Lights off…Brains ON!

I suspect that all across America, much like in my schools in the Kentucky/Indiana region, overhead projector bulbs are finally burning out and the equipment is being replaced with newer, more engaging technology like document projectors, interactive whiteboards, and LCD projectors. I myself have never been a fan of the overhead projector. My brain refuses to sort out right from left when I’m backwards and upside-down, and besides that, I inevitably smear the marker all over my arm. So I’m glad to see them go. But with this shift, I’ve noticed a striking number of darkened rooms lately as I travel the halls for walkthroughs and it’s made me wonder how we keep already-sleepy adolescents engaged in the glow of the important notes we are projecting.

In one recent room I visited, every time a slide was advanced one little guy would call out, “Can I read it!” This is a nice “problem” to have but the teacher was doing her best to engage all students as readers, one at a time, so the eager student had to wait his turn. It wasn’t long into this process that I remembered the list of  fluency strategies we introduced early in the development of CTL’s Adolescent Literacy Model. Like any strategy, each in the list below would need to be modeled and practiced and built into the classroom routine.

Choral Reading: A group reading aloud in unison. Focus: Automaticity and keeping voices together

  • Everyone reviews text silently
  • Teacher begins reading aloud
  • Students begin reading aloud with teacher as they become comfortable, trying to match pace of teacher and remain in concert with group

Echo Reading: A reader reads a piece of text aloud and the students repeat. Focus: Prosody

  • Teacher (or student) reads an important piece of text (sentence or phrase)
  • Students repeat, trying to match inflection, pronunciation

Call and Response

  • One student or small group of students read one line or phrase of text, and the rest of the class responds by repeating the same text or reading the next line
  • Refrain Adaptation: One student reads the majority of text and the class responds chorally to read key repeated segments. This process is similar to the “verse/refrain” musical form

Antiphonal Reading

  • The class is divided into groups (e.g., 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C) and assigned sections of text to read in a predetermined format. For example, a format might be designed as A, B, C or A, B, A, C, A.
  • Assign letters or numbers to sections of text
  • Assign sections of students to the text divisions
  • Encourage prosody within and across groups

Remember, fluency is not just about decoding the words (automaticity), it’s also knowing how to vocally bring the text to life, which requires a true understanding of the words, their meaning and relationship to one another. As you introduce fluency strategies, try-on different vocal variations to see what catches your students’ attention. By adjusting your pitch (how high or low your voice is) or speed of reading you can emphasize important vocabulary or stress critical content for note taking. In no time your students’ voices will be humming right along with you and the buzz of your new technology.

The lights may be off, but the brains will be ON!

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