Pleasant Valley School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Pleasant Valley School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Diane McGonigle
Tanya Whiting
Tara Althouse

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Self-regulation, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Will a focus on fluency at the intermediate level increase students’ reading comprehension?

Scanning: On the October professional development day, staff examined our beginning of the school year AFL data from the results of our school district’s literacy screeners (Gr. 1-3 and Grade 4-7), along with benchmark data for some students and other teacher assessments. Across all of the levels, we noted that reading comprehension was weak. We decided to set a school goal for this year of expanding reading comprehension across all levels, and began the conversation about the different components of reading instruction, as well as what makes a strong reader.

Focus: Our focus is to expand reading comprehension levels of all of our students. All staff are going to use the Criteria for English Language Arts K-9, and have a renewed focus on using Adrienne Gear’s Reading Power language – connection, questioning, visualizing, inferring and transforming. Some intermediate classes, along with the Student Support Teachers, are interested in focusing specifically on building fluency and the relationship of reading fluency to comprehension.

Hunch: Our hunch is that intermediate staff are not focusing on developing reading fluency as a strategy of building reading comprehension. In the intermediate grades, the focus is largely on building comprehension through summarizing what is read, making connections and predictions, identifying inferences, building vocabulary, and developing critical thinking skills. Although the emphasis is on ensuring students are actively reading, it is challenging to determine their reading fluency as they are more often reading quietly to themselves. Although some students enjoy reading aloud to their peers, many do not. While we talk about students being fluent readers, we don’t focus instruction on what fluency is: accuracy, expression, and reading speed; nor do we focus on how fluency impacts comprehension or how to become a more fluent reader.

New Professional Learning:

  • Learning more about the link between fluency and reading comprehension and other sources
  • Learning about and using the Dibels assessments to gather data for targeting interventions.
    • Our team engaged in professional discussions with other teachers/vice principals in our district, to talk about how to best administer Dibels, as well as feedback and experiences with the Six-Minute Solution reading program.
  • The Six-Minute Solution: A Reading Fluency Program (Primary Level) by Gail Adams and Sheron Brown
  • The MegaBook of Fluency by Timothy V. Rasinski & Melissa Cheesman Smith

Taking Action:
Grade 4 Class:
In January, students completed two DIBELS reading assessments which provided data on their instructional reading level, reading accuracy, and CWPM (correct word per minute). With this information, students were matched with a partner. After the assessment, students engaged in a daily reading program called Six-Minute Reading Solutions. Student partners were given a nonfiction passage every Monday and would take turns reading while the other partner tracked errors and words read in one minute. Students would graph their CWPM daily. Prior to beginning the Six-Minute Program, students were asked what they thought reading fluency meant. Responses included “I’m not sure”, “reading smoothly”, “not sounding like a robot”, and “reading really fast”. Students learned that there are 3 main parts to reading fluency: accuracy, expression, and speed. This was modeled for them and they practiced different components of fluency as a group.

In early June, students were assessed again using the year-end DIBELS assessment. All students showed improvement in reading fluency, and some moved out of the moderate-high risk category to the minimal risk category of not acquiring necessary literacy skills to be successful in school and beyond.

Grade 6/7 Class:
The class talked about what fluency was. A lot of the students didn’t really know what it meant. The teacher taught about the different parts of what makes a fluent reader and how we can all work on this as a class. We had lessons where we read aloud to partners and checked the list at the end to see if we were making any changes in our reading after knowing what fluency is.
We also had a lesson about expression — how it is used and how if we changed it, what can happen to the meaning of the sentence?

Grade 4 Class:
Most students showed significant improvement in their reading fluency. This was evidenced by the year end DIBELS assessment in June. Students conducted a self reflection of their understanding/learning of reading fluency in a June self assessment. Comments included “My speed of reading has got better; I’m not so choppy,” “I’m not so nervous reading out loud anymore,” “I love reading the interesting passages,” “I think my expression is better and I sound more like I’m talking when I’m reading,” “I read the words correctly and now I need to work on reading faster,” and “I’m better at remembering what I read.”

Gr. 6/7 Class:
The focus was making a difference as the students became aware of what fluency was and that meaning is a powerful tool in learning or improving a new skill. With the older students, awareness and education was a huge piece in trying to help increase their own fluency.

Reflections/Advice: Often, as educators we take for granted that common words are understood, like fluency. Taking it back to the basics and discussing the definition was influential in older students’ learning.

Grade 2/3 might be too young to teach partners to track each other’s CWPM. A teacher would need to find another way to do this.
In a non pandemic year, our goal will be to conduct the first DIBELS assessment in the fall and conduct three throughout the year as recommended. This year, assessments were done in January and June.

Our grade 4 students all reported that they thoroughly enjoyed the Six-Minute daily reading program. They were able to take risks as they felt very comfortable reading with a partner that was at a similar instructional reading level. Student’s individual tracking of their CWPM was motivating. This was a very engaging, quick daily program. The students also reported that they really enjoyed the interesting nonfiction passages. At the end of the week, they could share interesting facts they had read and enjoyed learning about everything from the Great Wall of China to the Olympics in Germany during the Nazi regime.

We would strongly recommend the Six-Minute Solutions program to grade 4-7 classes as it is easy to differentiate for readers from a grade 1 to grade 9 level.

Video on Grade 4 students reflecting on fluency and the Six-Minute Solutions program:

Our assessment results showed that some students were fluent readers but still had some difficulty with comprehension, so a focus on other aspects of reading is important as well. Conversely, some students were not fluent readers and it did not seem to be affecting their comprehension. Being a strong reader is multi-faceted and our job as educators is to teach all the necessary skills to the students and then determine where they need additional practice and support.

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