Mastering Reading Fluency: Let's explore an essential skill pivotal to student literacy outcomes: Reading Fluency.
Fluency relates to the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with the proper amount of expression. Reading fluency is one of the essential pillars of literacy. Think of it as the bridge that connects the alphabetic code-decryption stage of reading to the cognitive comprehension of connected text.
Reading accuracy is fundamental to reading fluency. Accuracy involves deciphering written words exactly and is a key first step to students becoming competent readers. The accurate decoding of new words enables students to later attach meaning to text.
A central partner, along with reading accuracy, is reading rate. Rate is the speed at which a student reads. Reading at an appropriate speed brings ease and a level of momentum, control, and smoothness when processing text. But appropriate rate is the key term here: read too slowly and understanding may be hindered; read too rapidly and inaccuracies and misconceptions creep in. For the reading rate to be optimal, the goldilocks zone of just right is best.
Expression, or prosody, is a frequently overlooked aspect of reading fluency mastery; it is a key marker of fluent reading. Competent readers who are able to skilfully use tone, phrasing, emphasis, and varying speed are well placed to bring a text to life.
The ability to monitor and adjust voice according to punctuation and sentence structure enhances students' comprehension and enjoyment of text. In fact, reading with expression is perhaps the most important sign that a reader is reading for meaning and comprehends what they are reading.
Reading fluency and reading comprehension are closely intertwined. By being able to fluently read text, students are released from the mechanics of print and are instead free to concentrate and devote limited cognitive resources on the meaning of text.
Fluency advances comprehension by unburdening cognitive resources. This paves the way for students to take a thrilling deep dive of active interpretation and appreciation of text.
An effective strategy for enhancing reading fluency is repeated reading. This well-researched method involves students rereading a short text multiple times until they attain a level of competence and skill. Each repeated exposure to the same text enhances accuracy, rate, and expression—three reading fluency pillars—which builds confidence and mastery in our students.
Choral reading is another reading fluency strategy worth exploring. In this strategy, students read aloud together in harmony. This collaborative approach not only supports struggling readers but also encourages reading as a shared and enjoyable activity. Choral reading is teacher-led.
The teacher reads a story or particular passage aloud from a book that is at or slightly above the students reading level, a section at a time, modeling the correct rate, pitch, and expression. Students are then required to read the same passage and are encouraged to use the same reading rate and expression.
Choral reading provides multiple opportunities for teachers to model expression, pacing, and phrasing and for students to practice those same skills in a controlled way.
To accurately chart student progress, it is important to establish ongoing evaluation. Swift identification of reading skill difficulties can ensure that intervention and instruction remain targeted, thereby safeguarding students' development of reading fluency skills.
Systematic assessment methods, such as oral reading fluency, measure both speed and accuracy. Students are asked to read a particular passage or several passages aloud for one minute.
Errors are carefully noted.
Each word that is omitted, mispronounced, or substituted is counted as an error. The chosen passages need to be unfamiliar to the student and should be a cold read, which simply means that the student is reading a passage for the first time.
This type of assessment provides valuable information about students' difficulties with decoding and reading rate.
Follow the link to learn about the free DIBELS oral reading fluency assessments.
Reading fluency goes beyond academic achievements. Reading for enjoyment is something we wish our students to embrace, and fostering a sense of pleasure in reading in classrooms has the potential to greatly enhance students' reading fluency.
Linking reading fluency and enjoyment also requires careful and thoughtful modeling. Teachers reading aloud in a captivating manner using a variety of voices and in a manner that illustrates reading as an expressive, meaningful, and enjoyable activity is important.
Daily demonstrations such as this, particularly for younger students, help our learners pay attention to an author's unique voice and to the rhythm and beauty of language.
Click on the video below to watch a terrific example of Storytime with Ryan and Craig adding vocal expression, warmth, and humor to Jon Klassen's award-winning picture book This is Not My Hat.
The involvement of parents and caregivers in intervention strategies can also be of high value. Parents can incorporate effective repeated reading practices at home, assist with the reading of appropriate decodable books, and create a vibrant literacy environment.
This home-to-school connection can significantly amplify students' fluency outcomes and, by extension, reading comprehension results.
Hasbrouk, J. (2020) Understanding Reading Fluency, From the Bulletin, Learning Difficulties Australia, VOL 52, no.1
Five from Five: Fluency Interventions for Struggling Readers, fivefromfive.com.au/fluency/fluency-interventions-for-struggling-readers/