Fluency development for early readers is a vital task for establishing comprehension and creating advanced readers.
M any people are familiar with the term fluency when it means proficiency in a foreign language, but when it comes to reading, fluency has a different meaning that may not be as familiar.
R eading fluency, the fourth pillar of reading instruction, has to do with the ability to decode words—apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships and letter patterns—accurately and automatically.
F luency for early readers means that less time is spent on identifying and pronouncing words so that more time can be devoted to building vocabulary and attending to comprehension of the text that they are reading.
Learn more about the importance of Early Literacy from our other resources on the subject.
B ecause decoding skills are needed for fluency, and decoding skills depend on knowledge of the relationships between sounds and letters, students must have skills in phonemic awareness and phonics to develop fluency. Developing fluency for early readers is not just a good idea--it is essential for long-term academic success.
F luency has real world implications, especially as students reach the critical period described by Jeanne Chall as the “fourth-grade slump”.
The national multimedia literacy initiative Reading Rockets notes, "As readers head into upper elementary grades, fluency becomes increasingly important. The volume of reading required in the upper elementary years escalates dramatically. Students whose reading is slow or labored will have trouble meeting the reading demands of their grade level."
Early Reading Activities: Improving Fluency for Early Readers
Assess students’ accuracy, automaticity, words-per-minute rate, and comprehension through reading assessments
Monitor progress regularly
Identify any causes for reading difficulty—weak decoding skills, speech pathologies, language processing issues, etc., as early as possible
Ensure students have mastered phonemic awareness and phonics skills and provide explicit instruction for any gaps in their knowledge of the alphabetic principle
Model fluent reading for students
Read a sentence/passage and have students read it back to you
Have students read along with you (paired/choral reading)
Read to students a sentence or section of text and have the students follow along, but at intervals, omit individual words and have the students supply them (cloze reading)
Have students reread texts independently that you have previously read together
Allow students to do oral reading with partners
Encourage younger students to use a finger to follow along with what is being read (directional tracking/finger tracking)
Model how to adapt a voice’s tone, stress, loudness, pausing, and pace, etc., to convey meaning and attitude (prosody)
Offer many opportunities and adequate time for students to practice what they’re learning
Give students oral reading opportunities like readers’ theatre or poetry reading to allow for individual creativity and personal interests
Ensure that students are also working on improving their skills in grammar, syntax, morphology , vocabulary, and punctuation, as all of these skills also affect the development of fluency
Have students listen to books on tape as they follow along using print versions of the books