What is fluency?

According the National Reading Panel (2000), fluency is the ability to read text with speed, accuracy and proper expression.  Fluent readers:

  • Recognize words automatically

  • Read aloud effortlessly and with expression

  • Do not have to concentrate on decoding

  • Can focus on comprehension


Why is fluency important?

“Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.” (Reading Links, 2002, p. 9).  

Fluency doesn’t ensure comprehension, but comprehension is difficult without fluency.  If a reader is constantly stopping to decode and figure out unknown words, most likely meaning will be disrupted and the process of reading becomes long and laborious.

When students make gains in reading fluency, they are able to put their energies into comprehension and are able to analyze, interpret, draw conclusions, and infer meaning from texts.  

The 3 Components of Fluency

  • Accuracy: Also known as automaticity, it refers to the person's ability to read words in a text.

  • Rate: The speed a person reads.

  • Prosody: Refers to stress, intonation, and pauses. Commonly known as "reading with feeling".

In order to implement fluency teaching into reading instruction, teachers need to be aware of the three components of fluency.

Fluency Instruction

Teachers need to select and facilitate the best methods of fluency instruction for their children and their classrooms. The following four components are needed for good fluency instruction.

  1. Model fluent reading.

  2. Use guided oral reading instruction.

  3. Give students ways to practice and perform.

  4. Implement word study activities to build accuracy.

Here are some examples of activities for each of the components.

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1. Model fluent reading:  Students need to hear and see what fluent reading looks like.
  • Read Aloud - An adult reads aloud a text to the whole class.
  • Books on Tape - Children can listen to stories on tape as they follow along in a book.
  • Buddy Reading - An upper grade child reads aloud to a lower grade child.
2. Use guided oral reading instruction: Students need assisted, guided oral reading instruction with a teacher, adult, or a peer.
  • Choral Reading - All the students, lead by the teacher, read aloud together.
  • Peer/Paired Reading-  Students are required to work as pairs.  Each student reads their text silently.  Then the students take turns reading the passage three times orally to the other student.  The listening student acts as the teacher by giving suggestions and feedback.
  • Echo Reading - echo reading, the teacher reads a sentence, paragraph, or page aloud and then has the students chorally reread that segment.
  • Tape Assisted Reading - Children listen and read along with a tape.
  • Buddy Reading - An upper grade student listens to a lower grade student read, giving appropriate feedback.
3. Practice and Performance - Children need lots of practice to learn to read fluently. Performing helps students learn prosody.
  • Repeated Reading - Students choose their own appropriate text or the teacher assigns a passage.  The teacher discusses reading behaviors such as phrasing, rate, intonation, etc.  The students practice their texts several times until fluency has developed.  Poems and rhymes are great for repeated reading.  There are three ways to provide repeated reading experiences: direct instruction (whole class), independent choice, or assisted method (books on tape).
  • Independent Reading - Children choose text on their independent level to read silently.
  • Reader's Theater - Reader’s Theater is an oral performance of a script usually based on authentic literature.  Meaning is conveyed through expression and intonation—students need to interpret the script instead of memorizing it, thus helping with comprehension as well as fluency.  Repeated readings, or rehearsals, helps students build fluency in a natural and authentic manner.
  • Radio Reading - A form of Reader's Theater, students, with copies of the text, perform in front of class.
  • Oral Recitation Lesson - This is a combination of a Reader’s Theater and Round Robin Reading.  In this strategy, the teacher introduces a new selection with the focus being on comprehension.  The teacher reads aloud the text and fosters discussion on the content.  After modeling a fluent reading of the text and teaching the comprehension lesson, the teacher selects students to act out the text while the rest of the class reads it from individual copies.

Nursery rhymes, poems, songs, speeches, etc. are great for performing!

4. Word Study - Children need to build their sight word knowledge in order to recognize words quickly when reading.

Using a list of sight words, such as a Fry's 300 Instant Words and or Fry's Instant Phrases and Short Sentences.

  • Speed drills
  • Flashcard practice
  • Word Walls
  • Sight Word Bingo
  • Vocabulary Activities

Not all students need fluency instruction!

Fluency instruction usually begins in the middle of first grade!

When to Implement Fluency Activities

Here are some ideas on implementing fluency instruction into your curriculum:

  • Whole group instruction

  • Reading groups

  • Literacy Centers

  • At Home

  • Read Alouds

  • Silent Reading Time

Literacy Center Ideas:

  • Listening Center - children can listen to books on tape.

  • Poetry Center - children copy and read poems.

  • Song Center - children learn to read and sing songs.

  • Recording Center - children read a story on tape.

Assessing Fluency

Repeated Reading Rate: A child reads a text. Teacher counts how many words were read correctly in one minute.  Child does a few repeated readings of the same text as the teacher charts the progress of child on a graph. This tests for rate.

Miscue Analysis/Running Record:  A child is given a passage to read.  Teacher has copy of the same passage.  Teacher marks incorrect reading or omission of words.  This tests for accuracy.

Using either the Repeated Reading or Miscue Analysis, teachers rate students' overall fluency using an Oral Reading Rubric.

Many schools are now using DIBELS!

The following links will help you learn more about reading fluency.  Included are resources for some of the activities mentioned above as well as ways to assess the students.

To learn more about fluency and instruction:
5 Surefire Strategies Developing Reading Fluency Fluency: A Review of Practices
Reading Rockets Fluency Fluency Instruction

Fluency Activities Chart
To help plan activities

Teaching Fluency with Maryann Wolf
Includes worksheets!!
Building Fluency How Parents Can Promote Fluency At Home
Video Clip on Fluency Instruction Reading First: Fluency Fluent Readers Get It!
Repeated Reading Strategy Paired Reading Assisted Reading Practice
Error Correction and Word Drill Choral Reading Method Taped Book Method
Choral Reading/Duet Reading Paired Reading Parent Letter on Paired Reading
Using Echo Reading Buddy Readers Word Study and Fluency
Online Workshop
Repeated Reading Using Repeated Reading Reading Fluency
Repeated Reading Chart Oral Recitation Lesson Oral Recitation Lesson 2
Oral Recitation Lesson Fluency in Silent Reading Fluency Oriented Instruction
Article on using basal readers for fluency instruction
Fitting Fluency Into Your Schedule Reading Links Fluency Manual Fluency Reading Rate
See pg. 16 of this document
See the page on Reader's Theater for more ideas and information!
Songs, Poems, Nursery Rhymes, and Online Stories
Using Poetry to Teach Reading Funny Poetry for Children Poetry Unit
Poetry with Pizzazz Links Holiday Poems Can Teach Songs and Poems
Songs 4 Teachers Clickable Poems Favorite Poem
Enchanted Learning Rebus Rhymes Poetry 4 Kids Mother Goose Pages
Children's Story Nursery Rhymes Nursery Rhymes with Music Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
Children's Story Little Animal's Activity Center Scholastic Kids
The Story Place Beatrix Potter Book Pop: Story Pop