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