Body language from kids during focus lessons tell me that story is a powerful tool to use. Eyes widen a bit and bodies lean forward as a personal experience/story is told. Use a mentor text on top of a personal story and you have some learning magic going on.
I was thinking through a fluency lesson for a third grade classroom and thought of my bike riding experiences as a child (see previous post). Third graders will have the background knowledge of learning how to ride a bike, I thought. Back in my day you graduated through maybe 3 sizes of bikes: tricycle, a child’s 22″ two wheeler, and a 26″ wheel bike. After accomplishing a tricycle you graduate to a 22″ two wheeler. Carefully you climb onto the seat while trying to keep the bike upright. You fall. Confidence is gone. Training wheels are attached. Wobbly at first. But you practice and practice and begin to wonder, Why does this seems so easy? I ask, “Can you remember when you were in Kindergarten and 1st grade and learning how to read? Did it feel wobbly? Just like when you climbed on that bike.
You are now ready for the training wheels to come off… Uh-oh. Really wobbly. You might need someone to hold the back of your bike seat for balance. After several attempts they let go. You did it! You can ride a bike on your own. You hear celebration cheers. You keep practicing and practicing. You get back on when you fall. And soon you are riding that bike at pretty good clip of speed. Reading fluently is just like that.
You are growing and soon it’s time to get a 26” bike. You are a growing reader and soon it’s time to get a longer book, perhaps a chapter book. Or maybe it’s time to try a different genre or a more difficult level…uh-oh. Wobbly again. Practice and practice. You are at the top of a hill on a gravel driveway with a bridge made out of uneven pointed stones. You are in a book that is difficult and it is written in a different format. Uh-oh. Wobbly yet again. You fall and crash. Practice and practice. Soon you can ride down the hill without crashing into the stone bridge. Soon you can read more difficult text fluently without crashing. I give them a strategy to practice fluency just as others gave them strategies on how to ride a bike.
I tell them about last weekend’s bike ride of several miles. I’m still wobbly when I try something more difficult just as they will be as they approach more difficult text as they grow as readers and writers…but now they know how this all works because story is powerful tool to use in Reading and Writing Workshop.