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Catherine Keeter

Action Research
Initial Meeting With Teacher
Student A:
This student was chosen by Mrs. Jordan to join my action research group because
this student struggles with comprehension, decoding, and fluency. This student is an ELL
student with Spanish as their first language and is in the middle tier of the class. The
student may struggle with these aspects due to the confusion that may come from having
Spanish as their first language. Mrs. Jordan believes that by focusing on the students
fluency and decoding skills, the students comprehension skill will increase because they
will be able to spend more time understanding the text and less time figuring out what the
text says.
Student B:
This student was chosen by Mrs. Jordan to join my action research group because
they also struggle with comprehension, decoding, and fluency. This student is also an
ELL student with Spanish as their first language and is in the middle tier of their class.
This student may struggle with their decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills because
English is their second language. Mrs. Jordan believes that the students comprehension
skills will increase when the student is able to decode words and read fluently. When the
student is able to read fluently the will be able to focus on the meaning of the text.
The Question:
After Mrs. Jordan and I discussed that should join my action research
group we developed this question to be the focus of my action research project: How can

Student A and Student Bs fluency and decoding skills be developed to improve their
comprehension abilities? This question was developed due to the fact that both Student A
and Student B struggle with fluency, decoding, and comprehension and the idea that once
a student is able to read fluently they are able to read for comprehension.
Initial Meeting with Mrs. Jordan
Choose students to work with
Discuss what specific area each student needs to grow in
Form question to be answered at the end of project
Session 1
Initial Assessments
Fluency/ Comprehension Passage
Observe Reading
Discuss findings with Mrs. Jordan
Resources Used:
A Wish for Fish Passage
Students books of choice from reading boxes
Session 2
Assessments based on initial assessment performance (fluency focus)
Introduce fluency strategies
Fluency Repeated Readings
Resources Used:
Fluency Strips
Session 3
Assessments based on prior assessment performance (comprehension focus)
Introduce comprehension strategies
Comprehension questions
Observe fluency and decoding skills while students work on comprehension
Resources Used:
Lisa and Henry passage
Goldfish passage
Whos Who matching clue game
Session 4

Assessments based on prior assessment performance and teacher recommendation

(decoding focus)
Introduce decoding strategies
Work on chunking words
Work on recognizing vowel sounds
Resources Used:
Middle Sound Stamp worksheet
Chunking Practice worksheet
Colored pencils
Session 5
Final assessments
Comprehension passage
Encourage students to use the fluency and decoding strategies that they have
Resources Used:
Swans and Swallowtails passage
Initial Assessment Reflection
Student A:
After observing the student reading, receiving information from Mrs. Jordan, and
administering an initial assessment, I realized that Student A is unable to focus at all on
comprehension while they greatly struggle with decoding words and reading fluently. The
initial assessment I gave called for the student to read the short passage entitled A Wish
for Fish and answer two multiple choice comprehension questions. The student had to
focus hard on decoding multiple words throughout the passage such as grabs, and wish.
The student read the passage at a slow to moderate pace and he was able to read most
words on the page correctly. However when it came time to answer comprehension
questions, the student answered both questions incorrectly. In my observations of
listening to the student read aloud I have realized that the student struggles with
confidence and often time exclaims that they cant read or cant do it. The student is
able to read but dislikes the difficulty that comes with decoding and understanding new

or challenging words. After conversing with Mrs. Jordan on Student As abilities we

discussed that Student A is perfectly capable of reading and comprehending material,
they just need to be encouraged to keep going when things get hard. We also discussed
that student A would benefit from increased fluency and decoding practice so they would
intentionally be able to focus on comprehension.
Student B:
After observing the student reading, receiving information from Mrs. Jordan, and
administering an initial assessment, I realized that student A and Student B differ
significantly when it comes to skill level. When Student B was asked to read the short
passage, A Wish For Fish they decoded the words with skill and were able to read each
word on the page. They also answered both comprehension questions correctly but they
struggled some when it came to fluency. While the student was able to read each words
accurately, they had a slow rate and lacked expression. Student B may also lack because
when I asked them to show me on their thumb (thumbs up, thumbs down, in the middle)
how they felt about the initial assessment they showed me a thumb in the middle despite
knowing that they answered the comprehension questions correctly. After observing the
student read and receiving more information from Mrs. Jordan on the students abilities I
realized that the student mainly struggles with fluency but would benefit from some
encouragement in decoding and comprehension as well.
Progress Monitoring Chart
Date/ Time


