When he first started putting letters together into words, your child spent lots of time learning to "decode"--make sense of--text on the page. Now that second grade is here, he'll be working on a new phrase, "fluency,"--the ability to read smoothly and at a pace that promotes understanding of what is being read. Fluency, along with comprehension, is the ultimate goal for readers of all ages, but can be especially difficult to achieve at first when a young learner is just beginning to read.
To help your child develop fluency, provide him with repeated opportunities to listen to good reading, and to listen to himself reading, too. In this way, he’ll develop a good sense of what fluency sounds like, and model his own reading in the same manner. While all this sounds serious, it's actually exciting and fun for you and your child to watch reading skills take off. And with a basic tape recorder, and some fun books to read, your child can not only get valuable fluency practice, but make someone else’s day in the process!
What You Need:
- Tape recorder with a built-in microphone and a cassette tape
- Book that your child is able to read independently
- Hand bell
What You Do:
- First, check to be sure that the book you have selected is one that your child can read independently. If it’s too hard for him, and he has to stop frequently to tackle hard words, select an easier book.
- Have your child read just one line of text from the book while you tape record him. Then have him listen to his reading, and pause the tape. Ask him to think about what he just heard. Was his reading smooth, like peanut butter? Or was it bumpy, and choppy? Did he read just one word at a time, like a robot? Or did he read the whole sentence all the way through to the end without stopping?
- Now have him read the same sentence again, while you record it. Then play back both the first reading and the second reading. Discuss what improved, and what still needs work.
- Finally, have him read the entire story while you record it. For fun, you can even create a page turn signal. For example, when it’s time to turn the page, ring a hand bell one time to signal the page turn. Play back the recording and discuss it with your child. Repeat, if necessary, to make improvements.
When he is confident that it’s his best “read-cording,” it’s time to show off his fluency. Have a sick family member? Your child can give the family member the book and the tape to enjoy. Or, he can donate it to a children’s hospital or local “read for the blind” program, where other young children can enjoy his smooth, fluent reading, and know that he makes a positive difference throughout his community, too.
Liana Mahoney is a National Board Certified elementary teacher, currently teaching a first and second grade loop. She is also a certified Reading Specialist, with teaching experience as a former high school English teacher, and early grades Remedial Reading instructor.