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Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text

By: Learning First Alliance
Being a fluent reader is an important part of being a successful reader. Here is an overview of considerations related to fluency, and techniques teachers can use for promoting fluency in the classroom.

Beginning readers must apply their decoding skills to fluent, automatic reading of text. Children who are reading with adequate fluency are much more likely to comprehend what they are reading.

Thus the concept of independent reading level is important: it is that level at which the child recognizes more than 95 percent of the words and can read without laboring over decoding.

Poor readers often read too slowly. Some poor readers have a specific problem with fluent, automatic text reading even though they have learned basic phonics.

Recent research has highlighted the value of specific classroom activities to build reading fluency in slow readers. Some useful techniques include:

  • Several readings of easy material to a tape recorder or partner,
  • Guided oral reading with teacher or partner feedback, and
  • Choral reading or simultaneous oral reading.

The idea of silent reading across a series of books at about the same difficulty level is thought to be helpful but is not so well supported by research.

Repeated reading techniques, however, are only effective if children can read the individual words in the selections with acceptable speed.

Word-by-word readers or those who sound out words with difficulty may need more basic instruction in fluent application of phonics to single words. Teachers need to know how to match instruction to individual needs.

Endnotes

Endnotes

Click the "Endnotes" link above to hide these endnotes.

  1. National Reading Panel. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

    Snow, C., Burns, S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  2. Moats, L. C. (1995). The missing foundation in teacher education. American Educator, 19(2), 9, 43-51.

    National Reading Panel. Report of the National Reading Panel.

    Scarborough, H., Ehri, L., Olson, R., & Fowler, A. (1998). The fate of phonemic awareness beyond the early school years. Scientific Studies of Reading, 2, 115-142.

  3. Adams, M., Treiman, R., & Pressley, M. (1998). Reading, writing and literacy. In I. E. Siegal and K. A. Renniger (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Child psychology in practice (5th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 275-355). New York: Wiley.

  4. National Reading Panel. (2000). Fluency. Chap. 3 in Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: Reports of the subgroups (pp. 3-1-3-43). Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Beck, I. L., McCaslin, E. C., & McKeown, M. G. (1980). The rationale and design of a program to teach vocabulary to fourth-grade students. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center.

    National Reading Panel. (2000). Vocabulary instruction. Part 1 of Chap. 4 in Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: Reports of the subgroups (pp. 4-15-4-38). Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

  7. Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (1991). Conditions of vocabulary acquisition. In P. D. Pearson (Ed.), The Handbook of Reading Research (Vol. 2, pp. 789-814). New York: Longman Press.

  8. Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Omanson, R. C. (1984). The fertility of some types of vocabulary instruction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.

  9. Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., Hamilton, R. L., & Kucan, L. Getting at the meaning: How to help students unpack difficult text. American Educator, 22, 66-71, 85.

    Learning First Alliance (1998). Every child reading: An action plan. Washington, DC: Author.

    Pressley, M. (1998). Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching. New York: Guilford Press.

  10. Snow, C., Burns, S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children (pp. 80-83). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  11. National Reading Panel. (2000). Text comprehension. Part 2 of Chap. 4 in Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: Reports of the subgroups (pp. 4-39-4-118). Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

  12. Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., Hamilton, R. L., & Kucan, L. Getting at the meaning.

  13. Durkin, D. (1993). Teaching them to read (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  14. Berninger, V., Vaughan, K., Abbott, R., Abbott, S., Brooks, A., Rogan, L., Reed, E., & Graham, S. (1997). Treatment of handwriting fluency problems in beginning writing: Transfer from handwriting to composition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 652-666.

    Berninger, V., Vaughan, K., Abbott, R., Brooks, A., Abbott, S., Reed, E., Rogan, L., & Graham, S. (1998). Early intervention for spelling problems: Teaching spelling units of varying size within a multiple connections framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 587-605.

    Graham, S., Berninger, V., Abbott, R., Abbott, S., & Whitaker, D. (1997). The role of mechanics in composing of elementary school students: A new methodological approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 170-182.

  15. Bear, D. Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (1996). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

    Ehri, L., & Soffer, A. (1999). Graphophonemic awareness: Development in elementary students. Scientific Studies of Reading, 3, 1-30.

    Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell. New York: Oxford University Press.

  16. Fletcher, J. M., & Lyon, G. R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach. In W. Evers (Ed.), What's gone wrong in America's classrooms (pp. 49-90). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

In addition to their mention in Every Child Reading: An Action Plan, these components are commonly delineated in documents such as research reviews, state standards on instruction, the Reading Excellence Act funding criteria, curriculum guidelines, and teacher instructional manuals.

Of course, as the National Reading Panel notes, "phonics teaching is a means to an end. . . . In implementing systematic phonics instruction, educators must keep the end in mind and ensure that children understand the purpose of learning letter sounds and that they are able to apply these skills accurately and fluently in their daily reading and writing activities" (Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Health, 2000, p. 10). The panel's report also states that, notwithstanding the fact that explicit, systematic, synthetic phonics is the most effective approach, there remain unanswered questions on how to make this instruction as effective as possible. For example, the panel notes that more research is needed on questions such as how long single instruction sessions should last, how many letter-sound relations should be taught, and how many months or years a phonics program should continue. Moreover, some children will learn and appropriately apply phonics skills quickly and effortlessly, while others must be taught slowly, step by step. The individual variation in any group remains a continual challenge to teacher judgment, resourcefulness, and program management skill.

In the standardization of the Texas Primary Reading Inventory, these subtests combined predict the likelihood of success or failure with about 90 percent accuracy.

The readability of text, as reflected in sentence complexity and frequency of vocabulary, can now be assessed with software. Readability formulas tend to have more validity for children who have attained a reading level above 2nd grade than they do for those who are just beginning to read, and readability does not reflect the extent to which a text is decodable on the basis of what a child has been taught.

Excerpted from: The Content of Professional Development. (November, 2000). Every Child Reading: A Professional Development Guide. Learning First Alliance. Reprinted with permission.

Copyright © 2000 by the Learning First Alliance. Learning First Alliance member organizations include: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, National School Boards Association. For more information, see www.learningfirst.org

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