Reading Strategies: Fluency

A Critical Foundation for Reading Success

Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly, either silently or orally. Because this ability requires immediate identification of the letters of words and their associated sounds, phonemic awareness and mastery of basic phonics skills are necessary for true fluency to develop. 

At the word level, fluent reading is established after a student reads a word at least four times using accurate phonological processing (accurate sounding out of a word). A quick look at the word activates a stored neural model that allows for fast reading as well as correct pronunciation and understanding of the word. 

Teacher teaching fluency strategies to students.

In fluent reading at the passage level, students are not focusing time and energy on deconstructing and analyzing words; they are decoding words words automatically and focusing instead on reading and understanding the text. 

Learn more about decoding, teaching, and reading strategies by visiting the Reading Horizons Reading Strategies Homepage.

Strategies to Develop Fluency

Fluency strategies are important because they facilitate student comprehension of text. The following teaching strategies help students develop fluent reading.

Develop a Left-to-Right Tracking Habit

Reading Horizons has built-in teaching devices that help immensely with directional tracking. From the earliest lessons, we teach students to join consonant and vowel sounds into slides (for more information on slides, see Phonemic Awareness). Slides are taught in a left-to-right direction, which begins building in students a left-to-right tracking habit. The more students work with slides, the more internalized that tracking habit becomes. 

Boy using a left-to-right tracking habit.

Once students start creating words from slides, they are taught to mark underneath each word—also from left to right. This marking directionality reinforces the tracking habit and ensures that students are still seeing and processing each sound in the correct order. Eventually, as students become more fluent, they will be able to decode words automatically and read them accurately and quickly—and the tracking habit will have become second nature. 

The following tips will also help students develop directional tracking:

  1. Use a pointer, such as a pencil or index finger, and move it along the line that is being read. Instruct the students to keep the pointer moving steadily, without stopping or hesitating. Gradually increase the speed of the pointer. Have students look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary (for both meaning and pronunciation) after they have finished reading the passage.
  2. In reading practice, ask students to read aloud. Reading aloud helps them become more aware of the sounds and spellings of the words and the modality of their voices as it stores all together in their memory.
  3. Ask a fluent reader to choose a page or two from a novel or an article from a newspaper, and ask them to record it, reading normally. Next, replay the recording and have a struggling reader read the same passage aloud while trying to emulate the same fluency as the fluent reader. Draw attention to pace, pronunciation, punctuation, intonation, emphasis, pauses, etc.

Read Aloud Challenging Texts

Because most students have a higher level of listening comprehension than reading comprehension, reading aloud to students at a level slightly above their current reading level exposes them to texts that stretch their current reading ability. When they follow along and see how the teacher emphasizes different words, pauses at commas and periods, and pronounces difficult words, they can increase their own reading fluency. AND, because they have an adult guiding conversations and answering questions about such challenging reading materials, they can comprehend texts they would otherwise not comprehend on their own.

Learn more about reading comprehension ›

Learn more about early reading skills 

Download our free Fluency Resource Kit

Learn how fluency strategies can help your students succeed:

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