What We Did

And Data


20 minutes (10
per student)


Read the short

passage A Wish
For Fish and
answered two
multiple choice

20 minutes (10
per student)


Repeated reading
of fluency strips

20 minutes (10
per student)

Comprehe- Read the short

passage Lisa and
Henry (Student
A) or Goldfish
(Student B) and
answered four
short answer
questions and
identified pictures
from clues in the
Whos Who

Student A answered
both comprehension
questions incorrectly
and struggled with
decoding and
fluently reading a
couple of words
Student B answered
both comprehension
questions correctly
and decoded words
easily but read with
a slow rate and
lacked expression
Student A read with
expression and was
proficient in reading
the shorter
sentences. When it
came to longer
sentences the student
confused words such
as man and men but
they read the
sentences smoother
with each repeated
reading. Student B
read sentences with
a quickened rate and
recognizing some
words such as tape
and time
Student A correctly
read all of the words
on the Whos Who
document and
correctly labeled
each person. Student
was able to correctly
answer the four
questions correctly
when guided to look
back at the text if

Student B
may need to
be asked
on questions
Student A
needs to
develop their
fluency and
skills first to
be able to
Student A
showed great
at each
reading of
the fluency
Student B
reading the
fluency strips
with proper
rate and
thought they
did read most
of the words
Student A
does a better
ng with short
and simple
They should
improve from
learning the
look back at
the text


20 minutes (10
per student)


Completed the
worksheet where
students were
guided to find
small words in
bigger words.
Completed the
Middle Sound
vowels in the
middle of short

minutes (10 per


Read the short

Swans and
passage and

they couldnt
remember. Student
B identified one of
the Whos Who
incorrectly and
struggled reading
some of the more
difficult words in the
Goldfish passage
such as memory and
recognize but they
answered all of the
questions correctly
and knew to look
back in the text to
find the answers.
Both Student A and
Student B identified
a small word in each
of the bigger words.
Student A was
excited about the
worksheet and was
able to identify
multiple words in
some of the bigger
words while Student
B focused on finding
one word and then
moved on to the next
word. Students both
correctly identified
all of the middle
vowel sounds for the
Middle Sound
Stamp worksheet.

Student A answered
four out of five
questions correctly

when they
happened in
the text. The
passage may
have been
Student Bs
reading level
but they still
d it well.
I loved
seeing how
Student A
was about
decoding the
big words to
find smaller
words. I
think this
strategy will
help them
decode words
while reading
in the future.
Student B
wasnt as
interested in
still learned a
new strategy
for decoding
new words.
I am
that Student
A was able to

answered five
multiple choice

Strategies Used:
1. Repeated readings
2. Chunking
3. Look back at the text
4. Ask yourself questions as you go
5. Break apart words
Lessons/ Assessments Used:
1.A Wish for Fish Passage
2.Fluency Strips
3.Lisa and Henry passage
4.Goldfish passage
5.Whos Who matching clue game
6. Middle Sound Stamp worksheet

and was able to

decode unfamiliar
words. Student B
answered five out of
five comprehension
questions correctly
and read the passage
with a semi-slow
rate and with some

answer four
out of five
on questions
correctly and
that they
could decode
words. Im
glad that
Student B
brought some
expression to
their reading
d the material

7.Chunking Practice worksheet

8.Swans and Swallowtails passage
Student Progress Monitoring Chart
Students were asked to record their feelings about how they felt regarding what they hard
worked on each day by showing either a thumbs up, thumbs down, or sideways thumb.
Students understood that a thumbs meant they had no questions and they felt good about
the topic, a sideways thumb meant they felt okay about the topic, and a thumbs down
meant they dont feel good about the topic and they need to work more. Student A gave a
thumbs up for each meeting. Student B gave a sideways thumb for session one and
session two. At the end of the action research progress Student B and I discussed their
sideways thumb and we concluded that Student B felt more confident about fluency
topics now and doesnt feel as if they have any questions.
Changes in Instruction
I made some changes in instruction to cater towards each students specific needs
and to make each student excited about what we were doing. I introduced the fluency
strips to cater towards Student Bs lack of fluency skills. While instructing her, I made
sure to use plenty of examples and non-examples of fluency and we discussed what a
fluent reader should sound like. I let Student A choose which reading passage they would
read from a group of about five. They were excited to read a text that they had personally
selected. Student A also showed increased enthusiasm towards the decoding practices so
we completed an ending sound stamp worksheet as well as a middle sound stamp
Final Assessment Reflection

