Fluency Study Shows Another Tool to Help Students Improve Reading Skills

OSCEOLA, Iowa – Teachers have another tool to help students improve their reading skills.

Students at Clarke Elementary in Osceola recently participated in the 4th Grade Fluency Study through the Iowa Reading Research Center. It was one of about twenty schools from ten districts across Iowa to participate.

"I like reading," 4th Grade Student Caleb Coughran said.

Whether it's for fun or required, reading is fundamental. "Reading impacts all areas of life, every person's job has some kind of level of reading," said Clarke Elementary Principal Jill Kiger.

Teachers are always looking for ways to improve fluency, which is the ability to read accurately, quickly, and with expression. "It's always important to investigate what's out there," said Kiger.

That's where the Iowa Reading Research Center comes in. It developed a 4th Grade Fluency Study. "We heard from many teachers that they felt like they didn't have a whole lot of options for what they would do. They had a particular practice referred to as repeated reading that they knew was something that was supposed to be effective, but they felt they didn’t have a lot of other options to help students to improve their fluency," said Iowa Reading Research Director Deborah Reed.

In the study, a random selection of 4th graders did the practice of repeated reading, which is when they read a selected passage three times with a partner.

The rest did a new practice called varied reading. Instead of reading the same passage three times, they read three different passages with similar words.

"We wanted something that would help students have those benefits of multiple exposures to the words without those bad habits of just repeatedly reading the same text three times in a row and getting really practiced at that text, but not necessarily able to read another text any better or more fluently," said Reed.

The Iowa Reading Research Center conducted the study in the spring and found exceptional growth for all readers, but especially those who did varied reading. "The students in our varied practice condition made statistically significant more growth, even at the 90 percent, they still grew by more than a week's worth additional growth beyond what the students in the repeated reading condition did," said Reed.

Teachers at Clarke Elementary noticed the difference. "So that was exciting for us, to think we have another tool or way to help kids learn their fluency," said 4th Grade Teacher Gina Sickels.

They continue to use the varied reading passages during fluency time while developing the students’ love of reading. "You learn more about stuff,” said Caleb.

The Iowa Reading Research Center has all 30 sets of passages for 4th grade students available online. It’s currently working on four sets of passages of varied reading for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students.

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