I was not eager to join Twitter, thinking to myself I hardly care what everyone is doing in 140 characters or less. Little by little I started to unfollow the celebrities I had initially engaged and my profile became more and more about education. My education circle started to grow, the more I engaged and followed, the better my Twitter feed became. As an educator, Twitter has provided a completely new path of bite-sized professional learning.
In early August I opened my Twitter account and saw something posted that caught my attention...reading fluency through song. I saw how a local school had embraced this strategy and I was intrigued. So that lead me to research the topic, and I saw how this could be a great way to support our school’s prioritized goal of reading fluency. As a support teacher I cover students so grade-level teachers can observe each other, but the lessons I teach are only 15 minutes and it has not always been easy planning and executing something where I felt effective in such little time. So based on what I had discovered, I picked a couple songs, printed out the lyrics and headed off to my first class eager to see how this would turn out. Now as I look back on this journey I can say it has provided some of my most memorable teaching moments and something that I know the students will remember.
I have included many genres and read songs like “This Land is Your Land” and “Coming to America.” I was surprised but I can say that my 2nd and 5th graders loved signing along with Neil Diamond. We have also spent time going over various vocabulary words that come up in the songs ranging from simple words like rambling to more academic words like fractal. Sometimes songs have meanings beyond their words and we had a lively discussion and debate about what the lyrics to “Fireworks” by Katy Perry meant.
I stress to the students that the learning goal is to read fluently and it’s not about the quality of their voice. I also take the time before we begin to emphasize why reading fluency is so important, and include strategies that help support fluency. Fluency comes down to lots of practice, and the students don’t mind singing a song more than once which is why this strategy is so effective. As I observe them, I see high engagement, with more than 90% of the students following the text as they sing. The other 10% are students who occasionally get lost in belting out the song and have their eyes closed, or typically are just looking around at their friends with a big smile. Of course I direct them back to the lyrics and they eagerly re-engage in this reading activity. I also see some of our struggling students or students that have very limited English proficiency engaging, especially during the chorus, where the song repetition starts to build capacity. While these students may not be reading the text fluently, they are engaging in speaking and the lyrics help to make these words more accessible. I have left these classrooms with such joy after listening to students sing “Let it Go” from Frozen or “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana and knowing that they were also improving their reading skills at the same time. I now get requests from students on what they want to read next, and of course I can’t wait to see how the next song evolves.
This all came about from expanding my engagement beyond the walls of my school, and a desire to learn from my fellow educators. I feel Twitter is a tremendous source for growth, collaboration, and a way to expand my voice and listen to others. There have been so many times that I have clicked on links on my Twitter feed that have helped me expand the way I think and practice. I am glad I made the leap and engaged in social media as a means to improve myself as an educator. I would not have known about reading fluency through song, and it was one of the best experiences I have had as an educator.