Hi all! I’ve got a guest post today from Alesia, from PrimaryLearning.org, an online education resource for K-5 educators. There are some great, free lesson plans, worksheets, and activities to be found there; I’ll be trying some of these on for size as we increase our self-directed (passive) programming. Without further ado, here’s Alesia’s article on fluency and comprehension.
Why is fluency important to comprehension?
Developing fluency and comprehension significantly helps children become proficient readers. These two skills are connected, with fluency supporting children’s comprehension of the texts they read. When teaching children how to read, a focus on fluency should be part of the program.
What is Fluency?
Fluency is the ability to read smoothly with automaticity. Fluency makes reading sound like talking. It consists of three components: accuracy, rate, and expression.
Accuracy is the ability to read words correctly. The more accurate readers are, the fewer mistakes they make.
Rate is the speed or pace that words are read. Fluent readers have a consistent flow to their reading. Their reading is not filled with stops and starts.
Expression is related to how a reader’s voice sounds. Expressive readers vary their volume, pause at appropriate places, and attend to punctuation, adding excitement or intonation to their voice. Their reading does not sound robotic or monotone.
What is Comprehension?
Comprehension is a key component of reading. Without it, children are merely reading words on a page, with no understanding of what they mean. Think of times when you have read a paragraph or page, then had to go back and read it again because you had little understanding of what you had just read. Comprehension was missing.
Comprehension allows readers to understand, interpret, and interact with texts. It allows readers to understand the vocabulary in books. They also bring their own prior knowledge and experience to the text in order to make connections. They make predictions and confirm or revise them as they read. Children with well-developed comprehension skills can infer while they read. They also ask questions or have “wonderings” as they progress through a book. All of these skills allow children to understand the books they read.
How Does Fluency Affect Comprehension?
If children are struggling to solve words, their efforts become focused on decoding. Their rate of reading slows down, often becoming word-by-word or robotic-like. Expression is lacking or even absent, as they concentrate almost primarily on word solving.
When children read fluently, they recognize words more automatically and can shift their focus to what the words mean. They are able to concentrate on what the text is saying and can interact with it, using the comprehension skills described in the section above.
How Do I Teach Fluency?
To teach fluency, make sure you are modeling what fluent reading sounds like. Demonstrate how you pause, change your voice, and group words together so your reading is not choppy. Provide children with opportunities to demonstrate their own fluency. Beginning readers can start with one sentence that they can read smoothly. Encourage them to make their reading sound like talking. It may be helpful to record their reading so they can hear what they sound like.
To encourage fluency, it is important that children are reading books appropriate for their level. If a book is too difficult, children will struggle to solve the words and fluency will break down. Choose “just right” books or, if fluency is the main goal of the lesson, consider using a book that is even a bit easy to read. Without the need to tackle unknown words, children can focus all their efforts on reading the book fluently. Re-reading a familiar book is another way to shift the focus to fluency.
To support fluency, preview books and identify vocabulary that you may need to pre-teach. Anticipating challenging words and reviewing them before children begin reading will help their fluency. Sometimes fluency is even hindered by characters’ names that kids are unfamiliar with. Spotting these problems ahead of time will prevent them from stumbling throughout the book.
Fluency also improves when children have a well-developed sight word vocabulary. We want children to recognize high-frequency words like “the,” “and,” and “it” automatically. Without a bank of known sight words, children will struggle through texts.
As we teach children to read, it is easy to become focused on word-solving strategies. However, it is important that we don’t neglect fluency, which opens the door to a deeper comprehension of texts.