Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is how a skilled reader reads aloud. A fluent reader reads rapidly, with good pronunciation, and good understanding. At least four correct readings are necessary for automatic recognition of a word. Fluency is crucial for bridging the gap between decoding and good comprehension.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that 44% of fourth graders are not fluent readers. This is an alarming statistic, especially since fluency is expected by the end of second grade. What can we do to effectively teach reading fluency? The National Reading Panel determined that for programs to effectively teach fluency, they must have 3 key features:

  1. Focus on a child’s oral reading. Silent reading does not build fluency because feedback can not be given.
  2. Opportunities for practice-read and reread words in connected context.
  3. Ongoing feedback as they read. This feedback must be given in a constructive and positive manner. Otherwise you risk undermining a student’s confidence and developing fear of reading aloud.

You may hear this technique referred to as guided repeated oral reading. This guidance can be given by a teacher, tutor, or parent. Only when feedback is given by an adult and the student is fairly fluent, can he then practice reading with peers or even listening to a recording of his/her reading. You may have also heard of this technique referred to as repeated reading, paired reading, shared reading, assisted reading, or echo reading.

Let me give you an example: An adult will model by reading a paragraph aloud. The student then reads the same paragraph aloud under the adult’s guidance. The student can then read the paragraph again to the same or another adult while receiving constructive and positive feedback.

How do we provide constructive and positive feedback? First, allow the student to finish the paragraph before correction. It is discouraging for students to be stopped at each mistake while they read. Allow them to finish the passage, paragraph, or sentence that they are working on. Praise them for what they did right! Then go back and ask questions about the words that they missed. If it is a sight word that must be memorized, ask them to reread it again. If they can not remember it, read it for them. If the word they missed is a decodable word, have them use their decoding skills (touch and say each sound or syllable) to reread the word. After giving them feedback, give them an opportunity to reread the passage immediately. Praise them for any self-corrections they make.

Again, fluency bridges the gap between decoding and comprehension. Students will acquire fluency word by word and with repeated exposures to the word when they are pronouncing the word correctly.

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