Building our students’ ability to comprehend and make meaning of what they read seems to be the #1 goal of reading instruction. It’s essential for learning and really for all of life!
There are many different skills and strategies you can teach to help your students build their reading comprehension, but today I want to talk specifically about just one…building fluency.
A significant study on reading fluency conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found a tight correlation between reading fluency and reading comprehension.
The better the fluency, the stronger the comprehension.
But sadly, the study also found that fluency is “a neglected reading skill in many American classrooms, affecting many students’ reading comprehension.”
Reading this inspired me to share with you information and resources to help bring more effective fluency instruction into your classroom!
WHAT IS READING FLUENCY?
Reading fluency is the power to read quickly and accurately. A fluent reader can group and recognize words with ease. When they read aloud, they have a smooth natural expression.
These are the five key parts of reading fluently (taken from Reading Strategies):
- Phrasing or parsing – putting words together into meaningful groups within a sentence.
- Expression or intonation or prosody – reading to match the feeling of the piece, paying attention to ending punctuation and dialogue marks.
- Emphasis – emphasizing words in the sentence to match the author’s meaning. Paying attention to text treatments (bold, italics, all caps).
- Automaticity – reading known words automatically
- Pace – reading at a pace that mirrors how we talk, not racing through words or reading at a labored rate.
WHY IS READING FLUENTLY IMPORTANT?
Reading fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and reading comprehension.
Kids who can read fluently don’t have to do the work of decoding. Instead they can focus their attention on what the text actually means and make mental connections that help to deepen their understanding. Fluent readers are able to recognize words and comprehend their overall meaning at the same time.
It is important to note that fluency and comprehension may not always be connected. Be aware of the student who can read aloud beautifully but can’t seem to answer any questions about what they just read!
Also keep in mind that we shouldn’t expect readers at the lowest levels (A, B, C) to read with fluency. Instead, their focus should be on one-to-one matching (reading one word aloud for each word in print) and pointing under the words. Level D readers should have some phrasing, and E readers should also have some intonation.
HOW TO TEACH READING FLUENCY
As with all things, you’ll want to model, model, model, as well as provide a range of opportunities for whole group, small group and independent practice.
If you are looking for explicit instruction for fluency I highly recommend you take a look at the book The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo.
She has a ton of great ideas for mini-lessons on fluency (along with other skills that help build comprehension!) I’m sharing some of my favorites below!
Model Reading Fluency!
Reading aloud to your class is the perfect opportunity to model fluency. Do it daily. Show them how punctuation, character’s feelings, etc. help you know how to make your voice sound. When you do, you are giving your students the opportunity to learn how a reader’s voice can help a text make sense.
Storyline Online is a free website that has a lot of examples of adults reading aloud.
It is perfect for a listen to reading center and is definitely worth checking out! And did I mention it is FREE?? No login required!
Provide Opportunities for Whole and Small-Group Fluency Practice
Echo and choral reading are two whole-group strategies that can be used to teach fluency.
- Echo reading is when the teacher reads a short segment of text, sometimes a sentence or short paragraph, and the student echo it back.
- Choral reading is where the teacher and the students read the same passage at the same time.
“Partners Help to Smooth It Out” is a great lesson that I came across in the Reading Strategies book.
For this activity you simply put one book in-between two kids during partner reading.
Together they look at the words, listen to themselves and to their partner The goal is for the two students to read in one voice, pausing at the same places and using the same expression.
Provide Opportunities for Independent Practice
“Make the Bumpy Smooth” is another powerful lesson from The Reading Strategies Book.
It’s a lesson which teaches students that sometimes it’s hard to read smoothly the very first time you read a new story, encounter new words or new information.
When this happens, students are taught to go back after they know the words, reread it and try to smooth it out, or to make what was bumpy, smooth.
One last lesson from the book that your students will love is called “Fluency Phone for Feedback.” It allows students to listen to themselves read. They can either find a quiet spot in the room where they can read to themselves without disturbing others or use one of these “fluency phones” to hear themselves read (the curved tube allows for instant feedback).
You can purchase fluency phones here or make one with PVC piping.
Students could also record themselves on a device (like an ipad) and play back to listen to and evaluate their fluency, asking themselves, “Am I reading smoothly and with expression?”
For this activity your students can work alone or with a partner to build familiar nursery rhymes and then develop fluency by reading them aloud.
The build a poem fluency resource includes 22 nursery rhymes that you can cut and laminate so they can be used year after year! It’s a great way to expose your students to the genre of poetry and a perfect activity for your literacy centers!
Students are able to develop fluency skills by reading and rereading these familiar nursery rhymes.
Add this fun and engaging fluency center to your classroom by clicking Nursery Rhymes Poetry Center
This activity is a great way for students to practice reading and writing sentences with basic sight words, while at the same time practicing reading accurately and fluently.
The resource includes sentences (two versions for easy differentiation!) that are ready for you to print, laminate, and then hang around your classroom.
Students just need a clipboard and then they’re ready to move around 😍 to “read and write the room.” Just as we teach our students to pick “just right books” I teach them to read and record the “just right sentence.”
They are encouraged to do so because they like the feeling of success of reading a good fit sentence. In addition, my students know they will be reading the sentences to themselves and to a friend as indicated on their recording sheet to practice reading accuracy and fluency.
I love that it’s a simple, single activity which gives students practice in both reading and writing!
Click below to start using this engaging center in your classroom!
The whole reason we read (and teach children to read!) is to make meaning. We know that fluency is closely correlated to comprehension, so I hope the information, resources and activities I have shared today will help bring more fluency instruction to your classroom! It’s an essential skill that will benefit your students in your classroom and well beyond!