Strategies for Teaching Automaticity & Fluency

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  • 0:04 The Impact of Fluency
  • 0:47 Reading Fluency
  • 2:00 Automaticity
  • 2:32 Repeated Readings
  • 3:55 Additional Techniques
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

Learn why fluency is important to reading comprehension and what strategies the experts recommend to improve a reader's accuracy, speed, and rhythm. You'll find out the basics of repeated reading and other techniques for teaching fluency.

The Impact of Fluency

Compare the following two passages:

I went to the store to buy a bunch of bananas. It took me several minutes to find ones that were not very green or very brown. I bought the green ones but got a bellyache from eating them before they were ripe.

This polyrhythmic piece differs from the irrational rhythms of the previous cantata, which made frequent use of tuplets. The hemiola was quite cacophonous and stridulant, if you ask me.

Reading the first passage, you probably felt quite fluent, recognizing all of the words automatically and comprehending their meaning in no time. What about the second passage? Unless you have training in music, you probably missed most of the meaning and had to slow down more than usual just to process the words in front of you.

Reading Fluency

Can you imagine reading pages and pages of information similar to the second passage of words you didn't recognize? This may help you get an idea for what a new reader may feel like when they first start decoding words, or taking the letters on the page and recognizing the actual word that's formed with those letters.

To make matters tougher for you, in our example, in addition to not recognizing the way the words are pronounced (although you probably could take a guess), you also likely didn't know the meanings of those words. While you usually think of yourself as a fluent reader, a tough passage affects this sense of fluency.

But what is reading fluency? Fluency refers to the ability to read quickly and with accuracy. When read out loud, fluency also includes the rhythm, intonation, and expressiveness that you hear from a reader. A fluent reader has prosody, which is the pace and rhythm that's appropriate for the text, including its punctuation and its meaning.

Your level of fluency is impacted by the text you're reading. So a first grade student may be quite fluent in reading first-grade material, but not fluent at all in reading sixth grade material. You may be fluent when reading a passage related to produce in the grocery store, but find you are less fluent in a technical passage about music.


Here's a word that might pause you in your reading if you haven't seen it before: automaticity, which is the ability to recognize individual letters and words automatically. When it takes you a long time to decode a letter or word, your pace of reading and comprehension of what you're reading suffers.

Basic decoding involves being able to sound out words, while automatic word recognition means you don't have to put so much focus and attention on identifying the word. Researchers have found that this frees up time and energy as you read to focus on what all of these words mean when you put them together.

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