What is Fluency?
In reading, fluency means reading accurately, at an appropriate speed and with appropriate expression. Fluent reading is pleasant to hear and does not sound or feel laborious.
Let’s explore the components of fluent reading and how to help developing readers build reading fluency.
The Importance of Fluency
Fluency is closely related to reading comprehension. For new readers, reading is a lot of “work.” New readers read slowly and haltingly, make mistakes, and often use a monotone.
Struggling to figure out every word, reading words incorrectly, reading very slowly, and reading without any expression make it harder to focus attention on the meaning what’s being read. Building fluency helps readers save enough mental capacity to make sense of what they read. Reading fluently saves energy for reading for meaning and for reading more!
Fluent readers read accurately, either by recognizing sight words from memory, or efficiently decoding words using phonics skills.
Fluent readers read at a “medium” speed. Reading too fast or too slow makes understanding what’s read more difficult.
Also called prosody, readers who use appropriate expression:
- Don’t sound “like a robot”
- Pay attention to punctuation and use it to reflect the meaning of what they read (e.g, pausing at commas and periods, raising voices at exclamation or question marks, etc.)
- Use their voices to reflect the meaning of what they read (e.g., dialogue/voices, scary or exciting parts, etc.)
Ways to Build Reading Fluency
Lots of reading is an excellent way to build reading fluency. Specific practice activities also include:
- Reading passages in different ways and comparing the sound
- “Like a robot” and “not like a robot”
- Very fast, medium, and very slow
- With and without attention to punctuation marks
- Charting reading rate on a passage (words per minute) and working to improve that rate and reach a target goal
- Learning phonics patterns and practicing using them to decode words efficiently
- Hearing and imitating reading models (teachers/caregivers reading aloud or audiobooks)
- Repeated readings of slightly easy, familiar books until they sound smooth
- Preparing for and delivering performance reading, including reciting poems, singing along to written song lyrics, and performing stories as “Reader’s Theater
- Recording one’s own reading, listening to it, choosing a fluency-related goal, and rerecording to notice the difference
Helping a child learn to read a favorite poem is an excellent way to build reading fluency. Here’s what to do:
- Choose an appealing poem.
- Print an uncluttered copy of it in an easy-to-read font.
- Talk about any unfamiliar words and the meaning of the poem as a whole. Have the child illustrate the poem as a way to focus on the meaning of it.
- Have the child practice the poem many times (alone, to different listeners, to pets or stuffed animals, etc.)
- Be the audience or videotape the child reading the poem fluently.