Using a Volunteer Force for Fluency

Using a Volunteer Force for Fluency

This collaborative article describes how Minneapolis Adult Education uses a “force” of volunteers to deliver fluency instruction with Beginning/Intermediate ABE and Beginning/Intermediate/Advanced ESL students. Their positive results include:

  1. Student improvement in fluency levels, TABE scores, and even pronunciation
  2. Volunteer enjoyment of a specific role within small groups
  3. Student satisfaction with multiple oral readings of texts

Even if you teach in a multi-level class or one-room schoolhouse, their proven success and routine may inspire you to do the same on a smaller scale.

Fluency is one of the four components of reading. It means the ability to read words in text accurately, at an appropriate or efficient rate or speed, in meaningful phrases, and with some expression. The evidence-based practice for developing fluency is guided and repeated oral readings of challenging texts. This means at an approximate grade or lexile level where accuracy, rate, and prosody begin to break down. In Minneapolis Adult Education, the staff and volunteers work together closely to make this best practice (and bridge to comprehension!) happen:

  • The reading coordinator and several volunteers informally test students to identify their fluency instructional (or challenging text) levels.
  • The reading coordinator and teachers select a variety of leveled texts from Evan Moore, Six Way Paragraphs, and Reading Skills for Today’s Adults.
  • The teachers use identified fluency instructional levels to form small groups (of up to 6-8 students) that will be led by volunteers.
  • The volunteers guide oral readings with fluency groups using leveled texts selected and prepared by the teacher.
  • Multiple fluency groups across ABE and ESL levels meet 1-2 times per week for 40-60 minutes, depending on class days and times.

All fluency volunteers are expected to follow a similar and explicit routine for guiding readings of the same text; any differences relate to the questioning before or after readings. The teacher is always available to assist, but only as needed or requested.

  1. The volunteer explains the value: “In fluency we learn to read correctly and smoothly so that we can better understand sentence and paragraph meaning. If you are a fluent reader, you read at the same speed you speak. We are working on your fluency so you can better understand what you are reading.”
  2. The volunteer has students read the title, headings, and visuals; then asks: “What do you think this passage is about?” NOTE: If there are published questions, the volunteer has students read the title, main idea question, and choices; then asks: “Which answer do you think tells the main idea?”
  3. FIRST READING: The volunteer (and students if appropriate) read the entire passage out loud, possibly more than once so that all students get a turn.
  4. SECOND READING: The volunteer calls on a student to reread the first paragraph (or section) out loud; then asks:
    “What is the topic of this paragraph?” (Who or what is the paragraph mostly about?)
    “What did we learn about the topic in this paragraph?” (What happens? Where and when? Why and how does it happen?)
  5. The volunteer calls on other students to reread the next paragraphs (or sections) out loud; then repeats the questions from step 4.
  6. The students identify a few unknown words and the volunteer guides them in figuring out the meaning using the context. If not possible, the volunteer gives a short definition and moves on.
  7. THIRD READING: The volunteer and students reread the entire passage again. The volunteer asks: “What did you learn from this passage?” NOTE: If students pre-answered the main idea question, the volunteer asks: “How did your answer change?” Then students read and answer the rest of the questions and the volunteer calls on them to explain with evidence from the text.

Just in case you are wondering, fluency is one of the four CCRS Reading Foundational (RF) Skills for all adult readers at Levels A-C, K-5 (and beyond): Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

THANK YOU Minneapolis Adult Education for sharing your successful routine for
teaching and improving reading fluency across ABE and ESL levels!

First published 2/18/19

Krista Coronado, Minneapolis STAR Coordinator Minneapolis Adult Education
Marn Frank, ATLAS Literacy & STAR Coordinator ATLAS