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Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop

Fluency and Word Study Extend Your Knowledge | Fluency and Word Study

Examine the Topic

Fluent reading, an important goal of literacy instruction, promotes comprehension and personal response to reading. What are the components of fluent reading? How can teachers provide instruction and practice in fluency to ensure effective and interactive comprehension? Read the following statements on the role of fluency in reading instruction. Think about how these statements relate to your own classroom organization and teaching practices, and what questions you have about providing instruction that focuses on fluency to advance comprehension.

When we start thinking about how you would organize classroom instruction or intervention instruction to begin to address the problem of kids who are unable to read fluently, the absolutely essential first feature is to make sure that they have books in their hands they can actually read, read accurately, and probably books that they have some background knowledge and experience with. Part of my argument is that one of the reasons we get so many kids who don’t seem to be able to read with fluency is that they get so little practice with what we call high-success reading–and that’s reading with 98 to 99% accuracy and reading with comprehension. I’d even throw in reading in phrases and with intonation.

–Richard Allington

Proficient readers have certain features in common when it comes to word recognition; They not only identify words accurately, they also recognize them quickly. In other words, they have achieved automaticity and no longer need to spend time decoding the vast majority of words they encounter in text. Given that automatic word recognition is prerequisite to becoming a skilled reader, and skilled readers can construct meaning from text, the question becomes, in what ways does this automatic word recognition help lead to reading comprehension? According to several authors, individuals have a limited amount of attention available for reading. This being the case, attention expended on one component of reading is, necessarily, attention that is unavailable for another. When reading, individuals necessarily perform two interdependent tasks: They must both decode the words present in a text and at the same time construct that text’s meaning. Given that these two processes occur simultaneously, the greater the amount of attention expended on word identification, the less that remains available for comprehension. “When considering this issue in terms of fluency development, the question that follows becomes, how do learners make the shift from decoding accurately but deliberately, to decoding automatically? According to a number of authors, the most effective way to ensure that this transition occurs is through extensive practice. As with any skill that requires the coordination of a series of smaller steps to create a unified action, practice assists learners in becoming skilled readers. In the case of reading, this practice consists primarily of repeated exposures to connected text. In other words, the key to the development of students’ automatic word recognition is the provision of extensive opportunities to read a wide variety of connect text.

Kuhn, Melanie. “Fluency in the Classroom: Strategies for Whole-Class and Group Work.” In Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.



Consider your students who are not fluent readers. How do you provide instruction and practice to develop their fluency? Write your answers to the following questions:

  • How can you model and demonstrate fluent reading throughout the day? What factors of fluent reading do you emphasize during these demonstrations?
  • What opportunities do you provide in your daily instruction for reading connected text at “just right” levels?
  • What is the range of reading levels in your classroom library? Do these levels match the reading levels of your students?
  • How can you match appropriate fluency instruction with the wide range of readers in your class? How can you provide opportunities for fluency development in small groups? Pairs? Independent practice?

Tips for New Teachers: Promoting Fluency

Students in the primary grades have learned a core of sight words as well as strategies to decode unknown words. This word knowledge may help them to read accurately, but they may not read fluently–that is, quickly and with appropriate expression. This can have a negative effect on comprehension. Here are some ways to promote fluency and enhance comprehension.

  • Develop a classroom library that includes a wide range of reading levels for independent reading.
  • Provide time each day for students to read at their independent level–98 to 100% accuracy in word recognition and adequate comprehension.
  • Model fluent oral reading during daily read-aloud.
  • Provide reasons for students to reread text (ask students to reread text to support their answers for a discussion).
  • Have students create and participate in Reader’s Theater.
  • Encourage students to choose character parts and read dialogue with a partner.
  • Have students prepare and read to younger students (“reading buddies”).

Based on the following articles:
Johnston, P. “Assessment Conversations.” The Reading Teacher 57, no. 1 (2003): 90-92. Johnston, P. “Literacy Assessment and the Future.” The Reading Teacher 58, no. 7 (2005): 684-686.

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Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2006.
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