Reading Fluency

** A guest post by Lynn Givens **

Fluency is made up of “accurate reading of connected text at a conversational rate with appropriate prosody or expression.” (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005)

  • Reading fluency is an essential component of reading.
  • Fluency is reading at an appropriate pace, with accuracy and expression.
  • It involves not only automatic word identification but also the application of prosody (phrasing, rhythm, intonation) at the phrase, sentence and text levels.

  • Fluent reading frees students to understand what they read.
  • Students who are struggling to decode use much of their cognitive energy for that process. This affects their ability to read fluently and to comprehend what they are reading.
  • Poor prosody can lead to confusion through inappropriate groupings of words or through inappropriate or lack of expression.

  • Fluency develops as a result of many opportunities to practice reading. Even students who are struggling readers should be encouraged to read texts that are at their independent level.
  • Fluency can be developed by modelling fluent reading and by having students engage in repeated oral reading. Repeated oral reading is one of the most effective ways to improve fluency.  However, it is critical that the first reading of a passage or text be completed with teacher guidance with corrective feedback provided.  In that way, students will not practice their mistakes over and over.
  • Monitoring students’ fluency progress is important in evaluating instruction and setting instructional goals. As students become fluent with their current level of reading, they should be encouraged and supported to read at a slightly higher level.

  • Guided repeated oral reading with decodable text*, then connected text. We know from a body of research that oral reading can increase fluency. This does not occur when students are asked to read silently.

    “Repeated reading interventions for students with learning disabilities are associated with improvements in reading rate, accuracy, and comprehension” (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002)

  • Ongoing positive feedback This type of feedback is critical so that students can improve their accuracy in reading.

  • Increasing scope of oral reading (words to phrases to sentences to connected text)The first step in fluency is to achieve automaticity in reading isolated words.  If these words are tied to the patterns that a student is learning/has learned, the process becomes more meaningful to the student.  After students can read these isolated words with a high degree of accuracy, they should be incorporated into phrase reading and then used in decodable text.
    *Decodable text is reading material in which the majority of words are linked to phonics instruction using sound spelling/relationships that students have been taught.
  • Increasing complexity of a text (longer words, more complicated sentence structure,etc.)
  • Use of phrase-cued text to help students with reading in meaningful phrases and with pausing appropriately to introduce phrase-cued text, mark short pauses (commas, phrase boundaries within sentences) with one slash (/) and longer pauses (ends of sentences) with two slashes (//).  Model and practice reading this text with students so that they become more familiar with the components of fluent reading.

    Jack be nimble/ Jack be quick/ Jack jumped over/ the candlestick.//
  • Use of fluency strips to practice reading in meaningful phrasesSelect meaningful phrases from a text that students will be reading and write them on sentence strips. Practice reading these strips with students, modelling fluent reading.  When the students see these phrases in the text, point out to them that they have already practiced reading them in meaningful units rather than word by word. Gail and Sue like to hike.  Each year they go to Bass Lake for a week.  They fill their packs with all they will need.  Then they hike into the lake.

                                                   – Bass Lake, High Noon Books

they go to Bass Lake


with all they will need


  • Choral reading, echo reading, buddy reading In choral reading, students read sentences or passages with the teacher. Echo reading involves students reading each sentence after the teacher.  When students participate in partner or buddy reading, they have opportunities to practice repeated oral reading, an effective strategy for improving fluency.

Mrs. Givens has been a teacher of struggling readers and a teacher educator for over 35 years. She served as Director of Intervention at the Florida Center for Reading Research where she was involved in providing intervention training and professional development for teachers throughout Florida. Until recently, Mrs. Givens has been teaching undergraduate reading courses at Florida State University’s School of Teacher Education and teaching and facilitating a practicum for teachers of struggling readers.  As a staff member at Beacon Educator for the past 10 years, she has acted as instructor/facilitator for online teacher endorsement courses in reading. Trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, she spent eight years at the Schenck School in Atlanta, which provided her with a firm foundation in teaching students with dyslexia and other struggling readers. Her goal has always been to provide high-quality, explicit instruction to close the gaps for students who are having reading difficulties and to instruct teachers on how to do this as well.


To assist in this effort, Mrs. Givens has published several unique instructional materials, the Connect to Comprehension reading program and Phonics Games for Fluency, which are used to assist struggling readers and their teachers throughout the US. In collaboration with the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy, she has also developed an in-depth course on the foundations of reading instruction with a particular emphasis on helping students learn and practice upper-level comprehension skills.