building fluency

Building Reading Fluency in Beginning Readers

What is reading fluency? According to Reading Rockets, “fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression.” By reading fluently, either in their head or out loud, children will be able to better understand what they read.

fluency checklist

Read on to learn more about each component of reading fluency. You will also find effective activities for improving your child’s reading speed, accuracy, and expression that I have used with my own tutoring students. I hope you find the ideas below helpful!

Building fluency: Reading with Speed

When you hear the term “reading with speed,” you may imagine students flying through texts as fast as they possibly can. This can be deceiving, because that is not quite what the goal is. When students are reading, it should be at the same pace as a conversation. Not so slow that their reading sounds labored, but not too fast that you can’t keep up. Their pace should be somewhere in the middle, like how you would talk to a friend.

Reading at different speeds can affect comprehension. If your child is reading very slowly, they are probably spending too much time trying to figure out each word. It can be difficult for beginning readers to decode, or figure out the words, while also making meaning of what they read. This is why reading too slowly can reduce comprehension. However, on the other end of the spectrum, if your child is reading extremely quickly, they may be thinking more about reading each word as fast as they can and less about understanding what they are reading. If they slow down, they will retain more information.

So how do you know if your child is reading at an appropriate pace?

While each child is different, there are researched-based, grade-appropriate norms that you can use to gauge your child’s reading speed. The chart below shows the National Oral Reading Fluency Norms from Hasbrouck & Tindal. Fluency is measured in WCPM, or words correct per minute. This is the number of words that your child can read correctly in one minute when reading a grade-appropriate passage. By comparing your child’s WCPM to the national norms, this will give you an idea of what your child’s fluency and reading speed.

Activities for Building Reading Speed:
  • Repeated Readings – Reading a text multiple times allows students to build their reading speed. On the first reading, students many need to spend extra time sounding out challenging words, however, by the second or third reading, they know what to expect. This allows them to read more fluently and increase their speed. While any text will work, it is important that it is on your child’s instructional level. Reading A-Z is a wonderful sight with a large collection of short, leveled passages, however you do have to purchase a subscription to use their resources.
  • Fast Phrases – This activity was created by the Florida Center for Reading Research. It is a quick game that kids love and is great for building reading speed. Students read short phrases as quickly and accurately as they can in a certain amount of time.

Building Fluency: Reading with Accuracy

Whether or not your child is reading the words accurately is extremely important when it comes to reading comprehension. If they are not able to read the words correctly, there is no way that they’ll be able to understand what they read.

There are two types of words your child might be having trouble with: decodable words and non-decodable words. Decodable words are words that your child can sound out with appropriate phonics instruction. If your child is having trouble sounding out words, they may need further instruction on various phonics skills. Non-decodable words are words that your child can’t really sound out correctly because they are not spelled phonetically. These words must be memorized by sight, and are frequently called sight words. To read more about sight words, check out my post Teaching Sight Words with Picture Cues.

Activities for Building Reading Accuracy:
  • I Can Read Simple Sentences and Simple Stories – Besides practicing words in isolation, it is important to practice reading words accurately in context. If a book is too overwhelming for your child, try starting with short phrases or sentences.  One product I love is I Can Read Simple Sentences and Simple Stories created by the Moffatt Girls, which you can purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers. This product presents a variety of short, simple sentences in fun, interactive ways that allow students to build their fluency and their confidence all while having fun.

Building fluency: Reading with Expression

While reading with expression may not seem like the most important quality, it is a characteristic of a fluent reader. Reading with expression makes the text more interesting and engaging. It not only encompasses tone, but also proper phrasing and punctuation. This can make the meaning clear. For example, if a sentence is supposed to be read as a question, but is instead read as a statement, this may confuse the intended meaning. Additionally, if a child adds in multiple pauses where there should not be, or breaks up phrases incorrectly, the text may sound choppy and be difficult to understand.

This characteristic of fluency is probably the last one that students will master. However, as with any skill, it must be practiced. When reading with your child, it is important to point out different types of punctuation and explain what they mean and how they change the way a sentence is read. The best way to do this is to lead by example. When you are reading aloud to your child, be sure to add in expression.

Activities for Building Expression:
  • Fluency Scoops by This Reading Mama – I love using this resource by This Reading Mama to teach proper phrasing.
  • Explain the meaning behind punctuation marks and why they are so important. Read the book Punctuation Takes a Vacation to showcase its importance.

reading fluency

While all of the activities mentioned above are excellent for building fluency skills, one that cannot be left out is modeling fluent reading for your child. Read aloud to them or listen to books on tape so they can hear what fluent reading should sound like. And last, but not least, practice, practice, practice!

What other activities do you use to help your child practice fluent reading?

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