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Scaffolding Oral Fluency

One of the worst mistakes I made as a young teacher was to ask children to read “challenging” texts before they were ready. Struggling painfully while reading aloud links reading with misery, which is the opposite of what we want. The strategies below provide support (like the scaffolding used when building a house). Today, when I read with a child, I do everything possible to make the event pleasant and successful. Nothing motivates like success!

Three Strategies for Oral Fluency

Teaching Echo Reading

One of the best practices parents and grandparents can use to help a child improve oral reading fluency is to read aloud to the child. Echo Reading allows you to model good reading. Young children have an opportunity to hear, see, and read the print before reading alone. Your goal is to provide support (scaffolding) until the child is ready to tackle the task independently.

  • Read one sentence (only one) using expression and phrasing.

  • Immediately, ask the child to read the same sentence.

  • Continue one sentence at a time.

Use Echo with primary children and English Language Learners (ELL). Do not use with 3rd grade or above.

Teaching Oral Close

Following Echo Reading, you will gradually remove your support. First, read a paragraph or story aloud. Tell the child you plan to repeat the story, but this time you will stop occasionally so the child can read the next word. Make certain the child knows to only read a single word. Later, the child will put the entire story together.

Steps of Oral Close follow.

  • Read a few words or sentences orally, then stop and touch the child. If the child is an insecure reader, stop before an easy word. If the child is confident, choose a more challenging word.

  • Ask the child to read the next word (only one word).

  • Continue the process of reading to and asking the child to supply a missing word.

If the child has not followed along and cannot locate the next word, practice patience. Silently show the child the word and continue from there. Some children find it difficult to follow along. Scolding only reinforces the child’s failure.

If the child simply does not know the next word, say it and continue reading. You may want to write the unknown word down to review the next time you read together.

Note: If used for too long at a time, Echo Reading and Oral Close become boring. Alternate these strategies and add others to maintain interest.

Teaching Musical Reading

When working with emerging readers (and those with strong musical preferences), Musical Reading can open the door to oral reading. Usually, teachers and parents rehearse the words to a song and then put them to music. Reversing the process helps much more. The key is to sing words first, before asking the child to read them.

Singing words before teaching them will feel incorrect to you. Trust the process. For very young children, use familiar nursery rhymes or use familiar tunes to teach new words.

  • Sing the words to the child. Then ask the child to sing along with you as your hand flows under the line of print.

  • Repeat until the child can sing the words with you.

  • Once the child can sing the words, ask the child to read the words without the melody.

Use Musical Reading for all ages by adjusting the lyrics and by choosing music that appeals to the child.

I would enjoy getting your comments and questions. Thanks.


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