Components of Reading Fluency
Fluency is “the ability to read a text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression,” (National Reading Panel, 2000). The three components of fluency are accuracy, automaticity, and prosody.
Accuracy is reading words correctly at the appropriate speed. This includes the ability to sound out unfamiliar words based on phoneme and morpheme matching. Students who are not fluent have difficulties sounding out words, recognizing words, and skip words when struggling (Balsiger, n.d.). Automaticity is recognizing words automatically while reading. Prosody is the use of “intonation, phrasing, and expression while reading,” (National Reading Panel, 2000). Fluent readers are able to convey meaning through tone, pitch, stress, timing, etc. while reading a text. This makes the text sound more conversational aloud. Students who are not fluent will have difficulties with pausing at the appropriate places, intonation, and will also read word-by-word (Balsiger, n.d.).
Adjusting Reading Rate to Accommodate Texts
There are four main reading rates to consider while reading: skimming, speeded reading, study reading, and careful/reflective reading (California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, 2016).
We skim texts in class for main ideas after reading, to find words we are not familiar with, and to get a quick understanding of what we are about to read. We often find ourselves skimming dictionaries, glossaries, directories, and other short texts for quick answers (CSPUP, 2016).
When students speed read, it is generally to ascertain specific details or key ideas from the text itself. This will most notably be done with nonfiction texts. In my classroom, when we read newspaper articles about events relating to our topics, we first skim and scan, read, and then speed read to grab specific ideas for specific questions.
Study reading and careful/reflective reading are best for following directions, gaining a deep understanding (analysis/evaluation) of a text, or to simply enjoy a piece of work. Every second and third read in my classroom comes through study or reflective reading in order to truly understand what we are learning. This is especially true for more difficult texts like Shakespeare, poetry, and the like.
Relationships among Word Recognition and Comprehension
Word recognition and comprehension go hand-in-hand today more so than ever before. With high-stakes standardized testing, students need to be fluent. Students need to read through materials, directions, etc. very quickly in order to ensure they complete assessments within state mandated standards (McConnaughhay, 2008). Students who grasp word recognition and comprehension have higher fluency rates, therefore they are able to be more successful on academic tests and exams such as standardized testing like the former FCAT, and current FSA. Students with lower fluency levels do not do so well because they have difficulty with reading rate, comprehension, and recognition of words they have yet to be exposed to.
Oral Language and Writing Enhancing Fluency Instruction
There are four parts to Sue Candish’s “Oral Language Pie” from her article, Instruction Strategies for Developing Oral Language. These four domains are: Listening & Responding, Vocabulary & Concepts, Building Talk for Thinking, and Talking About My Word: Retells & Recounts (Candish, 2012).
Some instructional strategies that enhance both oral language and writing fluency include “repeating what others have said, conversations and discussion, wait time, think aloud, think-pair-share, define-do-revise activities, and think-talk-write activities,” (Candish, 2012). In my secondary English class, we often use define-do-revise, think-talk-write, discussions, and think-pair-share activities. The students seem to get the most out of discussing their ideas and concepts prior to writing them down.
Wait time has also made a large impact in my classroom in how students “grapple” with tougher ideas. Students are asked a question or about an idea, and then I wait. I provide students time to think about the topic or question, then respond. This also goes for when students complete a thought or question. I let them consider what they have said and/or asked and allow students from around the room to generate responses and ideas to the student. This makes for a collaborative environment that enhances any fluency instruction, or ANY instruction at all.
Every aspect of fluency depends on one another. It is a circular pattern in which fluency is incomplete without one piece, or more. Candish describes this as “a pie” as stated above. With word recognition, comes the reading rate and comprehension, and so on.