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September 27, 2009 Oral and Partner Cloze: Effective Fluency Strategies By Justin Lim
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

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