Fluency With Poetry

poetryHow to help students develop fluency in reading – that has been a huge focus for me this year.  The text that I am using includes a short paragraph or two each day for students to practice reading out loud.  However, as I looked into fluency practice (6 Minute Solution, Readers’ Theater, etc) it seemed as if it was more important for students to read the same passage several days in a row to improve, not a new passage each time.

I also noticed my students weren’t truly practicing reading together with their group when we did the fluency practice.  They didn’t see a purpose to it, so they just pretended (or refused).

I tried to explain the purpose behind the practice.  They were unimpressed with the need to read faster.  The teacher pleasers nodded and smiled as I talked, but the others, the ones who don’t see a need to practice what the teacher says they should, just sat quietly.  I could tell I hadn’t reached them.

To combat these problems, I tried having them read poetry out loud.  Bingo! I typed up some fun poems (Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Dr Seuss) and had each group practice a different verse.  At the end of the week, I had each group stand and read their verse in order.  Then, I awarded a prize to the group that I felt did the “best”.  I didn’t ever tell them what constituted the best, just picked a group that seemed to stand out to me.  Sometimes the group would read with lots of expression, sometimes it seemed as if they really read in unison, other times the group included movements to go with the verse.  I just picked whatever moved me that day.

This had an immediate and dramatic effect on the fluency practice.  The groups were suddenly rehearsing the verse over and over.  Desperate to be the “chosen group”, they worked hard to pronounce each of the words, add expression and read in unison.  They also told me they really enjoyed the fluency practice (something they never said earlier in the year!)

The only downside to this method is typing up the poems.  A new poem for each week is a lot of poems!  However, it is definitely worth the time.

How do you help your students gain fluency in their reading?

6 thoughts on “Fluency With Poetry

  1. shannonjoe says:

    Did you have the groups only practice their verse and did they practice each day?

    I’ve been thinking about doing this with my 6th graders this year!


  2. terri says:

    I am also a middle school teacher, with 25 years of experience, and I do the same thing with poetry, but I also use short plays, and music lyrics, I have done radio announcements, and jokes and riddles, my kids do like working toward a prize at the end of the week. I also use passages that are numbered and I have them record the rate at which they are reading for one minute everyday, to see their improvement over time.

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