Student A
Student A correctly answered four out of five comprehension questions proving
that their comprehension skills greatly increased from the time of the initial assessment.
While reading the short passage Student A was able to decode the more difficult, larger
words such as swimming and swallowtail. The student was able to use the decoding skill
they learned where you find small words in bigger words. Student As focus was directed
towards decoding the larger words and understanding the text. Student A knew strategies
to decode words and used these strategies to continue on reading. The students ability to
decode more effectively also led to a more fluent reading of the text with appropriate rate
and accuracy.
Student B
Student B comprehended the passage well, correctly answering four out of five
questions. Student B was able to use their decoding strategies when the came across the
word nectar. Student B read the majority of the passage with accuracy and read with
increased fluency, showing expression and proper rate. The students decreased struggles
in fluency and decoding helped the student focus on the meaning of the text. The student
incorrectly answered the question A swan is a type of what? The answer to this
question was not expressed explicitly in the text but the student may benefit from
learning the strategy of looking at context clues and inferring answers.
Initial vs. Final Data
Student A

Initial Assessment

Student A

Student B

Final Assessment
Student A

Final Assessment

0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5

Initial Assessment
Initial Assessment

Student B

Final Assessment

Final Assessment

Category 1

0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5

Data Analysis and Additional Resources

Overall, I am very proud of the progress that each student made. Student A started
out in the action research group with low enthusiasm and confidence and ended up
enjoying their work and learning through that joy. Students As decoding skills greatly
increased, as they were able to apply the strategies they learned. As Student As decoding
and fluency skills increased, it became easier for the student to comprehend the material
due to their increased focus on the meaning of the text and decreased focused on figuring
out all of the word in the text. I would continue working with this student by introducing
even more decoding strategies. The students enthusiasm towards learning about fluency
has increased greatly so I would continue reading short passages with them and asking
them comprehension questions as well.
Student B made great progress in their fluency skills, learning to read with
both expression and proper rate. While the student answered all of the comprehension

questions from the initial assessment correctly, and missed one on the final assessment,
the final assessment had more questions and there seems to be reason behind the reason
they missed it. The student incorrectly answered the question A swan is a type of what?
The answer to this question was not laid out explicitly in the text so I think this student
would benefit from learning about context clues. I think the student is at the level where
they can move away from simple comprehension questions, and move on to more
abstract questions. If I were to continue working with this student I would supply them
with advance passages and would introduce new strategies to understand these passages.
Student Work and Data

Best Practices to Develop Fluency and Decoding Skills

in Order to Improve Comprehension
Catherine Keeter
Samford University

This paper explores the best practices for developing fluency and decoding skills in order
to improve a students overall text comprehension. The importance of fluency, decoding,
and comprehension are all stressed as crucial factors that determine a childs future.
Fluency and decoding are each defined and the significance of each aspect to
comprehension is heavily emphasized. Decoding is analyzed in depth in order to
discover the best strategies for improving a students decoding skills. These strategies
include teaching pattern recognition, root words, and word families. Fluency is also
heavily explored to find the best methods for improving a childs fluency skills. These
methods include guided oral reading, repeated readings, and tape-recorded readings. The
strategies found are backed up by research and discussion and are proven to be beneficial
in increasing a students comprehension ability.
Keywords: Fluency, Decoding, and Comprehension

Best Practices to Develop Fluency and Decoding Skills

In Order to Improve Comprehension
Comprehension is a crucial skill when it comes to literacy. While it is necessary
for children to be literate, reading the words on the page is almost ineffective if children
dont understand the meaning behind the text. Currently in the United States there are
eight million students in grades four through twelve who are unable to read and
understand their textbooks (Mckenna & Labbo, 2013, pg. 75). The need for these
students to develop their literacy skills is urgent as jobs began to demand higher skills for
their employees. First, students must be able to read the text, and then they must be able
to fully understand it in order to be considered completely literate.
When a students focus is intently aimed on decoding and reading the words on a
page, they fixate their minds on trying to read the word correctly and are unable to focus
on the meaning of the text. Children must develop skills that help them effortlessly read
a text so they are then able to comprehend the text. For struggling readers, weak
decoding skills and lack of fluency are major impediments to comprehension (Mckenna
& Labbo, 2013, pg. 76). Improving a students decoding and fluency skills will help to
increase the childs comprehension ability.
Decoding is defined by the ability to apply your knowledge of lettersound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce
written words (Reading rockets). When students have strong decoding skills they are
able to quickly recognize words they know and have the ability to interpret words they
have never seen before.

