Strategies for Improving Students' Reading Fluency

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  • 0:04 What Is Reading Fluency
  • 0:52 Why Teach Fluency?
  • 2:00 Repeated Reading
  • 3:16 Partner & Choral Reading
  • 4:12 Readers' Theater
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Learning to read includes more than just decoding words. Students need to build fluency to be solid readers. How can teachers help? This lesson outlines several strategies to help students improve fluency in reading.

What Is Reading Fluency?

Young children are taught the mechanics of phonics to help them understand sound/symbol relationships and decode words on the page. Along with this emerging skill is another that's also important when it comes to reading: fluency. When students read the word on the page, they need to pay attention to how their voice sounds, both the pace and tone. Early readers read word by word as they slowly decode words and build a strong sight word vocabulary. Soon they have enough words committed to memory and can read with more confidence.

It's at this time teachers should focus on teaching fluency. Mr. Rogers is a first-year teacher working with early elementary students. He knows he needs to teach fluency, but isn't sure why. He takes advantage of his mentor teacher and goes next door to ask why teaching fluency even matters.

Why Teaching Fluency?

Like we've seen, fluency is the ability to read accurately and with appropriate expression. Mr. Roger's mentor tells him that fluency also entails a level of pacing. In other words, how quickly or slowly a student reads matters. If they read too quickly or slowly, it may impact their ability to understand what they read, or their comprehension.

After readers have mastered decoding and begin to be able to read words in longer strings, they can focus on learning fluency. Why is this important? When students are no longer concerned with decoding, they can refine and learn comprehension strategies, such as making connections to the text, visualizing, and inferring. A student's fluency develops in steps and over time. At first, readers are simply less choppy. With strategies and practice, they soon become more confident. They'll begin reading in short phrases, then longer and more complete sentences. Mr. Rogers recognizes his students are in varying stages of fluency development.

Back in his classroom Mr. Rogers considers his students. He has several students ready for instruction on fluency. What types of strategies can he give them? Let's see.

Repeated Reading

Mr. Rogers knows one of the best ways to increase fluency is to have students read the same passage many times, a practice known as repeated reading. He collects several books for students, making sure they are on an appropriate reading level. The books can't be too difficult, causing the student to focus on decoding; or too easy, containing the majority of words the student already knows. Students should know most words but learn a few new ones with each introduction of text. This is called a child's independent reading level and includes books read at about a 96% accuracy rate.

Mr. Rogers should make sure the text he selects for repeated reading isn't too long. Otherwise, students may lose interest or not be able to comprehend. He aims for between 50-200 words. He also varies the types of text used for repeated reading, including poems, short stories, nursery rhymes, and nonfiction.

Students practice repeated reading in many forums. They read independently at their desks, during silent reading in the library, at home to their parents or during guided reading time. In fact, many of the repeated reading selections his students use are texts they originally learn during guided reading. This way, Mr. Rogers knows the students are familiar enough with the text to be successful with fluency.

Partner & Choral Reading

Although Mr. Rogers is a great model for fluent reading, he also recognizes children learn from hearing other students read. He provides many opportunities for children to get together to hear each other. One of these, called partner reading, is as simple as it sounds. He pairs two students up and they take turns reading aloud to one another. He matches students on the same level so they can both succeed and help each other.

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