Fifth-graders must learn a lot of key reading skills they will need to be successful in middle school. These skills include monitoring themselves to ensure they understand, identifying plot elements, and reading grade-level texts with fluency, meaning fluidly and naturally. Parents can use several strategies to help children increase reading fluency.
Fluent Reading Model
Fifth-graders hear fluent reading in the classroom. However, parents who want to increase how well their fifth-graders read aloud should also model fluent reading at home. Parents can choose a book and read aloud to their child or get books on tape at the library. Either way, the child should follow along. The key is that the reading needs to be smooth and engaging. The more children hear how fluent reading sounds, the more likely they are to transfer those skills to their own reading.
Reading in Phrases
When students struggle with reading fluency, they tend to read grade-level texts word by word. So a fifth-grader reading a fifth-grade text might have to sound out or isolate words, disrupting her fluency. Children who read this way need to work on reading in phrases. In her article “5 Surefire Strategies for Developing Reading Fluency,” Lisa Blau suggests having students read poems. She suggests "Something Told the Wild Geese" by Rachel Field and "Noodles" by Janet Wong. Because of the lyrical aspect of the poems, anything by Shel Silverstein would work, too.
Children can practice their fluency with their parents' help. Timed readings, which are used in classrooms, offer such an opportunity. Listener and reader have a copy of the same text. The child reads while the parent listens, marking any misread words. At the end of a minute, the parent either stops the child or just marks her place in the passage. The tally of the child’s words read in a minute, minus any misread words, identifies her words-per-minute rate. For practice, the child should read the passage more than once, hopefully increasing her rate.
Reading fluency practice does not need to be a bore. In fact, children’s reading improves when they enjoy it. The Reading Clinic at the University of Oregon has developed several games for reading fluency. The activities start at the word level, move to common phrases such as "we know that" and "set an example" and finish with a passage activity. All activities are timed. The ultimate objective for all activities and practice is for the fifth-grader to read in a natural and enjoyable manner.
Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.