How did Fluency Focus come about?
Over the last few years at Charles Dickens Primary School, since reading the EEF’s guidance reports, we had been trying to weave the teaching of fluency into our reading curriculum. At our school, a key part of our reading curriculum has long been a weekly comprehension lesson in which children read an extract from either a classic or a modern text and answer questions about it.
We have always tried to make these lessons as effective and enjoyable as possible by focussing on unfamiliar vocabulary upfront and by teaching comprehensions strategies as suggested by recommendation 3 of the guidance report. However, we felt there was a key element missing. We identified this as fluency, but the question was how on earth could we fit more content into our one-hour weekly lesson?
We delivered staff training on some of the strategies which now make up the programme and asked teachers to use them in their lessons where they felt they were most appropriate, but they simply weren’t sticking. With so much time focussed on discussion of the text and answering questions, there was little room for fluency.
Then in 2021, the EEF put out a call for research schools to pitch for funding, as part of their early pipeline projects programme, to develop a scheme of work supporting the explicit teaching and practise of reading fluency at Key Stage 2. If the bid were successful, this scheme would be trialled in ten schools to evaluate its feasibility, meaning simply to check that teachers can deliver it without too much difficulty!
Luckily, our bid was approved and we began developing the scheme and the materials to go with it. This also gave us the confidence to run it in our school and to tell teachers that, actually, they can give over a whole reading lesson to the teaching of fluency because this is also the teaching of comprehension. The penny had finally dropped!
This is not to say that discussion and comprehensions strategies no longer feature in our reading lessons, they very much do, but the way into any new text is now through fluency. It’s a fluency first approach. Fortunately, the initial ten school trial went well with teachers agreeing the programme was feasible, fun and had the desired effect and we have now been scaled up to a twenty-school trial. We have doubled the number of lessons in the programme to include non-fiction and have tweaked the materials in response to feedback. We are now all systems go for kicking off trial two in September 2023.