Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 370, Chapter 8: Reading Fluency

Defining Oral Reading Fluenct

Fluency means reading easily and well or the ability to read expressively and meaningfully, as well as accurately and with appropriate speed. Fluency has three parts:

  1. Accuracy in word decoding: readers must be able to sound out words (using phonics and other word decoding strategies). Mediated word identification may need to be used. This means that the reader may need more time to retrieve words from their long-term memory.
  2. Automatic processing or automaticity: readers use as little mental effort as possible in the decoding or text, saving mental energy for comprehension.
  3. Prosody or prosodic reading: a linguistic concept that refers to such features in oral language as intonation, pitch, stress, pauses, and the duration placed on specific syllables.

Effective fluency instruction has three parts too: instruction, practice, and assessment. Fluency instruction should incorporate the teaching of basic skills such a phonemic awareness and phonics. It should also model what fluency looks and sounds like. Fluency practice includes the use of decodable text and other independent-level texts to strengthen the sounds and spelling that are taught in the classroom.

The final component to fluency is assessment. Assessing fluency can be done relatively easily and requires little time, especially with today’s available technology.

Predictable text can be read with ease. Predictable books have context or setting that is familiar or predictable to most students. The pictures should also support the text. The story line is predictable and there may be a repetitive pattern. There are several different kinds of predictable texts:

  • Chain or Circular Stories (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie)
  • Cumulative Stories (The Gingerbread Man)
  • Pattern Stories (The Three Billy Goats Gruff)
  • Question and Answer Stories (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?)
  • Repetition of Phrase (Goodnight Moon)
  • Rhyme (Is Your Mama a Llama?)
  • Songbooks (Over in the Meadow)

Strategies to Assist with Fluency

  • Choral reading is reading aloud in unison with a whole class or group of students.
  • Echo reading is a method of modeling oral reading in which the teacher reads a line of a story and then the students echo by reading the same line back, imitating the teacher’s intonation and phrasing.
  • Fluency-oriented reading instruction (FORI) was developed for whole group instruction with a grade-level basal reader. FORI incorporates the research-based practices of repeated, assisted reading with independent silent reading within a three-part classroom program. The three components are a reading lesson that includes teacher-led, repeated oral reading and partner reading, a free-reading period at school, and home reading. The purpose of FORI is to build fluency and comprehension of grade-appropriate text through repeated reading, text-related discussion, and teacher support and guidance before and after reading.
  • Reader’s theater is an oral presentation of drama, prose, or poetry by two or more readers. Reader’s theater differs from orally reading a selection in that several readers take the parts of the characters in the story or play. Instead of memorizing or improvising their parts as in other types of theater productions, the players read them.
  • Repeated readings are done orally and provide additional sensory reinforcement for the reader, allowing him or her to focus on the prosodic elements of reading that are essential of phrasing. Oral readings also ensure that the student is actually reading, not skimming or scanning the text. This involves simply having a child reading a short passage from a book, magazine, or newspaper more than once with differing amounts of support.
  • Paired repeated readings is where students select their own passage from the material with which they are currently working with. Students first read their own passages silently and then take turns reading them out loud.
  • The fluency development lesson has five steps to follow. Those steps are:
    1. Read the text to the class while students follow along silently
    2. Discuss the content of the text
    3. Together, read the text chorally several times
    4. Have the class practice reading the text in pairs
    5. With the entire class, have volunteers perform the text as individuals, pairs, or groups of four
  • Automated reading or listening while reading a text
  • The oral recitation lesson has two parts: direct instruction and student practice. The first part incorporates comprehension, practice, and then performance. The second part involves practicing until mastery is achieved.
  • Support reading strategy and cross-age reading both emphasize specific aspects of fluency training and integrate the teaching of fluency with other important aspects of reading, such as comprehension and word recognition.

Parents can also be involved in their student’s learning by:

  • Reading more
  • Reading aloud
  • Rereading familiar texts
  • Echo-reading
  • Using predictable books

Assessing Oral Reading Fluency

The easiest way to do this is to listen to them read orally and keep records of assessment. Fluency assessments help teachers determine if their instructional approaches are working, and if more instruction is needed for some students.

The simplest way to formally assess fluency is to take timed samples of students’ reading and compare their performance with published oral reading fluency norms or standards. The number of correct words per minute assesses both accuracy and automaticity, also known as reading rate. To get a word-correct-per-minute (WCPM) score, students are assessed individually as they read for one minute from an unpracticed, unfamiliar, grade-level passage of text.

Vacca, J. L., Vacca, R. T., & Gove, M. K. (2012). Reading and learning to read (8th ed.). New York: Longman.

Classroom Application

I really enjoyed reading about all the different fluency strategies. I like how some of them were for large groups and how some were for small groups or individuals. I have seen choral reading done before but not much echo reading which really interested me. I also liked how the text mentioned that assessment can be done by simply just listening to the students read. This makes reading assessment seem a lot less stressful than having to do a formal assessment.


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