Academic journal article Reading Improvement

A Study of the Effects of Readers' Theater on Second and Third Grade Special Education Students' Fluency Growth

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

A Study of the Effects of Readers' Theater on Second and Third Grade Special Education Students' Fluency Growth

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a readers' theater fluency program. The participants were 12 students with learning disabilities in a combined second/third grade exceptional education classroom. Through the use of pre and post reading attitude surveys, field notes recorded by the observer, and pre and post oral fluency running records it was determined that readers' theater is effective in improving student interest in reading, confidence in reading, and overall fluency in number of words read correctly per minute. Implications are that fluency programs are beneficial in primary grades and provide the foundation necessary for student attainment of vocabulary and comprehension skills.

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How do we help children learn to read at a normal pace and understand what's being read? How can we help children read with expression and intonation? This article summarizes a readers' theater program that was effective in improving student interest in reading, confidence in reading, and overall fluency in number of words read correctly per minute.

Need for Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read a text with speed and accuracy, recognizing each word effortlessly and beginning to construct meaning from each word and group of words as they are read. Without the attainment of fluency there is an inability to master vocabulary and a gap in the ability to focus to comprehend texts (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2001; Kuhn & Stahl, 2003).

Most children develop into fluent readers by third grade (Martinez, Roser, & Stricker, 1999). Approximately 75 percent of students who are poor readers in third grade continue to be lower achieving readers in ninth grade and, in essence, do not recover their reading abilities even into adulthood. Thus the assessment of student progress in fluency has become an integral part of reading instruction (Mercer, Campbell, Miller, Mercer, & Lane, 2000).

Fluency is measured by giving the student a passage of text, written on grade level, that has not been read by him or her prior to this assessment. The student is timed for one minute and reads out loud as much of the passage as he or she can in that time. In the end the observer, usually a teacher or reading specialist, calculates the number of words correctly pronounced and identifies the reading rate. This is done by taking the total number of words that were read correctly and dividing them by the number of words in the passage. These scores are then recorded and compared to a national average for that specific grade level, giving a quartile range for where that student stands in comparison. School systems attempt to assess student fluency rates on an average of three times a year; usually in the fall, winter, and spring (Matinez, Roser, & Strecker, 1999; Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Rasinski, 2000).

Assessing the fluency level of a reader is critical, but so is the availability of programs that include modeling oral fluency as well as guided and independent practice. Unfortunately, research suggests that such programs are rarely found in classrooms. When included in the curriculum, one of the most commonly used strategies for improving reading fluency is the method of repeated readings; through this strategy students practice rereading a text on their reading level at least three times. This method has been shown to be very effective as it improves word recognition, speed, accuracy, and comprehension (Worthy, & Broaddus, 2001; Homan, Klesius, & Hite, 1993; Samuels, 1997). However in some instances this method may not increase student motivation and interest in reading. With this in mind, an oral fluency strategy is most effective when it incorporates the use of modeling, repeated readings, independent practice, and motivates student interest in reading (Worthy & Broaddus, 2002; Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Rinehart, 1999). …

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