Reading fluency is measured by three primary criteria:
- Accuracy: the reader’s ability to correctly pronounce words.
- Prosody: the reader’s ability to convey expression.
- Speed: the pace at which the reader reads the text.
Sometimes automaticity, the ability to read words effortlessly, is also used as a criterion. For example, a struggling reader might think slowly and carefully in order to be more accurate, but this would lower their automaticity.
Strategies for Teaching Reading Fluency
Because reading fluency is a combination of several different reading skills, effective strategies for increasing fluency address multiple skills at once and help students connect the skills together.
The table below summarizes what skills each type of activity reinforces.
Teacher-modeled reading: Read aloud to students, emphasizing your own fluency and prosody. Select stories of particular interest to your students that also include challenging vocabulary. Pause to discuss and define new words. Reread stories until students become familiar enough to read the stories on their own. Then have students reread the text to a teacher, tutor, reading partner/peer, or parent. This kind of modeling will enhance students’ vocabulary and spark interest in reading.
Supervised oral reading: Ask students to read texts aloud to you or to a tutor. Encourage students to reread the same text to increase familiarity. Working with students one-on-one allows you to identify specific vocabulary or phonic needs.
Choral reading: Direct students to read orally with you and in unison. Select short texts for this strategy. First, read the text aloud to students and identify any new vocabulary. Then reread the text, inviting students to read along out loud when they recognize the text.
Partner/small group reading: Organize students into pairs or small groups to read semi-independently. Place students at similar reading levels in groups. Encourage students to take turns reading aloud to each other from a common book. Alternatively, ask strong readers to read aloud to struggling readers.
Independent reading: Reading fluency increases the more students read. Encourage students to read texts that they are able to read without support. Encourage repeated reading to develop familiarity and to teach students how to self-correct. Gradually extend silent reading times as students’ reading fluency increases.
Readers’ theater: Direct students in a dramatic enactment of a play or book. Select a book that is familiar to students. Assign students to individual parts to read and encourage them to add movement, costumes, and/or set materials. Invite others (peers, parents, and visitors) to watch.
Literature circles: Organize students into small groups to discuss a common text. Literature circles promote engagement in reading by giving students an opportunity to talk about a book: their overall impressions or responses, their analysis of characters and plot, and personal connections they can make to the story. Encourage students to read aloud from the text when providing evidence or speaking about a particular part of the book. In a literature circle, group students by the text they have read rather than by reading levels.
Instructional Strategies for Teaching Comprehension of Literary Texts
There are many strategies for scaffolding and building student comprehension. Some comprehension strategies can apply to all texts, while others differ depending on the type of text. Some strategies focus on preparing students to read, others on supporting students while reading, and still others on helping students process material after reading.
Motivation: Good readers read a wide variety of literature, depending on grade and reading level. Teachers should encourage students to seek out different types of texts to develop different types of comprehension.
- Daily independent reading of student-selected and peer- or teacher-recommended books
- Independent reading in a specific topic of interest
- One-on-one guided reading
- Small group book discussions
- Book talks to share an interesting text/book
- Text-to-real world connections
- Discussing a wide range of reading materials in different forms, from different genres, and related to different cultures and backgrounds
- Communicating with parents to increase at-home reading and parent involvement.
Scaffolding: Good readers build on simpler skills to develop other skills that are more difficult. To increase comprehension, teachers should also work to improve other reading skills in students.
- Phonemic awareness
- Phonics and word recognition
- Vocabulary development
Before Reading All Texts
Schema development: Good readers connect their schema (background of knowledge) to the information that is being read. Teachers should activate, review, and/or develop background information before starting to read a text.
- Viewing and discussing relevant slides, videos, pictures, etc.
- Asking students questions before reading
- “Have any of you ever…?
- Can you tell us something about…?
- What do you know about …”
NOTE: The experiences that students have in their schema are vastly different depending on their cultural, linguistic, and family backgrounds. It is important that the teacher does not assume background knowledge but rather teaches students how to independently develop their schema when approaching a new text.
Previewing: Good readers can gain a basic understanding of what they are going to read before they begin. Teachers should provide students the opportunity to make predictions about their reading based on structural elements of the text.
- Reading the titles and subtitles of a chapter or section
- Examining illustrations, pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
- Identifying familiar key vocabulary
- Defining new and challenging vocabulary
While Reading All Texts
Self-monitoring: Good readers know when they understand what they are reading and when they do not. Teachers should provide students ample opportunity to pause and reflect on reading. When students realize they are not understanding, they can then use “fix-up” strategies to identify and resolve any problems with comprehension.
- Paraphrasing the difficult passage in their own words
- Skimming back through the text to see if some parts need to be reread
- Skimming forward into the text to search for information that might be helpful
- Asking for help from a teacher or peer
- Visualizing: making mental pictures about what is happening
- Creating graphic organizers
Questioning: Good readers actively question while they are reading. Teachers should provide students the opportunity to ask questions of themselves or others about what is being read. These questions provide focus and purpose to the reading. Student-generated questions can also be used after reading for review.
- Talk and Turn or Elbow Partner Discussions
- Keeping a reading journal
- Answering questions while reading
- Asking students to generate questions while reading
- Determining the main idea
- What is the story mostly about?
- What does the author want us to know?
- What is the purpose of this text?
- What details support the main idea?
- Determining cause and effect
- What caused that to happen toward the end of the story?
- What was the effect of …?
- How did ____ cause ____?
- Determining sequence of events or information
- What happened first, second, third, etc.?
- What do I think will happen next?
- Does my prediction seem correct, or do I need to change it?
Using Graphic Organizers: Good readers can translate what they are reading into a visual representation. Teachers should provide students different organizational tools for mapping the structure of a text or making connections between ideas.
- Story/plot maps (example below)
- Web maps
- Line graphs
- Venn diagrams
After Reading All Texts
Summarizing: Good readers can synthesize, or pull together, important information from the text and put it into their own words. Teachers should scaffold summarizing skills to focus students on including only the main points, rather than in-depth details. Being able to summarize helps students remember what they have read.
- Written summaries
- Written retelling (main points or certain sections)
- Dramatic play recreation
- Small group or whole class discussion
- Technology-based projects
- Reading journal covering key points of what they have read
Paraphrasing: Good readers can retell information from a text using their own words. Teachers can ask students to paraphrase after reading a section, or at the end of reading the text.
- Written retelling of a particular section
- Dramatic play
- Turn and Talk
- Jigsaw with student “experts”
Making Generalizations: Good readers can develop generalized statements about a subject or text by making connections between different parts of a reading. Teachers should ask students to make generalizations to develop their inferential comprehension skills. Teachers can model and help students develop this skill by teaching sentence stems. A helpful sentence stem might be similar to “We read that X and Y happened several times in the reading. Therefore, that must mean that…”
- Turn and Talk
- Jigsaw with student “experts”
- Small group or whole class discussion