve that “picture” when you are about to write it.
The Three Types of Memory
When I teach spelling to children and to adults, I first talk about the three types of memory. The first type of memory can be called “Blackboard” memory, which lasts from 1-30 seconds. The goal of your brain in Blackboard memory, surprisingly, is to forget what you’ve seen. For example, if you’re driving down the street and see various business signs, “Tom’s Bakery,” “Joe’s Key Shop”, “Chan’s Dry Cleaners,” etc., you certainly don’t want to keep remembering Joe’s Key Shop for the rest of the day. Rather, a “slide” of Joe’s Key Shop is stored in your visual memory, but you’ve made no pathway to consciously retrieve the memory. Occasionally there may be an accompanying smell (such as the bakery next to the key shop) which may remind you of the key shop, but you’ll most likely not remember that the key shop exists. So, when you actually need a key made, you’ll probably have to search the listings for one, and lo and behold, there’s Joe and his key shop right around the corner!
The second type of memory can be called Short-Term Memory, which lasts from 31 seconds to about 2-3 months. Most children rely on Short-Term Memory to recall information for tests, midterms, and final exams, but then forget the information the following year (which explains why kids have to be re-taught “mean, median, and mode” every year from elementary to high school). The third type of memory, Long-Term Memory, is the stored memories of experiences and information that we will always be able to recall, either from connection to an emotional event (e.g., World Trade Center) or from multiple uses (e.g., names, phone numbers, addresses, etc.).
The goal of all learning, then, is to place what needs to be remembered into the student’s Short-Term Memory, so that facts, dates, and the spelling of words can be recalled. Once this information is stored in Short-Term Memory, a pathway is established so that the student is able to consciously retrieve the information for up to 3 months. If there is repeated exposure to the information, this pathway becomes even more established, forming a Long-Term Memory.
Simple Technique for Perfect Spelling
Teaching spelling in school is usually done by having a student copy the words over and over again, which of course does not work at all. By copying the words, their spelling never leaves the student’s Blackboard Memory, so the brain does its job well and dutifully helps the student forget the spelling. The goal, then, is to place the spelling of the word in the student’s Short-Term Memory, so it’s “picture” can be retrieved.
Here is a simple technique that you can do at home to help your child succeed in spelling:
1. Have your child write the spelling word on a piece of paper, then trace the letters with his or her index finger while saying the spelling word out loud. Have the child say the word normally while tracing it, not say or sound out individual letters or vowels.
2. Take the paper away and wait a minimum of 30 seconds (e.g., sing the “Jeopardy!” theme or some other song).
3. Give your child a blank paper, saying, “Now, write the word you traced.”
4. If your child spells the word incorrectly – which is likely to occur at the beginning of this technique – go back and repeat steps 1-3.
Once your child has established a pathway to the Short-Term Memory of a word’s spelling, it’s THERE – the brain has no way of knowing if that pathway was established 31 seconds ago, one week ago, or one month ago. And since the pathway is there, your child WILL remember the spelling of the word.
I’ve used this technique with parents and children for many years, even students with mild traumatic brain injury, and I’ve never come across a student who did not suddenly go from the worst speller to the best speller in the class.
Good luck!………………..Dr. David.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
David Raffle, PhD, CBIS, is a credentialed special education teacher, educational specialist, and brain injury specialist who performs neuropsychological and psychoeducational testing for special education services, standardized testing accommodations, and modifications in the workplace for children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities, traumatic and acquired brain injuries, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.
Visit Dr. Raffle’s website at: https://www.DavidRafflePhD.com or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org