Rethinking Fluency

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I’ve had several conversations with amazing teachers lately questioning our teaching routines concerning fluency.  So often we put great emphasis on fluency and it becomes the focus of our student reading goals. 

However, with all the stopwatches, graphing, fluency programs, and anxiety… we are not really seeing the reading gaps close.  What are we doing wrong?  Should we put emphasis on fluency at all?  What can we do differently to see real change?

After years of blunders, these are the tips I have found to create the greatest success in fluency instruction.

9 Tips for Fluency Success!

1- Start fluency at the sound, word, and phrase level.  You don’t need to only practice building fluency with long passages.

2- Accuracy before fluency!  There is no benefit to working on fluency if the student is not first accurate with the text.  Fluency is often the most beneficial when at a student’s independent reading level and 95% accurate.

3- Rereading a text is useful, but only when constructive feedback is given by a fluent, accurate reader. Practicing mistakes doesn’t help!

4- Each rereading should focus on a different component of fluency (accuracy, rate, phrasing and punctuation, and expression).

5- Explicitly teach kids that faster is not always better!  Race-car reading is not the goal.  We should not read aloud faster than normal conversation pace. 

6- The end goal is always comprehension!  Fluent reading frees up the student’s mental desk space to comprehend.  Speed is not as important as making space for comprehension to naturally occur. 

7- Re-readings can be fun!  If you are using a fluency program, it’s your job to bring it to life!  Check out Reading Rev strategies to build student engagement. End the dread of fluency practice! Check out how we bring Read Naturally to life for free here

8- Fluency practice is not just for primary students.  Older kids need fluency practice as well, but re-reading is often left out in intermediate grades.  See how we multi-task by giving weekly fluency passages that relate to our novel studies.  These passages reinforce vocabulary, comprehension, and test-taking skills! Check out a sample here.

9- Use anchor charts, student note catchers, and interactive notebook graphic organizers to teach kids the purpose of fluency practice.  Here are the ones we love!

Most of all, fluency practice should not feel like a punishment or additional work.   The kids that need it the most need to feel like it is just part of an engaging reading lesson. 

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