Fluency with Text

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What is fluency?

Fluency is the ability to read words, phrases, sentences, and stories accurately, with enough speed, and expression.

Fluency with text is reading words with no noticeable cognitive effort. It is having mastered word recognition skills to the point of becoming so "automatic" that they do not require conscious attention.

Why is fluency important?

It is important to remember that fluency is not an end in itself but a critical gateway to comprehension. Fluent reading frees cognitive resources to process meaning.

Fluency in oral reading includes:

  1. Accuracy, which is reading with few errors.
  2. Reading speed is the rate at which a student reads.
  3. Prosody is the skill of reading aloud with proper intonation, phrasing, and expression (Harn & Chard, 2008).

To be a fluent reader, all three of these components must be in place.

Fluency research says that successful readers …

  • rely primarily on the letters in the word rather than context or pictures to identify familiar and unfamiliar words.
  • process every letter.
  • use letter-sound correspondences to identify words.
  • have a reliable strategy for decoding words.
  • read words a sufficient number of times for them to become automatic. (Hasbrouck, 1998)

When should teachers focus on fluency with connected text?

Fluency develops through plentiful opportunities for practice in which the task can be performed with a high rate of success.

For students to develop fluency with connected text, they must first be able to decode words accurately. They must also be able to decode words quickly and effortlessly.

Why focus on fluency?

To gain meaning from text, students must read fluently. Proficient readers are so automatic with each component reading skill (phonological awareness, decoding, vocabulary) that they focus their attention on constructing meaning from the print (Kuhn & Stahl, 2000). These component reading skills need to be well developed to support understanding. It is not enough to be simply accurate; the skills must be automatic.

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Suggested Citation

National Center on Improving Literacy (2020). Fluency with text. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Improving Literacy. Retrieved from http://improvingliteracy.org.

References

Harn, B., & Chard, D. (2008). Teaching tutorial 6: Repeated readings to promote fluency. Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD).

Hasbrouck (1998). Reading fluency: Principles for instruction and progress monitoring. Professional Development Guide. Austin, TX: Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts, University of Texas at Austin.

Kuhn, M.R. & Stahl, S.A. (2000). CIERA Report #2-008. Fluency: A review of developmental and remedial practices. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.

University of Oregon, Center on Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Big Ideas in Beginning Reading. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://reading.uoregon.edu/.