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Teaching Comprehension and Fluency to Beginning Readers

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Benjamin Sell • updated: 7/20/2015

Teaching students to become more fluent and capable beginning readers is about more than just decoding words and learning sight vocabualry. Students need to build comprehension, and teaching comprehension takes practise! Reading recovery levels give teachers a head start in teaching comprehension.

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    Teaching Comprehension

    Teaching comprehension to beginning readers is about increasing their ability to read well enough and with enough spare brain Reading Comprehension power to be able to also understand the text. If a student is focussed solely on reading each individual word, they will struggle to comprehend what they read. Books for fluent readers should be written to suit the particular reading recovery levels of the students, and traditional tales are one way of helping increase reading skills.

    Teaching comprehension means having a focus on:

    • reading speed
    • fluency of reading
    • reading at correct reading recovery levels
    • using suitable books that are appealing and have a good picture - text match
    • using a typeface in books that is well spaced and clear

    Of these, possibly the most important is to ensure that books for fluent readers (those who can read with a degree of finesse and flow) are at reading recovery levels that can be read at a reasonable speed. To test this, have students read a passage from the book and time how long it takes them. A useful strategy for teaching comprehension is to use reading recovery levels to find the correct level book and then provide repeated practise of the same book whilst recording reading speed (time to read 100 words is a handy method). Repeated practise of the same book should lead to an increase in reading speed and a related increase in comprehension. If a good reading speed is not achieved, possibly the reading recovery levels are set too high in your class.

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    Traditional Tales - Books for Fluent Readers

    Books for fluent readers from the ERA publications traditional tales Wings series include:

    • Chick's Adventure Reading Recovery Levels - 16 (a story where the traditional tales characters familiar to students are reworking into a new story)
      • creating cut-outs of characters from a range of traditional tales and using them to retell a story orally in small groups
      • talking about traditional tales from other cultures and writing a simple version of them to display
      • making a collage of traditional tales characters and displaying it in the classroom or hallway
      • creating a multimedia presentation on traditional tales to share with another class
      • writing out words that are attempted several times in a reading session and then adding these to a practice word list

Beginning Readers - Ideas for Elementary English

There are lots of great activities to boost the skills of beginning readers in elementary school. Getting a good start on reading skills puts learners on the right pathway throughout their schooling. Phonics, decoding, sight vocabulary, rhyme and oral storytelling all build beginning reader skills.
  1. Traditional Tales with Beginning Readers
  2. Teaching Comprehension and Fluency to Beginning Readers