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 home >> Essentials for Reading Success: Components of Reading: Fluency

A Florida State University Center


Fluency is the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.
Fluency develops over time through supported and repeated reading practice. Fluency develops as students are able to recognize words “by sight”, decode unfamiliar words, and construct meaning more actively and rapidly. It is important for teachers to understand that “sight words” are not just the small number of irregular words they directly teach students, but eventually all words become sight words as they are repeatedly read correctly in text. It is the students’ ability to recognize very large numbers of words “at a single glance” that is one of the most important factors underlying the development of reading fluency in the early elementary grades. Teachers should use read-alouds, recorded books, peer reading, and discussions to model the elements of expression, intonation, phrasing, and rate. One important reason for teaching students to read prosodically is that it will help to focus their attention on the meaning of what they are reading—it is difficult to read with proper expression if students do not actively construct meaning as they read. Daily oral reading experiences with teacher feedback should be provided at the student’s instructional reading level. Practice at the student’s independent reading level is also necessary. Fluent readers are so skilled at identifying the words in print, and they do it so easily and effortlessly, that they are able to devote most of their attention to constructing the meaning of what they read.

Elements of Effective Fluency Instruction
In order for students to become fluent readers, they must first become accurate readers, so the ultimate development of fluency depends on:
  • Strong instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics
  • Many opportunities to listen to models of fluent reading
  • Multiple opportunities to practice reading with text at the right level of difficulty
Oral Reading Fluency Activities that Foster Fluency
Vocabulary instruction should provide students with an understanding of the meaning and use of words. This enables them to comprehend what they read and communicate effectively. Components of an effective vocabulary program include indirect and direct methods. Vocabulary can be acquired indirectly by engaging in discussion sessions after listening to recorded books on audio, teacher read-alouds, or reading independently. Direct methods include the explicit teaching of specific words and word-learning strategies.

When teaching vocabulary, select 12 – 15 words per week that are outside of the students’ current oral vocabulary and that the students are likely to encounter frequently in text. The words should be interesting, useful, and offer students a more sophisticated way of expressing familiar concepts. Multiple exposures to the meaning of unfamiliar words deepen students‘ understanding of a specific word and how it functions in different contexts. Word-learning strategies include morphemic analysis to understand the meaningful parts of words and contextual analysis to infer the meaning from the surrounding text and definitions. Teachers should be aware that dictionary definitions are frequently not helpful to young students and the teacher will need to provide a “student-friendly” definition (e.g., “fortunate” –when you are lucky, or “absurd" -when something is silly or goofy). Students develop an increased interest in and awareness of words when rich and varied vocabulary experiences are provided.

Powerful Vocabulary Instruction Includes: