Category Archives: Open Court Reading

Increase Reading Fluency with Fluency Timer

fluency timer logoI’m excited to announce that I’ve developed and released my very first software application, Fluency Timer, available now in the new Mac App Store or via my own site at:  http://www.fluencytimer.net.

Fluency Timer is both a timer and a recorder that records students’ one minute fluency readings.  Research has shown that having students listen to themselves reading will increase reading fluency over time.  There are other voice recorders that exist but none have an integrated timer and all are too complicated for me to quickly teach students to use.

In my own classroom I have been having students read their daily reading passages into the computer and then playing it back and having them listen to themselves reading.  After the initial novelty of hearing their own voices played through the computer wears off, students study the reading passage while listening and start to become cognizant of their mistakes.  They ask me if they can reread the same passages over again to try and read them better.  It has made reading fluency into a game so that it’s no longer tedious to practice.

In addition to providing an instant independent work time activity, teachers can use it when assessing students to review student reading to complete running records, DIBELS assessments, etc. and to keep a record of how students have read throughout the year with automatic time and date stamping.  You can easily share recordings with parents coaches, administrators, and students themselves via the computer, an iPod, a CD, or a web site.

How Does it Work?

1. Press record. Timer counts down and automatically stops after 60 seconds.

2. Name your file and Save to iTunes.

3. Your file is added to iTunes.

4. From iTunes, play back for students, parents, and coaches or add to iPod and/or burn to CD.

Fluency Timer is available only for Macintosh computers (not for iOS devices at this time).  It’s exciting to dream up something and then see it come to fruition.  I hope you find it useful in your classroom.

For more fluency resources see the Fluency page of Open Court Resources.com and the Reader’s Theater page for free printable Reader’s Theater.

Find Fluency Timer here.

Connect with Me Through Social Media

In addition to subscribing to this blog via RSS or e-mail, you can find almost daily quick tips and links by following mrneedleman on Twitter, multimedia files are posted to youtube where you can subscribe and visitors who have gotten through this blog via the Open Court Resources side of the site can become a fan of Open Court Resources on Facebook.

Literature Circle Table Tents

Using literature circles is another way to increase student comprehension.  Even teachers of prescribed reading series should incorporate additional authentic literature in their teaching.  This literature may be related to curricular units and must be high interest and at an appropriate reading level of students.

I adapted my reading comprehension posters into Literature Circle Table Tents (print and fold each in half after laminating) which I use to assign each student a job.

The jobs are:  The Predictor, Maker of Connections, Great Summarizer, Curious Clarifier, Word Wizard, and the Very Good Visualizer.  Of course, when reading in the real world each person must do each of the jobs.  However, in literature circles each person specializes on a particular job each day (we switch jobs daily).  This gives students additional practice using the strategies and ensures that they know what each of the strategies is.  Each card includes a definition.

For additional information on literature circles, I recommend the following:

In the Middle by Nancy Atwell
This is more about Reader’s Workshop than about literature circles but it does give you fantastic ideas about how to develop reading comprehension and interest in literature.  I highly recommend it.

Litcircles.org gives some additional information about how to set up literature circles.

Somehow the Literature Circle name intimidates some teachers.  I like to think of them as Oprah’s Book Club for kids.  It’s really just about enjoying literature with peers while the teacher helps facilitate some discussion surrounding the book.

Have any literature circle tips to share?

Update:  Adding Edutopia Article on Literature Circle Discussions

Beginning of the Year Pre-Assessments

Here are a few tools to use when assessing students at the beginning of the year:

The Basic Phonics Skills Test (BPST)
This is helpful in identifying specific areas of phonics need (short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, etc.)

San Diego Quick Assessment
It’s also important to know students’ knowledge of sight words which is an almost completely separate skill from decoding and an almost equal predictor of reading success.

Yopp-Singer
Test of phoneme segmentation

DIBELS
provides several free fluency passages as well as comprehension assessments

What pre-assessments do you use?

Back to School Week: Resources

Here are some resources I’ve compiled to assist you in planning for your return to school:

Need something to do?  Want to get to know your students?
Activities for the First Day of School

Want to beef up on classroom management?  Here’s everything you need from job charts to management systems:
Classroom Management for Teachers

For Open Court Reading teachers, I’d start with
Unit Openers
then Concept Question Boards
and finally have a plan for more explicitly teaching reading comprehension this year