Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fluency Part 1: The Importance of Reading Fluently

Before I became a teacher, the lovely state of California require that I spend some certain amount of hours volunteering in a classroom. So began the hoops (credential programs are quite infamous for hoop-jumping). I spent 45 hours-ish in a elementary classroom in Oakland. And what did I come away with? A lot of criticism for the school and the teacher. Of course, the newbie that I was, I saw flaws with the educational system, classroom behavior standards, the teaching curriculum, and methods.

For example, I was critical of the students' practice of fluency passages. Why? It seemed like a senseless use of time- reading and rereading a passage to get a faster time. I assumed they collected these scores so that the city of Oakland could have some quick data with which to proclaim growth in reading- perhaps true, but completely cynical (and naive) of me. I thought the practice of these passages seemed like a complete waste of time. Little did I know...

It's easy to be critical. Especially when it's not your classroom. Especially as a new (or seasoned) teacher. Especially as someone unversed in reading theory and best practices.

A few years down the road, after I got my credential, after I taught middle school for a couple of years (which I loved!)...I learned a little more about fluency...why it's important...what it tells us about a child's reading...and how we should strive to improve it. So, the blinders came off, and I learned that fluency is more than reading a passage faster and faster, and it actually is a fabulous window into a child's overall reading ability.

Little did I know...
The National Reading Panel  did a study, and (italicized print below is from thier site) the Panel's thorough research on reading instruction was conducted by five subgroups, which focused on (1) Alphabetics, (2) Fluency, (3) Comprehension, (4) Teacher Education and Reading Instruction, and (5) Computer Technology and Reading Instruction.

Little did I know...
Reading fluency is one of several critical factors necessary for reading comprehension.

Little did I know...
If children read out loud with speed, accuracy, and proper expression, they are more likely to comprehend and remember the material than if they read with difficulty and in an inefficient way.

Little did I know...
Guided repeated oral reading, encourages students to read passages out loud with systematic and explicit guidance and feedback from their teacher. And these repeated reads are one key way to improve a child's reading fluency.

So, again, it's easy to be critical (like I was), especially about fluency. But unless you know the theory behind why we have students practice fluency, then maybe you should hold your tongue (or your inner thoughts). I wish I did.

I'm going to write a few posts on fluency strategies and activities that I like to use with my reading intervention students. I just wanted to start off by stating that a child's ability to read fluently (good rate, expression, phrasing, etc...) is very important. And as reading teachers, there are some fairly simple things we can do to improve our student's fluency-- which will eventually lead to improved comprehension and reading confidence-- which is the end goal indeed.

Read On! Teach On!


  1. I am a literacy coach in NC and I have encouraged my staff to use the word automaticity as they refer to fluency with students and parents. Some of our students are trying to read so fast that they do not comprehend anything and then they are unable to retell or state details about the passage. So automaticity is our word for reading fluent.....read like we talk :)

  2. @ anon NC lit coach- Great comment! Yes, that's a excellent term (automaticity) to introduce to teachers, parents, students. I should use it more often. When kids stop thinking about word chunking, decoding, sounding things out, etc...they achieve automaticity and they can focus on comprehension.

    I also have kids that read through puctuation marks to read faster- and like you said, they really don't understand the text then. I use Read like we talk too- unfortunately some of my kids mumble and don't enunciate when they talk, so I wish I had a different prompt for those kids. Do you have any ideas for that issue?


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