Reading fluency is an essential component of effective reading instruction throughout elementary school (National Reading Panel, 2000). Why? Students with poor fluency are likely to have limited reading comprehension and often do not enjoy reading. It’s important that systematic and explicit fluency lessons should be included as a part of the daily reading instruction block to ensure students learn how to read fluently.
What is Reading Fluency?
Reading fluency is the ability to read text with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody. Accuracy means being able to decode words correctly. Automaticity means being able to quickly and effortlessly recognize words. Prosody means using appropriate tone, pacing, phrasing, and inflection of words while reading.
One important note is that the terms fluency and automaticity are also used to describe the development of other skills such as math fact fluency, letter sound fluency, being able to drive a car, or playing an instrument. Fluency is a crucial aspect of learning any skill, as we discuss in this blog post.
Why Focus on Reading Fluency?
Being able to read fluently is essential for understanding and remembering what was read. That is, fluent readers are more likely to be able to comprehend what they read versus students who aren’t fluent (Hintze, Callahan, Matthews, Williams, & Tobin, 2002; Shinn et al., 1992). Put simply, reading fluency is necessary for reading comprehension.
Establishing reading fluency is also likely to promote the enjoyment of reading, increasing the probability a student will want to read (Skinner, 1998). In general, fluent readers experience success during reading with low levels of frustration. Non-fluent students read much more slowly, struggle to understand what they are reading, and often dislike reading.
Identifying Students in Need of Reading Fluency Interventions
Teachers can identify students in need of reading fluency intervention by using FAST™ assessment results, including the Sight Words (50, 150) and Sentence Reading subtests within the earlyReading™ suite and with CBMreading.™ The Sight Word assessments and CBMreading may also be used to monitor intervention progress.
The Sight Words (50) subtest is included in the earlyReading screening composite score in the spring of kindergarten and the Sight Words (150) subtest is in the fall, winter, and spring composite in first grade.
The earlyReading composite includes four subtests and that score can be used to identify students who are not on track (at-risk) for performance at grade level. For students whose composite score is below the benchmark goal, it is recommended that teachers look at specific earlyReading™ subtests to determine specific student difficulties with fluency. For example, if a student’s score on the earlyReading™ Sight Word subtest is low, it might indicate a need for fluency instruction focused on sight words. Teachers also have the option of completing the sight word inventory to determine which words are known and unknown to each student.
For students in first grade and above, teachers should look at student performance on CBMreading. If a student’s score is below benchmark on CBMreading, it might indicate a need for fluency instruction focused on reading connected text. For students who are significantly below benchmark on CBMreading, it is important to examine both accuracy and words read correctly per minute. Some students with low CBMreading scores may also need a phonics intervention, and additional assessments may be useful to determine which intervention is the best place to begin supporting the student.
Teachers may consider a few common indicators to assist in identifying students in need of reading fluency instruction or intervention, including difficulty with:
- identifying sight words accurately and/or quickly
- reading connected text with accuracy (< 95%)
- reading connected text at the appropriate rate (reading below grade level benchmark in words read per minute)
Fluency Interventions Available from FastBridge
Given that fluency is a foundational skill needed for being able to read for meaning, how can we support students in developing it? To meet the needs of your students, Fastbridge now offers both whole class and small group reading interventions that target fluency skills. These can be used for both core instruction (Tier 1) and supplemental instruction (Tier 2). The interventions are research-based and are aligned with FAST assessments and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts for grades K-5. Currently, there are four fluency interventions available for educators to use. The interventions are designed to be used to build both word-level (e.g., sight word recognition) and paragraph-level (e.g., reading grade level passages or stories) fluency skills.
1. Sight Word Flashcards
The first intervention, Sight Word Flashcards, should be used when students have an accuracy instructional need specifically related to sight words. That is, students need to increase their accuracy (more than 95%) and automaticity of sight words first in isolation and then generalize to connected text passages.
2. Sight Word Bingo
The second intervention, Sight Word Bingo, should be used when students have an automaticity need specifically related to sight words. Sight Word Bingo is focused on increasing automaticity and retention of sight words such that students can identify each word in 3 seconds or less. Sight Word Bingo can be used alongside Sight Word Flashcards. So, for example, a teacher could use Sight Word Flashcards 3-4 days a week and then at the end of the week use Sight Word Bingo, focusing on the sight words that were taught throughout that week. This intervention can also be used on its own 3-4 times per week.
3. Listening Passage Preview with Phrase Drill
The third intervention, Listening Passage Preview with Phrase Drill, should be used when students have an accuracy need related to fluency reading paragraphs and stories. The intervention materials include instructional passages for grades 1-3. These passages may help support students when focused on reading fluency because they include a high proportion of decodable words and sight words. The goal of this intervention is to increase word reading accuracy to 95% or above when reading connected text.
4. Repeated Reading with Partner
The fourth intervention, Repeated Reading with Partner, should be used when students have an automaticity need related to reading longer texts such as stories. The intervention is designed to support students in increasing their words read correctly per minute by reading stories with a partner. The intervention materials include stories appropriate for students in grades 1-3. The goal of the intervention is for students to increase their reading rate so that they can understand what they read and enjoy reading.
For each intervention, there is a series of eight lessons to build an understanding of each intervention and when to use it for which students.
- Lesson 1: An introduction to the intervention
- Lesson 2: Standardized administration information with a short video
- Lesson 3: Whole group step-by-step administration guide with student and teacher materials to use
- Lesson 4: Small group step-by-step administration guide with student and teacher materials to use
- Lesson 5: Formative assessment with progress monitoring recommendations
- Lesson 6: Practice options, including a checklist to monitor intervention fidelity
- Lesson 7: Certification in implementing the intervention (this section is coming soon)
- Lesson 8: Resources such as references for the research on which the intervention is based
Fluency is an important component of proficient reading because we need to recognize whole words quickly enough to retrieve their meaning and tie them with the other words in a passage. With the FAST research-based fluency interventions for both whole class and small group instruction, students can improve fluency so that they can become strong readers.
Hintze, J. M., Callahan, J. E., Matthews, W. J., Williams, S. A. S. & Tobin, K. G. (2002). Oral reading fluency and prediction of reading comprehension in African American and
Caucasian elementary school children. School Psychology Review, 31, 540-553.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Shinn, M. R., Good, R. H., Knutson, N., Tilly, W. D., & Collins, V. (1992). Curriculum-based measurement of oral reading fluency: A confirmatory analysis of its relation to reading. School Psychology Review, 21, 459–479.