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The goal of fluency instruction is for students to develop the ability to read text quickly with accuracy and expression. Fluency requires automaticity - accurate, speedy word recognition. Automaticity is important because it frees cognitive resources to process meaning.
Research has indicated that the best way to increase oral reading fluency is by repeated and monitored oral reading. Repeated reading not only improves fluency, but word recognition and comprehension as well. This is true for students throughout the elementary school years and for struggling readers at higher grade levels.
This section of the Fluency Guide describes some instructional activities designed to increase students' reading fluency. All of them involve repeated reading of text. Although many of these activities will also improve reading expression, they are particularly helpful in increasing reading rate. For students who are struggling with fluency, it is often easiest to focus on one aspect (speed or expression) at a time. The activities in this section include:
Timed Repeated Reading
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In timed repeated reading, students read a short section of text several times while being timed with a stopwatch. Because they practice rereading the same text, their reading speed usually improves each time. Almost any text will work with this procedure, although leveled passages with word counts for each line, such as those included in the Read Naturally and Quick Reads supplemental programs, work particularly well. Poetry should not be used for timed repeated readings; it is not meant to be read fast and is better used for building expression. Generally, texts used for timed repeated reading are at a student's independent level or are instructional level texts with which the students are familiar. Additionally, timed repeated readings should not be used with beginning readers (preprimer to primer level) since much of their effort is taken up with decoding. Beginning readers should, however, participate in untimed repeated reading activities.
After each reading of the text, the students graph their results. These graphs provide students with immediate feedback, show evidence of fluency progress, and help motivate them to improve their fluency. Such feedback is critical for struggling readers who often get discouraged easily.
Timed repeated reading can be incorporated into the literacy block in a variety of ways. You may time the student at the beginning or end of small group instruction, or students may time themselves or a partner during literacy centers or independent work time. In addition, timed repeated reading can be paired with other fluency activities that provide a model of fluent reading, such as partner reading, student-adult reading, or tape-assisted reading--all described in this guide.
Directions for conducting timed repeated readings, as well as a sample graph, are available on the PALS website:
Click here to go to the PALS website
Note: the numbers on the graph may be adjusted to reflect the fluency goals for the student.
In tape-assisted reading, students read along in their books as they hear a fluent reader on audiotape (at a rate of about 80-100 words per minute). Because this procedure gives struggling students access to text that might otherwise be too difficult, it can work especially well with content area material. The book selected should be at the student's instructional level, or slightly more difficult. The tape should not have sound effects or music.
For the first reading, the student follows along with the tape, pointing to each word in his or her book as the reader reads it. Next, the student tries to read aloud along with the tape. This should continue until the student is able to read the book fluently, without the support of the tape.
Tape-assisted reading allows students to read and reread a passage as many times as needed to increase their reading rate. This procedure can be combined with timed repeated reading (students time the first reading; practice reading with the tape several times; then time themselves again and charts progress). Or, students may tape record their readings (before and after tape-assisted practice) and evaluate their fluency using a checklist such as the one described in Fluency: Assessment.
With partner reading, paired students take turns reading aloud to each other. Pairing a strong reader with a less fluent reader is one form of partner reading. Using a text at the less fluent reader's instructional reading level, the stronger reader reads a section first, providing a model of fluent reading. Next, the less fluent reader reads the same text aloud, and the stronger reader gives help with word recognition and provides feedback and encouragement. The less fluent partner rereads the passage until he or she can read it independently.
In another form of partner reading, two students at the same level are paired to reread a text previously introduced during a teacher-directed part of the lesson. In this case the students would alternate pages
Partner reading allows small groups of students or an entire class to work in pairs and is easy to implement in the classroom. It increases the amount of time students are reading, and, because the partners receive feedback from each other, provides an opportunity for students to engage in repeated and monitored oral reading without the teacher.
Either type of partner reading can be done during the literacy block while the teacher is with another small group. Partner reading also works well with content-area material during science or social studies.
Student Adult Reading
In student-adult reading, the student reads one-on-one with an adult. This is a perfect opportunity to utilize school volunteers, parents, and classroom aides. Students can also be partnered with a more fluent, older reader (e.g., a first grader could be partnered with a more fluent fourth grader). Not only are student reading buddies beneficial for the younger student, but they can also be an instructional and motivational tool for the older student.
The adult (or older student) reads the text first, providing the student with a fluent model. Then, the student reads the same passage to the adult with the adult providing assistance and encouragement.
The student rereads the passage until the reading is quite fluent. This should take approximately 3-4 readings.
Please feel free to download and use any of the activities and information that we have provided. You may contact the Reading First office at the University of Virginia if you have any questions.
Fluency: Introduction | Fluency: Assessment | Fluency: Expression
Pictorial Case Study: Fluency in the Classroom