We are dedicating this month’s Reading Room to fluency. Fluency is not JUST how fast we read. It is also the flow with which we read. When fluent readers read out loud, it should sound as if they are speaking. When readers mirror spoken language in read a-louds, it supports comprehension and can make reading really FUN.
A slow, labored rate of reading impedes comprehension. It pulls the reader’s attention away from the meaning of the text and overloads the reader’s working memory. In other words, if readers are using all their effort to decode and read the words, comprehension is non-existent. Developing fluency requires intentional practice, and research suggests that the most effective practices for improving fluency are the ones that involve repeated reading of words and texts.
These are some great examples to help readers with fluency:
- Rapid Word Recognition
- The rapid reading of single words can help improve speed and comprehension of text reading. By using reading charts before reading a passage, students can help keep the words in their working memory.
- Decodable Text
- Decodable texts provide practice with a limited number of sound-symbol correspondences and high-frequency sight words. Decodable texts build accuracy, rapid word recognition, and independence with reading new words because readers are able to sound out most words.
- Repeated Reading
- Repeated reading is another one of the most effective ways to improve fluency. Repeated reading of the same passage (three to four times) provides the exposure needed to increase a reader’s memory for the recognition of words.
- Developing Prosody
- The smooth, rhythmic flow of oral reading is called prosody, and intonation and phrasing are two of the features of prosody. Intonation includes the inflections that are signaled by punctuation marks. This would be like pausing at commas, stopping at periods, or adjusting tone at question marks or exclamation points. In addition, phrasing is the grouping of words together into meaningful units without taking a breath. Prosody allows the reader to imitate spoken language. When oral reading sounds like speaking, it is easy for the reader to attend to the meaning of the text.
- Because comprehension is the goal of fluency training, comprehension should be assessed with a few oral questions during and after reading the passage.
- Choosing a Passage
- The passages for fluency are usually those that the reader can read with around 95% accuracy. For example, no more than five errors in the first 100 words at an independent level. However, any passage that the reader can read with no more than 10 errors in the first 100 words is appropriate for fluency practice. The goal is to move the student to reading grade-level passages with accuracy, appropriate speed, prosody, and comprehension.
- Measuring Rate and Accuracy
- Reading rate and accuracy should be recorded regularly, and needs to be assessed on a one-to-one basis. Usually, the best method for doing this is to have the student read a passage for one minute. The teacher records any errors, and at the end of the minute, the teacher counts the total number of words read. The total number of words read represents the rate and is recorded as words per minute (wpm). The number of words read correctly is divided by the total number of words read and then multiplied by 100. This number represents the reader’s accuracy and is recorded as a percentage. For example: The student read 95 wpm. The student got 82 of the words accurate. 82 divided by 95 = .8631 x 100 = 86%.
- Average Oral Reading Rates
- The average rate for a first-grade reader is around 50-80 wpm. By the middle of second grade, the rate should be around 100 +/- 15 wpm. By the end of fifth grade, the rate of 120 – 150 is average, and after that, and oral reading rate of 150 wpm on grade level is adequate to sustain attention and memory for comprehension.
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