The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 57

Helping High School Students Increase Reading Fluency to Improve Comprehension

By: Kathleen Scales

Marlow Barton

suffer from a lack of efficacy to succeed at the content driven reading tasks. Choice, current trade material, literature that appeals to students’ interests, varied genres, and time in class for reading assignments should be structured into instructional time. The teacher is in the ideal position for creating student-centered instruction and activities that prompt curiosity and that are engaging, interactive, and fun. As Routman (2003) said, “it is not enough that we know how and what to teach; we teachers must . . . provide the conditions—respect, joy, engagement, success, encouragement—that make continuous learning possible” (p. 48). Utilizing reading fluency strategies help teachers do this.

Reading Miscues That Affect Fluency

Miscues are “reading responses that are different from the printed text” and are a way of “describing a student’s oral reading behavior” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 96). Teachers can only discover miscues by hearing students read aloud. This may be difficult to accomplish in the high school classroom, but it is imperative to hear students read aloud if a teacher suspects a fluency issue. Teachers may be able to work with individual students during planned independent reading time in order to assess students’ fluency ability by listening to them read aloud. During these individual reading conferences, teachers can chart or track miscues as a way to assess progress and note how the miscues affect reading rate and prosody. When the teacher shares these noted behaviors and reflects with students during reading conferences, students are enabled to develop metacognitive aspects of themselves as readers.

Fluency miscues are the types of reading behaviors that affect fluency and prevent students from reading smoothly or that interrupt expression. These miscues may include responses such as insertions, non-pronunciations, omissions, repetitions, and substitutions (Crawley & Merritt, 2004). It is recognized that high school teachers have little time to practice major reading interventions with students, but with an awareness of the types of fluency miscues, teachers may be better able to identify and target specific problems students are having with reading fluency. With this understanding, the teacher may be able to focus instruction and help the student increase in his or her own understanding and confidence as a reader. The following definitions of miscues provide teachers with a general understanding of what to listen for when hearing a student read aloud.

1. Insertions: considered a minor miscue, these occur when a reader adds “one or more words” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 96) during oral reading, generally not a problem unless the addition changes the meaning of the text and can be indicative of the reader “anticipating what comes next” (p. 105).

2. Non-pronunciations: a reading miscue where the student has come to expect a teacher or peer to provide the pronunciation rather than attempt the word himself. These can be reduced by implementation of wait time by the listener and by practice with sight vocabulary (Crawley & Merritt, 2004).

3. Omissions: a miscue that occurs when the reader leaves out words during reading and may be caused by “nervousness, carelessness, trying to read too fast, reading materials too difficult, or simply because the student’s eyes are head of his/her voice” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 99). These can be addressed by focus activities such as choral reading, repeated reading, tape-recording activities, and by providing time for the student to read silently prior to reading aloud.

4. Repetitions: a miscue when the student says “a word, phrase, or sentence two or more times during oral reading” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 96). While these tend to slow the reader, repetitions can actually be desirable because they are indicative of students attempting to “aid or increase their comprehension” (p. 103), yet reading material difficulty should be adjusted to allow for success in reading.

5. Substitutions: a miscue that occurs when the student replaces “one or more words with an incorrect word or words during the oral reading of printed materials” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 97). Attention should only be given to substitutions when the miscue changes the meaning of the text (Crawley & Merritt, 2004).

As a general approach to determining the value of correcting miscues, the teacher needs to determine if meaning has been altered by the mistake; if not, the best approach is to ignore the miscue (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985).