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Translating Teacher-Talk: Reading Fluency Unpacked

You may be listening to your child and thinking that their reading doesn't sound "fluent". Teachers may share that they are teaching and measuring reading fluency. What exactly is oral reading fluency and how and why can one improve it? This week, in Translating Teacher-Talk, I will be unpacking the concept of FLUENCY.

Reading fluency is like a braided cord. Each strand represents a foundational skill required for reading. When used together, they promote strong comprehension. Strong oral reading sounds like animated storytelling.

These foundational skills include:

  • Automatic and accurate word decoding

  • Vocabulary knowledge

  • Intonation appropriate to the content and characters of the story

  • Adjustment of pace, or rate

  • Using punctuation and meaning to guide pausing

  • Stress on particularly important syllables, words, phrases

As a researcher and Reading/Writing Specialist, qualitative reading assessments provide me with opportunities to observe reading behaviors. Are they decoding words accurately? If not, what do their mistakes reveal about their understandings of language? Are they reading in meaningful phrases? Are they adjusting the pace of their reading as they read various portions of the text? When they read dialogue, does it sound conversational? Do they stress and stretch important words depending on meaning? Readers who understand the content of what they're reading can recall and predict words that might be used in certain texts, therefore problem-solve efficiently as new words are presented. Do they self-correct mistakes when their comprehension becomes fragmented? Do they stop and make comments or giggle at the jokes within a text? All of these factors are meaningful to me, and everything matters. Everything the readers do informs me about how and why they are fluent...or not. The 5-minute video below, you will hear about the ways in which fluency influences comprehension.

Readers, young and mature, know what good reading sounds like. Sometimes, beginning readers pick up these aspects intuitively. For struggling readers, direct, high-quality instruction can help them deconstruct HOW to develop that prosodic, or musical, reading that they enjoy hearing. The number one activity that can improve reading fluency is CONTINUOUS, DAILY READING of a variety of self-selected text. Most fluency can be improved with practice.

Put simply, the equation is this:

More Words Read = Practice in Problem-Solving Words = Automaticity of Word Recall and Decoding = Deeper Vocabulary Knowledge = Enriched Content Knowledge = Better Overall Reading Fluency = Better Comprehension

Effective strategies that teachers and Reading/Writing Specialists might use to teach aspects of oral reading fluency include include:

  • Reader's Theater (plays without props)

  • Repeated Readings of Fluency Passages

  • Scooping and Blending Activities

  • Word-Work to Support Decoding

  • Frye's Phrase Practice Readings

  • Sight Word Instruction to Improve Automaticity

  • Audiobooks with Follow-Along Copies

Though there are issues that can effect fluency, for example, learning disabilities, hearing loss, vision issues, cognitive impairments, and articulation challenges (which I will address in subsequent posts) most readers can improve fluency with succinct instruction and practice. For more information on oral and silent reading fluency, visit, where there are more videos and articles related to a multitude of literacy topics.

Have a great week,


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