One effective method for teaching decoding is to teach pattern recognition

rather than rule memorization. Experts state, decoding instruction should emphasize
syllable patterns and morphology (National Institute for Literacy, 2007). If students are
given rules to memorize, they become confused when they find a word that doesnt fit
that rule. Instead, learning to recognize word patterns help students think critically when
reading a word, and makes is easier for students to decode words theyve never seen
before. There are simple ways that teachers can incorporate teaching word patterns into
their classroom. For example, teachers can create word walls of words with prefixes and
suffixes that have similar pronunciations. Teaching root words that contain prefixes and
suffixes help students learn to chunk words into sections when they are reading them.
Teachers can also point out similarities and differences among words that belong to
"word families" (e.g., define, definitely, definition) (National Institute for Literacy,
2007). Students need to be able to recognize different endings or beginnings of words so
they do not pronounce all words that look the same in the same way. These strategies are
extremely effective in advancing childrens decoding skills.
Fluency is another crucial skill that affects how children read, therefore affecting
their ability to comprehend. Fluency is defined as the ability to read accurately with
proper expression and speed. In order to understand what they read, children must be
able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently (Reading Rockets).
Students who strain and struggle while reading or students that read with a slow rate
become discouraged before they even get the chance to think about the meaning behind
the text. Fluency can be taught and such teaching improves reading achievement,
including reading comprehension (Rasinski & Lems, 2012, pg. 17). Fluency has been

proven to increase childrens comprehension, which is why teachers should stress their
instruction of it, especially in the younger grades.
One of the best techniques for increasing a students fluency ability is to have
students read orally and be given some type of feedback. A study by the National
Reading Panel examined 16 independent studies in which having students practice oral
reading of a text with some kind of feedback led to improved fluency in reading those
texts (Rasinski & Lems, 2012, pg. 21). This can be executed in a couple of different
ways such as choral reading as a class and receiving feedback from the teacher that
pertains to the class as a whole, or students participating in peer reading where they read
in pairs and critique each other on their fluency skills. The most effective way this
method is seen is in small groups or individually with the teacher. The teacher can work
with students on the same reading level and give them all tips and guidance to increase in
their fluency ability or she can work one on one with a struggling student in able to
keenly focus on the specific aspect of fluency that that student needs to work on.
Other fluency strategies include repeated readings, and tape recorded
readings. Repeated readings give students the chance to read a text over and over until
they are comfortable with it. The National Reading Panel concluded that repeated oral
reading procedures that included guidance from teachers, peers, or parents had a
significant and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension across a
range of grade levels (Reading Rockets). Not only does this strategy expand a
students fluency ability but student confidence is also increased and children are
encouraged to keep reading more books. Tape-recorded readings give students the
chance to hear a model of accurate speed, expression, and word pronunciation. They are

able to imitate what they hear and apply the examples they listen to to their own reading
All in all, decoding and fluency have both been proven to
be essential components that affect a childs ability to comprehend a text. When a
student has sufficient decoding skills they are able to recognize words automatically and
can even figure out words they have never seen before. When a student is able to read
fluently they are able to read at an appropriate rate with accuracy and expression.
Students that read fluently and can decode words are able to focus on comprehending the
text at hand. I firmly believe that the decoding strategies of teaching pattern recognition,
root words, and word families and the fluency strategies of guided oral reading, repeated
readings, and tape recorded readings, are the best in helping students gain the skills in
order to understand a text.

National Institute for Literacy. Key Literacy Component: Decoding. All About
Adolescent Literacy. (2007). Retrieved October 11, 2015.
McKenna, M., & Labbo, L. (2013). International Handbook of Literacy and Technology
Volume II. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Rasinski, T., & Lems, K. (2012). Fluency Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices.
Second Edition. New York, New York: Guilford Press.
Reading Rockets. Developing Fluent Readers. (n.d). Retrieved October 11, 2015
Reading Rockets. Fluency. (n.d). Retrieved October 11, 2015.
Reading Rockets. Word Decoding and Phonics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2015.