Fluency - An Overview

Fluency is defined as the ability to read words accurately, smoothly, with expression, and at an appropriate rate.

Before jumping in to learning about Fluency test your knowledge by taking this pretest.

WHAT is Fluency

There are four Elements of Fluency

  • Accuracy is the ability to read the words in the text as they are written. The goal of accurate reading is automatic and effortless word recognition—no decoding, no word solving, just reading.
  • Rate is the speed at which a person reads text. The goal is for the reader to have the ability to read the text at the appropriate speed, and to determine what is appropriate based on the nature of the text.
  • Phrasing is the ability to group words together, as in normal speech, pausing appropriately between phrases, clauses, and sentences. Phrasing requires readers to read texts in meaningful chunks, paying attention to prepositions and punctuation.
  • Expression is the ability to read words in text with the appropriate stress and intonation. It’s often called “reading with feeling.” Prosody, the defining feature of expressive reading, requires proficiency in all the variables that speakers use to help convey aspects of meaning and to make their speech lively: timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation.

WHY Fluency is Critical to Reading Development

Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Fluency allows readers to make meaning from a text “on the run.”

Fluency is also a window into children’s reading development. By listening to them read, we can determine what to focus our instruction on.

Disfluency (a lack of fluent reading behaviors) can lead to an inability to comprehend. When a child’s reading slows down periodically, it is difficult for them to make meaning from the text because so much of their mental energy is devoted to deciphering words. Reading can become a labored, tedious task that is almost completely devoid of meaning, satisfaction, and enjoyment. If reading always consistently take so much work, children will, understandably, not persist through text, and not be motivated to read in the first place.

Fluency is connected to the other areas of literacy instruction. Phonological awareness is the process by which readers start understanding how sounds make up words and phonics is the understanding of how letters and sounds are connected. Early literacy skills like these lead directly into the process of decoding. The more skilled a reader is with decoding, the more fluent they become. As fluency increases, so, too, does the reader’s ability to comprehend what they are reading. When readers no longer have to think about every sound and letter and can, instead, read with automaticity, their brains can attend to meaning. Fluency, supported by phonemic awareness and phonics, is vital to reading comprehension.

HOW Do We Teach Fluency

We can support fluency growth in three important ways:

  • Read to children. Reading aloud allows children to hear what fluent reading sounds like. While reading to children, we model and explicitly teach what it takes to read accurately, at an appropriate rate, and with good phrasing and expression.
  • Provide supported practice. This experience lets children feel what it’s like to apply fluency skills. Having children read repetitive lines in text together or share a rhyming poem helps them get a feel for rhythm and patterns.
  • Give children time to read. Children should read often. When they read and reread texts, they gain fluency and are able to read smoothly with each repeated reading. This reading time also enhances motivation. The more children read, the more they want to read.

Comments (13)

  1. Michelle Bergman 
    Michelle Bergman 

    Excellent introductory video, thorough and engaging. Good templates, too. I would like to have seen a video using Readers' Theatre. I find it's a technique that is not used very often.

  2. Phyllis Ray 
    Phyllis Ray 

    I was familiar with readers' theater, but all of these additional resources will be so beneficial to teachers for some of their "struggling readers" in the older grades (3-5) as well in our K-3 classrooms!

  3. Josephine Arcaro 
    Josephine Arcaro 

    My favorite of these templates is Shared Reading - An Instructional Method. So many of my teachers are asking for the answer to What is Shared Reading Supposed to be/look like? I would love to give them this document.

  4. Penny Silver 
    Penny Silver 

    Loved the CLI templates/expectations for fluency.Thinking that these will help teachers create a reason/understanding that there are a variety of options to do this…especially through Shared reading,poetry, and the highly underused/rated, Readers Theater