Education Endowment Foundation:EEF blog: Fixing fluency

EEF blog: Fixing fluency

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

Steve Smith, an English lead at two schools in Sheffield, talks about his experience of taking part in an EEF-funded early stage programme, and how it helped staff at his school support their pupils’ reading fluency.

Blog •3 minutes •

Our new early-stage programme development work supports organisations to design, develop and deliver programmes that tackle educational disadvantage, with the aim of creating new programmes to trial at scale.

Getting involved in EEF early stage programme development

Watercliffe Meadow Primary is a two-form entry primary school with high numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals and pupil premium funding.

During 2018 – 19, we implemented a systematic synthetic phonics programme to support children learning to read in the early years, as well as those who had fallen behind further up the school.

Our reading test data showed that despite this new programme, we still had a group of pupils who were struggling with their reading fluency. In test situations, they couldn’t read at the required pace to meet age related expectations.

While researching possible fixes, I heard about a project funded by the EEF which would find out whether fixing fluency”, a programme that aims to develop Year 5 pupils’ fluency through effective modelling, was ready to be trialled on a larger scale. It was the perfect time for us to try something new and sign up to a project that would help us to develop the work we had already begun.

We checked that our school was in an eligible area to take part and signed up for the project.

Before we got started, there was a full day’s training which helped us get a better understanding of the different aspects of fluency and how we could help children to improve in each of these areas.

How the programme helped develop our approach to reading fluency

The programme was delivered across nine weeks, and we soon began to see some positive changes in how staff were able to support children’s reading.

The most immediate impact we observed was that staff were more confident in how to encourage participation across the class. Due to the structure of the programme, all pupils were actively engaged in reading or listening to others read the majority of the time. Whether pupils were listening to adults or their peers reading, they were tuned in to key aspects of fluency and able to give constructive feedback. Pupils were then able to act on this specific feedback and seemed to make gains in various areas of their reading fluency.

We also saw pupils’ confidence grow, particularly those who had struggled in the past and had been more reluctant to participate in reading lessons.

How did we find it?

The training was clear and comprehensive, and support was provided throughout the process to make sure we got the best out of the experience. Communication was also a strong point – we received prompt replies to any questions we had.

Trying a new, evidence-informed approach allowed us to develop the way we support our children’s reading fluency. The main thing that we will take away is the improvements we saw in the children’s attitudes to learning.

Through actively working together on understanding fluency, they seemed better able to support each other in both their reading fluency and their comprehension of texts.

Author bio: Steve Smith is an English consultant who has worked with many schools across Sheffield. He is currently based in two schools where he works as an English lead and a teaching and learning coach.

Watercliffe Meadow Primary took part in Fixing Fluency, a programme developed by Oldham Research School that aimed to support teachers to increase their knowledge of effective prosody and reading comprehension and increase their confidence in how to model fluency. It aimed to also improve pupils’ confidence in reading.

The programme was funded as part of the EEF’s Early-Stage Programme Development work, to build the pipeline of evidence-based programmes available to schools. The aim is to develop new programmes like Fixing Fluency so they can be trialled across a larger number of schools.