Oral and Partner Cloze: Effective Fluency Strategies

By Justin Lim on September 27, 2009
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

For many students, reading out loud is a nerve-racking experience. Whenever I ask my kids to share what they fear the most about class, presentations and reading out loud always rank among the worst. I hear stories about stumbling over words and being laughed at. Kids talk about how they get targeted by their teachers to read to the class if they get caught not paying attention.

From a teacher's point of view, I don't like to rely on read-alouds because I know that my kids won't be able to hold the attention of the class as well as I can. I also know that if a student is struggling with fluency, the fastest way to break his confidence is to make him read publicly when he's not prepared.

While I use a number of reading strategies, these are the two that I rely upon the most:

1. Oral Cloze - This is a research-based strategy that is essentially designed to model fluency and assign students an observable task of involvement. Essentially, the teacher reads out loud omitting strategic words that students are to fill in. The teacher uses rise and inflection to help students to know which words to fill in. Here are the benefits:

  • Struggling readers stay engaged because they are trying to determine which words to fill in.
  • Students are paying extra close attention to the teachers tone of voice, rise, inflection and timing.
  • The teacher can immediately tell if a student is lost or not actively following along.
  • Response to instruction is greatly increased because students can no longer listen half-heartedly.

When I first introduce Oral Cloze to my students, I explicitly point out that I do it to keep them all engaged and to check that everybody is following along. I tell them that I do not like to embarrass anybody during read-alouds, which earns the strategy instant credibility.

2. Partner Cloze - Because Oral Cloze normally takes the place of read-alouds in my class, I use Partner Cloze to help build reading fluency. Partner Cloze is just like Oral Cloze, except students take turns "being the teacher" with their partners.  Here are the benefits:

  • Students who are embarrassed doing read-alouds love the Partner Cloze alternative.
  • Every single student is getting fluency practice instead of just the student reading to the class.
  • Every single student is engaged (either they are reading, or they are actively listening).
  • All of the pairs read at once, so students have enough time to read several paragraphs each.
  • Each student has to actively employ timing and inflection so that partners can tell which words to fill in.
  • Teachers have an opportunity to patrol and listen to many readers in a short period of time.

Be sure that you spend adequate time teaching students the procedures to Partner Cloze. I only use Partner Cloze as a second read, after I've already used Oral Cloze and performed some sort of pair share. Before my kids begin, I make sure that they know who is going to read which paragraphs. I pre-assign them numbers (1s and 2s) and have 1s cloze the odd paragraphs and 2s cloze the even paragraphs. I give them a few minutes to chose 2 or 3 words beforehand. Because I project all of the texts I teach on to my whiteboard, I can actually number the paragraphs to make sure that there is no confusion.  Lastly, before we start, I always make sure that my "Partner Share Procedures" are written on the board:

  • Turn and face your partner.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • When choosing words to omit, try to chose words that come at the end of a phrase.  Do not choose words that are three letters or less.
  • Use your voice to give hints to your partner for what words to fill in!

While these two strategies may not necessarily be the only fluency builders that you use, I suggest that you introduce them early and use them often! Based on my experience, after only a few successful routines, even my English Learners feel much more confident and no longer feel the same sort of anxiety when it comes to reading out loud.

I hope that you experience similar successes in your classes too!

Warm regards,

Justin Lim
Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District

Comments

Hi. Can you include an example? Do you just leave a blank for the children to guess what goes there or do you offer choices, put the first letter, etc.? I teach struggling first through fifth graders and I would love to use this idea.

Thanks.

[Edit: Response]

Hi Cyndi,

Actually, when the kids are reading to each other they are only leaving the words out orally. In other words, there is no real "blank." The students are reading out loud to each other and when a student does leaves out a particular word, his partner, who is following along in the same text, will read that word and "cloze" the gap.

I know it sounds confusing. I'm working on adding a video!

Regards,

Justin

I think your ideas sound great! Your stategies and techniques to work on effective fluency sound like they can be very beneficial to the upper grade students!

Thanks so much for sharing great strategies for high school students. We use READ 180 in our high schools, but your explanations above will really resonate with our teachers.

I'm really looking forward to that video as well. We have many teachers in our district that would love to see an example of this practice being done well!

Thanks so much, Justin.

Linda

[Edit: Response]

Hi Linda,

Thanks so much for the kind comments! I hear that you're doing great things in Poway!

Do you work with Colleen Solomon by any chance?

Warm regards,

Justin

Hi, Justin!

I loved reading your post, especially as I use both of these techniques religiously with my students and have just recently (fanatically!) begun to recommend them to colleagues. I am also a huge fan of echo reading and choral reading (after explicit teaching of procedure, of course!). I look forward to hearing more great ideas from you!

[Edit: Response]

Hi Alyssa!

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm the same way! I decided to post about Oral Cloze and Partner Cloze because I feel as though they don't get the same recognition as Choral and Echo.

I hope that the word spreads!

Warm regards,

Justin

This oral cloze sounds very interesting. Is it a procedure recommended for primary grade students as well as upper grade students?

[Edit: Response]

Hi Catherine!

Yes, this procedure is recommended for all grade levels! This technique is actually one of the routines for the Scholastic Read 180 Stage A Program, which is a reading intervention for elementary students.

Regards,

Justin

Is there any way you can include a short video segment modeling this strategy? I think I get it. But I want to know if I'm doing it right.

[Edit: Response]

Hi Rubi,

I'm actually waiting on getting some photo release permission slips from my students so that I can post a video of this!

Check back soon!

Regards,

Justin

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