When you hear the word “fluency”, you may be thinking to yourself that it’s simply the act of reading smoothly. And that’s for sure one aspect of it. But really, good fluency is made up of so much more than that. Good fluency sounds like reading with accuracy, expression, pausing at appropriate punctuation, chunking phrases to create rhythm, and comprehending the meaning of the text. Wow, come to think of it – that’s a lot of work for a reader!
This is why fluency is often practiced in the upper levels of elementary, when reading isn’t as segmented or choppy. When someone reads with fluency, they aren’t spending time decoding the words and figuring out their sounds. Instead, they’re reading at an accurate and appropriate pace and therefore are able to comprehend what is being read. They aren’t having to slowly sound out words, so their brains have room to actually enjoy what they’re reading and read for information.
And one of the best ways we can model fluency is by – yep, you guessed it – modeling! Though it would be nice to just tell students how to read fluently, we know that modeling is one of the #1 mediums through which kids learn best. If we want them to do as we do, then we must take full advantage of our read aloud time together.
Read alouds are the perfect time to showcase good fluency and model how it’s done. If students never hear fluent reading, they’ll never have the tools to do it themselves. Read aloud time gives us the opportunity to model fluency so that they can turn around and read fluently as they read independently. Learning to read fluently is such an exciting time for kids because it makes them feel like “grown up” readers! Let’s take a look at some ways to highlight fluency during your read aloud time
5 Ways to Focus on Fluency During Your Read Aloud Time
1. Teacher modeling
- Students can’t understand what fluency is without it being modeled for them. While you’re reading, show them what a fluent reader sounds like. Add expression, pause at punctuation (and follow its rules), read smoothly, chunk words to make phrases, and speak in a way that feels natural.
- While reading, take some time to model how fluency isn’t supposed to sound. Non-examples can be just as helpful as examples!
2. Highlight your focus
- Before you begin, tell your students, “Today, our fluency focus is pausing at punctuation.” Each read aloud can be a different focus, but the message is the same: to zero in on a specific aspect of fluency so the students can be listening for it.
- The following are examples you can say to your class as you announce your fluency focus of the day.
“As I read this book, I want you to pay attention to:”
- “How I pause at punctuation.”
- ‘How I chunk words together to make the text sound smooth and seamless.”
- “How I go at a steady pace. Take note that I’m not reading too fast or too slow. I want it to sound natural and interesting.”
- “How I use expression with the appropriate punctuation, as well as make the character’s voices sound interesting. I want to read the book with how the author intended it to be read.”
- “How I’m reading for meaning. Listen as I pause and take you through my thought process about the text and what I find interesting or meaningful.”
3. Involve students
You may be the one reading the book, but ensure that the students take an active part in the read aloud so they can practice reading fluently.
You can do this by:
- Shared Reading – students join in on a patterned part of the text.
- Echo Reading – students repeat a few lines to sound just like you.
- Choral Reading – everyone reads together fluently.
4. Use a variety of genres
Differing genres and text structures encourage us to use a variety of fluency skills.
- Nonfiction texts have text features that encourage us to be fluent as we read for information.
- Poems and songs lend themselves to using different tone and intonation. The more fluent we are, the more likely we are able to interpret tone and feeling in these sorts of texts.
- Novels create excitement because you can pause and discuss themes, irony, and other literary elements. With novels, fluency leads to engagement and interest.
5. Guest Reader of the Week
When modeling anything for kids, it’s always best to have a variety of people modeling it for them. Weekly guest readers are the perfect way to incorporate this into your classroom!
- Have a parent, older student, staff member, or administrator (kids love when they see their principal in their classroom!) come in and model good reading.
Focus on Fluency
If you’re wanting to learn a bit more about fluency in the classroom aside from these tips, I’ve got you covered. My Fluency Files are the perfect way to focus on fluency in your classroom and help your students achieve great growth in this area. I also have a variety of Fluency Passages to choose from in my shop, as well as some Fluency Freebies! Lastly, if you feel you want to equip yourself with everything you need to encourage fluent reading, take a look at my very handy and very convenient Fluency Toolkits for your students! They’ll love having one of their own!
There are tons of ways to highlight fluent reading in your classroom. When you do, you’ll start seeing incredible results from your students. One of the most rewarding aspects of seeing your students soar with fluency is knowing that you worked on it together. Always remember the gift that fluency gives children: the ability to comprehend and enjoy a text. Without fluency, comprehension doesn’t happen – and comprehension is the “end goal” of reading