From Fountas & Pinnell’s Teaching for Comprehending & Fluency
You may have noticed that each entry of our “fluency” series has ended with the phrase: It is essential that we consistently promote self-monitoring skills through a variety of genres [and] text levels…After all, “nothing increases a reader’s [proficiency] more than reading a great many texts!” This isn’t simply a result of writer’s block; it has been in anticipation of our final entry in the series!
When we expose students to many types of texts and the metacognitive skills necessary to process them, we help our young readers to become more efficient at anticipating what a specific text will contain. Fountas & Pinnell refer to this as “forward processing” and state that it is an essential piece of becoming a fluent reader.
Consider your last trip to the bookstore (or Amazon.com browsing session). Upon viewing the new Stephen King novel, you can instantly anticipate how the text will be organized and can make predictions in preparation for the reading experience based on genre, text structure, or content, for example. This will certainly differ from your expectations when viewing A Brief History of Time (by Stephan Hawking) and you will adjust your thinking accordingly. It is this thought process that allows for a greater degree of fluency by giving us the freedom to focus on understanding.
Below you will find 10 text features detailed by Fountas & Pinnell that impact fluency and a student’s ability to quickly “forward process” a text. As you read them, consider this as a taxonomy, ranking each area in terms of its breadth (from genre to book/print features). We must remember that all areas are equally important and that they build upon one another allowing us to anticipate text features at different levels of complexity. Like a game of Jenga, each area of processing affects the other and a deficiency in one particular area will cause the tower to crash down!
Many times we observe the standard “prediction” routines at the guided reading table, with teachers asking: How will the story end or what do you think will happen next? These questioning routines are linked to specific texts and are truly meant to coincide with narratives. As a result, they do not necessarily provide for the transfer of skills. Imagine if we design these same questions through the lens of Fountas & Pinnell’s 10 Text Features! This, along with providing a variety of genres and text levels for students to read will certainly ensure all our students become fluent readers. After all, “nothing increases a reader’s [proficiency] more than reading a great many texts!”