Fluency interventions for struggling readers

Students who are struggling with reading frequently have low fluency. Fluency is measured using Oral Reading Fluency (ORF).

Oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments have been described as being like a thermometer, which detects a fever but does not reveal its cause. Low ORF indicates a reading difficulty but does not immediately tell us why the student is struggling. Further investigation may be needed to identify the underlying skill deficit and determine the appropriate intervention. Fluency is among the most difficult components to rectify among older struggling students, and early intervention is more efficient and effective than are later attempts.

Students whose low ORF is due to poor word reading accuracy will require phonics-based interventions to improve their word reading automaticity, as well as fluency instruction. Automaticity exercises include letter-sound and word sprints using decodable and high frequency words.

Rapid Automatised Naming (RAN) is also associated with oral reading fluency. Children with low RAN ability in quickly naming letters and numbers are more likely to have reading difficulties. It can be useful to screen students for RAN ability as it will indicate a need for more intensive fluency practice and intervention.

For students who can read words accurately but struggle to achieve a reading rate that is sufficient for comprehension, fluency interventions using evidence-based practices are recommended.

Repeated Reading

Many studies have found Repeated Reading to be a highly effective fluency intervention for students with reading difficulties and reading disabilities. Read some of these studies herehere, and here.

These studies found that

  • RR is highly effective for both primary and secondary students, but more so for primary students.
  • RR is more effective with passage previews and goal setting.
  • RR is more effective as part of a multicomponent intervention that includes vocabulary.
  • RR is more effective with modelling and corrective feedback.
  • Teacher modelling and feedback and partner reading are both effective, but teacher-led practice is more effective.
  • Timed reading as part of instruction improved rate but not accuracy or comprehension.
  • Assisted audio book interventions were not as effective as RR but more effective than independent silent reading.

A step-by-step outline of a Repeated Reading lesson is here.

Findings suggest that Repeated Reading remains the most effective intervention for improving reading fluency for students with learning difficulties.

Reinforced Reading using Pause Prompt Praise (PPP)

When listening to a student read, it is important to provide them with the right feedback. Reinforced Reading is a strategy for providing guidance to a student as they read aloud. Reinforced Reading does not involve repeated reading of a single passage of text so it allows students to read an entire book over a number of sessions.

In Reinforced Reading,

  • reading is supported or reinforced by a trained tutor;
  • the reader is positively reinforced for good reading by means of highly specific and contingent praise; and
  • the learning of sight words and word attack skills is reinforced by the supported reading of real words in real text in context.

Reinforced Reading uses Pause, Prompt and Praise (PPP). The PPP procedure is a way of supporting and encouraging a student’s reading. It provides feedback and error correction in a positive way, instilling good reading habits with minimal disruption to the reading flow which reduces frustration for the student.

How to use Reinforced Reading for fluency

  1. Select a book that the student can read with a high level of accuracy.
  2. If the book has been used in a previous Reinforced Reading session, ask the student to briefly retell the story so far.
  3. Tell the student you will be asking some questions about what they have read when they have finished reading.
  4. Ask the student to read quickly, carefully and with expression. Remind them to take note of punctuation. Allow them to read for four to five minutes.
  5. If they make an error or cannot read a word, use the PPP strategy to help them.
  6. If they don’t know how to read with expression, model reading one or two sentences for them.
  7. Praise the student frequently, giving specific positive feedback about their reading behaviour (eg. “I am impressed that you made your voice higher at the end of that sentence to show it was a question.”)
  8. At the end of the session, ask a couple of comprehension questions.
  9. Finish by praising the student for specific aspects of their reading

How to use the Pause, Prompt Praise (PPP) strategy

In fluency sessions, the text should be one that the student can read with a high level of accuracy, so the student should make very few errors. If and when they do, the PPP procedure should be used to help them.

  1. Pause when the student makes an error, hesitates or misses out a word.
  2. Wait 5 seconds or to the end of the sentence, to allow the student to work out or correct the word.
  3. If they have not read the word correctly, prompt the student to attempt or correct the word with a general phonic prompt (eg. “try sounding this word out”). If the word they offer does not make sense, remind them that this is the case.
  4. If the general phonic prompt does not work, offer a specific phonic prompt, focusing on specific letters in the word.
  5. If the student gets stuck on a word or skips a word, offer a re-read prompt, asking them to re-read the sentence from the beginning.
  6. If that is not effective, offer a specific phonic prompt.
  7. If the student cannot read the word accurately after two prompts, supply the word and allow them to continue reading.
  8. Praise the student frequently, being clear about what you are praising them for.

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