When Measuring Fluency is So Much More
March 2, 2017
Progress monitoring reading fluency gets a bad rap almost everywhere, but not at my school. I’m going to take credit for that.
The question is on the table in my district and many others. Are we assessing students too much and can the endless time tests in reading fluency be the first to go? I say an emphatic NO. And here’s why.
I agree that drilling student with boring reading passages and telling them to read faster and faster is at least pointless and at most damaging to reading as a pleasure. But my students look forward to our Wednesday progress monitoring.
What’s my secret? Jedi Mind Tricks… Actually no. We have a routine. When Wednesday rolls around each student knows that they will have 5 minutes of my undivided attention to discuss their reading, to show off their prosody, and to revel in their success … or future success. They chart their success, monitor their rate of improvement, map out how many words per week they want to gain, and cheer each other on. Wednesdays, we write about our reading quietly, while our friends get a chance to read at my desk. I have a special stool just for this activity and a special notebook for my notes about our conversations. I had to create a list of who got to read first in a rotation because everyone wanted to be first! Everything about Reading Day is special.
The truth is that this is so much more than reading fast. Everyone has a ‘zen’ moment where they mentally prepare for their reading. They use their good reading habits, scanning the text, thinking about what they might read about, and accessing their schema. All the things we hope readers do every time they prepare to read. We discuss training like athletes. We trade tips for how to improve. They sometimes ask for re-dos, which are willingly given because this isn’t a competition with winners and losers. This is training. This is creating mental strength. This is seeing how much we can improve ourselves.
So today was “READING DAY’! It was a good day. Several students met their goals and we set new ones together. Today, when I met with some first year teachers, they were excited to share this time with their students. Today, when someone asked me if I was putting too much pressure on my students with these big goals, I said it’s about progress. I said, we set these goals together week by week. I said research says that having goals helps students meet goals. I said drop by and see for yourself.
So maybe it is a Jedi Mind Trick. I tell you honestly, Wednesday is my favorite day of the week.