Reading fluency refers to how accurately and smoothly a person reads a passage of written text. A fluent reader is able to read quickly without stopping to decode individual words. Fluent readers use expression in their voices as they read because they can focus on the meaning and intent behind the words. Increasing a child's fluency allows him to better comprehend the text because he doesn't have to stop to figure out the words. Many activities and teaching strategies help students increase their fluency.
Modeling fluent reading creates a good foundation for fluency instruction. Kids learn many of their habits from seeing and hearing others. Pay attention to how you read to students. Keep a good flow, whether you're reading from a textbook or a picture book. Add emphasis and inflection in your voice as you read. The fluent readers in the class are also good role models for fluency.
Selecting the text to use for fluency activities is an important consideration. Text that is too difficult will be impossible for the students to read fluently and will likely cause frustration. A book that is at the children's independent reading level is best. Children should be able to read about 95 percent of the text with accuracy for it to fall in the independent level. This level won't be the same for every child in the class. Use prior reading assessments to determine the appropriate level for each child. Leveled reading sets make the text selection easier once you identify each child's independent reading level. Passages that are familiar work best for fluency.
Teaching sight words is another strategy to improve fluency in reading. When sight words are committed to memory, the student reads them instantly. He doesn't struggle to decode the words, which will slow him down. The larger the sight word vocabulary a child has, the more fluent he will be. A word wall is a good way to review sight words in the classroom. Place a heading for each letter of the alphabet on the wall. Under each letter, place word cards with sight words written on them. games such as Concentration and Bingo also work well for reviewing sight words. Flash cards are a standard and effective way to review the basic sight words as well.
This fluency activity works well if you have parent or high school volunteers in the classroom who can work with individual students. It also works well as an extension activity for parents to do at home with kids. Echo reading involves an adult reading a sentence first. The child then repeats or echoes the sentence. By listening to the adult read first, the student is able to more easily read words that might be difficult for him. She is able to practice fluent reading throughout the text in this way. The more a child practices fluent reading, the easier it becomes in other texts.
A running record is a strategy to help the teacher plan and adapt reading fluency activities. A running record is basically a passage read by the student while the teacher documents any errors. You'll need your own copy of the text that you can write on as the child reads. Have the child read for one minute. If a child reads a word incorrectly, write the word he said above the actual word. Make another mark if he corrects himself. Substitutions, omissions and reversed words are also marked. An accuracy rate is calculated by dividing the total number of words read correctly by the total words read. If the child read 95 words correctly from a total of 100 words read, his accuracy rating is 95 percent. A running record can help determine the child's independent reading level as well as identify common errors or problems.