Fluency

Fluency is generally defined as the rate, accuracy, and expression with which students read. Learn here how to ensure your students become fluent readers.
Grades:
K |
1 |
2 |
3
Updated on: February 15, 2007
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Increasing Fluency

Teachers can help students become more fluent readers in several ways. The most important strategies, according to Rasinski (1994), include modeling fluent reading, providing direct instruction and feedback after oral reading, supporting students during reading, encouraging repeated reading, cueing phrases, and supplying accessible reading materials.

Students need frequent practice reading texts that are easily decodable. To ensure students have ample practice reading, be sure that the books in your classroom can be read independently by your students, no matter what their reading levels. Encourage students to read aloud to you, to one another, to reading buddies, and to family members; short daily exercises are probably better than longer, less frequent ones.

Determining which students have real reading problems and which students just need more practice reading aloud may be difficult. The only way to tell is to instruct them in fluency skills and see how they respond to the instruction. All of the following activities are appropriate to use with students, but a repeated reading activity may be most effective with students who are struggling. A more complicated activity, like Readers’ Theater, can come later.

Below is a list of suggested reading fluency activities to use with students:

  • Auditory Modeling: Read aloud to students in class, or have them listen to a tape of someone reading aloud. This will help them to hear how to read correctly, where to pause, when to change pitch, and the like. Or, have students follow along with the reader and then have them practice echo, choral, or paired reading.

  • Choral Reading: Have all students simultaneously read the same text. Pair fluent readers or parent volunteers with dysfluent readers and have them read with one voice. This helps dysfluent readers hear the text read fluently and allows them to practice along with the fluent reader.

  • Repeated Readings: Have students repeatedly read the same books or passages until they have achieved a level of fluency. Use the previous chart to determine where students are and how far they need to progress. Be sure that the reading passage is at about a 95 percent level of difficulty. Encourage students to chart their progress as they repeatedly read so that they will see that their practice makes a difference.

  • Readers’ Theater: Have students read text aloud and use expression to bring meaning to the text. Break the text of a story into phrased segments and assign students lines. (Choose stories with easy plots and plenty of dialogue.) Have them practice their lines by rereading them many times to prepare for their performance before an audience; be sure that students do not simply memorize their lines. When students recreate a story without the use of sets and costumes, they gain a better understanding of the characters and therefore understand the text better.

Increasing Prosody

To improve prosody, instruct students in how to use phrases when reading, a process often called Phrase-cued Reading. Select a passage that is within students’ reading levels. Poems, speeches, and newspaper articles are good examples of the types of text to use for this method. Mark up the text with lines or slashes, or write the text on different lines according to how it should be read or where you should pause. Distribute the text to students, and then read the text aloud as they follow along. Model reading phrases correctly. Pair students up and have them practice with one another.

Instruct students in how to use punctuation to determine phrasing and style of reading. Have students practice reading exclamatory sentences, lists of items, dialogue, and poetry.

Or, have students practice reading sentences by placing emphasis on different words. For example, read the sentence, She loves swimming in the lake, by emphasizing the first word: She loves swimming in the lake. Then emphasize the next word: She loves swimming in the lake. Continue with this process.

Students can also practice reading sentences or dialogue with different emotional expressions. The sentence above would be read differently if the reader were angry, whining, excited, or bored.

Taking Fluency to the Next Level

Not all students need instruction in fluency. Students who are reading at an appropriate benchmark may not need further instruction or practice. Activities for these students might include reading a picture book to students in lower grades. They can practice with different voices for different characters as well as practice reading the story with expression.

All of these techniques are fine ways to help dysfluent readers become more fluent. However, they are all somewhat time consuming, and you may not be able to give remedial students all the individual help they need. In that case, you can modify some of the suggestions above and pair excellent readers with struggling readers. This is a form of assisted reading — where the struggling reader receives support and feedback from a partner. In partner reading, the advanced partner works with the struggling reader during the fluency exercises and gives him or her feedback and individual instruction with whatever reading fluency exercise is being performed in class.

When Can You Use It?

Reading/English

Use the prediction strategy when introducing new picture books to primary students or new chapter books to older students. With young students, read the book aloud, making predictions as a class or a group and reading to confirm the predictions. With chapter books, have students make predictions at the start of each chapter so that their predictions draw from the chapters they have already read. Have students make predictions based on other books they have read by the same author or other books they have read in the same genre. After reading, discuss the text and any information that helped verify or caused them to revise their predictions.

Writing

After students read a text or passage using the prediction strategy, have them write a summary of their initial prediction and why it was correct or needed to be modified. Students can justify their ideas based on evidence from the text.

Another activity to use when teaching predicting is to have students write the first part of a story and then trade stories with a partner and continue that partner’s story, anticipating future events and the story’s resolution.