When it comes to improving reading comprehension, fluency plays an important role.

I remember when kindergarten focused on creative play and show-and-tell. It gave students many opportunities to practice fluency by verbalizing their thoughts.

Speaking and hearing their own voice allowed for the transfer of those thoughts into writing.

Now that this is not as much a focus in kindergarten, the need for oral reading opportunities seems more important than ever.

Also, there are an increasing number of students coming to our classrooms with English being their second language. These students also need additional support and practice to speak the language. Practicing oral language allows for a smoother transition to writing the language.

As an elementary reading resource teacher, I provide an additional layer of support for classroom teachers. I have been told more than once by teachers whose students I am working with that “these students do not need help with fluency, just comprehension.”

WAIT…WHAT!

Fluency has been defined as “reading text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression” (National Reading Panel, 2000). It provides the connection between word recognition and comprehension.

I would like to share four strategies that have provided me with positive results in improving fluency.

  1. Determine the Reader Type
  2. Repeated Readings
  3. Paired Reading
  4. Pause-Prompt-Praise

Determine the Reader Type

Different students have different needs when it comes to fluency. Determining those needs through an independent reading inventory or running record will allow you to provide the interventions aimed at maximizing growth.

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The best resource I have found for identifying these types comes from Jerry Johns and Roberta Berglund in their book Fluency: Differentiated Interventions and Progress-Monitoring Assessments

Six categories of reader types:

  • Type 1: The student reads fluently (sounds good) but exhibits very poor comprehension.

Targeted Intervention: Develop a concept of reading in which meaning is central.

  • Type 2: The student struggles with words and meaning and has generally weak comprehension.

Targeted Intervention: Develop sight and meaning vocabulary along with comprehension.

  • Type 3: The student stumbles over words but has acceptable to strong comprehension.

Targeted Intervention: Provide systematic instruction to build sight vocabulary.

  • Type 4: The student reads material slowly, at or near grade level, with acceptable to good comprehension.

Targeted Intervention: Develop phrasing and expression while increasing rate.

  • Type 5: The student’s oral reading lacks prosody (e.g., phrasing, tone, pitch, stress, rhythm, pauses, intonation, expression) comprehension varies.

Targeted Intervention: Develop reading that sounds more like talking.

  • Type 6: The student is a severely disabled reader who is functioning far below grade level.

Targeted Intervention: Use materials at the student’s independent and instructional levels. Teach phonics, build sight vocabulary, and focus on meaning.

The 6 types are not set in stone. The groupings of students are fluid in the different categories, they can be changed as needed. Also keep in mind that these interventions are in addition to whole-group activities, such as Teacher Read-alouds and Sustained Silent Reading.

Johns and Berglund also provide additional activities and fiction and non-fiction reading passages for administering running records. This book is just packed full of useful resources!

Repeated Readings

Repeated Readings are where a student, small group or whole group of students practice oral reading of the same passage over and over while being timed with a stopwatch.

It promotes confidence in students as their performance improves. It is beneficial to all students.

I have used passages from their readers, fluency phrases, and poetry to change it up a little.

  • Choose a text on the student’s instructional reading level (85-95% accuracy on word recognition) that is approximately 100 words.
  • Have the student read the selected passage aloud while timing them.
  • Chart the time it took the student to read the text, accounting for any errors that were made.

WPM = # of words x 60 seconds/# of seconds student read (insert free chart for tracking RR)

  • Have students re-read the passage as many times as needed until the reading becomes fluent.

Typical end of grade level targeted number of correct words per minute (according to Hasbrouck & Tindal, 1992, 2006)

End of Grade WPM
1 50
2 90
3 110
4 120
5 140
6 and Up 150

Paired Reading

Strong readers are paired with other readers in the paired reading strategy (whether it be another student, parent, teacher or tutor) to choral read a passage.  Supporting is provided along the way. It improves general fluency and decoding, while giving the students a positive experience with minimal stress.

My favorite resource for this activity is in The Fluent Reader: Oral and Silent Reading Strategies for Building Fluency, Word Recognition & Comprehension by Timothy Rasinski. This book is another tool I highly recommend having in your reading toolbox. It includes theory and practical applications for your fluency needs.

A few tips:

  • Have students sit side-by-side in a comfortable place.
  • Provide an alien or witch finger to use to follow the text while reading with each other.
  • Allow students to give each other a non-verbal signal (such as a gentle nudge of the elbow) to the other student to indicate time to read independently. The other student would then read along silently or whispering.
  • When the student encounters any difficulty such as hesitating over a word, the partner assists and the they proceed to choral read again.
  • If either student hesitates or skips a word, the other student may read it, then it is repeated by the student who struggled.
  • When the student is ready to read independently again, the elbow tap is used again.
  • When the session ends, they discuss the reading behaviors that are improving and any struggles that occurred. A discussion of the text they read also takes place.

I use a response form that is similar to the one provided by Rasinski. Adjust your chart to meet the needs of your students to use with each other.

Pause-Prompt-Praise

Texts that allow students to have a high success rate with while reading orally are critical for students to improve fluency. Those are texts that can be read with 99% accuracy. When the student is reading accurately, the amount of times a teacher will need to interrupt lessons will decrease. This allows for more positive results. When it is necessary for teachers to intercede, a “Pause-Prompt-Praise” strategy is recommended by Richard Allington in his book, What Really Matters in Fluency: Research-Based Practices Across the Curriculum.

  • The teacher takes the first step to PAUSE for approximately three-seconds after a reader misreads. This allows the reader to self-correct without prompting.
  • If the student does not self-correct, the teacher provides a PROMPT. The prompt will depend upon the reader’s skill set, prior knowledge and the type of misreading. Prompts could include various fix-up strategies like, “Did that sound right?”
  • The final step is to PRAISE the student when a self-correction strategy is used during the three-second wait time.
  • It is a good suggestion to go back and review the areas of the text where the strategies were needed, and again praise the student for the use of the strategies where they self-corrected.

Any of these strategies could be adapted for any reading level. Giving students a choice of some passages you have chosen provides some motivation for them to succeed. Using a combination of strategies will meet the needs of students who respond differently to each strategy.

What other strategies do you use to improve fluency with your students?

Please share your comments with me.