A Close Look at Fluency

I’ve always believed fluency is an important, and often overlooked, area of reading. I’ve read quite a bit about fluency over the last few years, have heard Dr. Tim Rasinski speak quite a few times, and even had him give me feedback on something I created (more on that later).  If you’re not familiar with Dr. Tim Rasinski, he is known as a reading researcher with a focus on reading fluency. I’ve had as a focus in my intervention groups as well as having a fluency bin as a station in my general ed classroom.  You can read more about my fluency station by clicking on the image below.

Build fluency skills independently with a fluency center


While I love having a fluency center to give my students intentional fluency work once a week, it’s not enough to make a huge difference in many of my students’ reading fluency.  In order to take a new focus on fluency, I wanted to put together a new plan to kick things up a notch. I turned to the professional texts I already had for support. (Note: Affiliate links are used in this post.)

I found my copy of The Fluent Reader by Tim Rasinski and reread it to help me design my new classroom plan {I have the 1st edition so things may be slightly different than the new version}.  I thought I’d share a few of the big ideas from the book. If you haven’t read it book before, consider buying it and use my included posts to help you navigate through the ideas.

According to Dr. Rasinski, and he’s probably the most well known researcher surrounding reading fluency, fluency increases with oral reading.  Dr. Rasinski urges teachers to give students opportunities to continue to read orally, though discourages round robin reading.  Oral reading builds vocabulary, increases confidence, fosters fluency and strengthens decoding skills.  Dr. Rasinski suggests that students use whisperphones to hear themselves orally read.  You can also make whisperphones yourself using cheap PVC pieces from the local hardware store.  You can find out the pieces I used in this post.

I already knew that fluency and comprehension have a close interrelationship but the text reaffirmed it for me.  According to Dr. Rasinski,

“A 1995 (Pinnell, et al.) study sponsored by the United States Department of Education demonstrated the degree of association between oral reading fluency and silent reading comprehension.  In the study, over a thousand fourth graders were asked to read a passage aloud….The same fourth graders were then given a test that measured their comprehension of a set of passages that they read silently.  The fourth graders who were the most fluent readers were also the best comprehenders.  Moreover, every decline in oral reading fluency was marked by a corresponding decline in silent reading comprehension.  The students who read orally best also scored best in silent reading comprehension.  And those students who struggled most with oral reading, even though they read with a high level of accuracy, also had the most difficulty in reading comprehension.”

Dr. Rasinski suggests that there are 4 major ways you can build reading fluency with students.

  1. Read aloud
  2. Provide oral support for readers
  3. Offer plenty of practice opportunities
  4. Encourage fluency through phrasing

I have blog posts focused on building fluency through oral reading and building fluency through supported reading. Each post walks through the ideas presented in The Fluent Reader.

Assessing Fluency

When I was serving as my building’s Reading Resource teacher, and DIBELS was still pretty new, a teacher came to me and asked how to record fluency on the students’ report cards.  Teachers were directed to record fluency as part of the students’ grade, but there was not clear information on how.  The teacher questioned recording accuracy, as that’s what others were doing, since it wouldn’t depict the students rate of speed.  And, less face it, if students knew that accuracy was what was being looked at, they’d slow way down and try to ensure that.  But then the teacher also didn’t want to record only the student automaticity, either.  I developed rubrics combining prosody (from the NAEP scale that Rasinski cites in his book), automaticity, and accuracy.  I emailed them to Dr. Rasinski for feedback before I began to use them and have used them ever since.  You can see my post on Assessing & Scoring Fluency for more information.

You can read more of my Reading Fluency posts or look at my reading fluency products in my TpT store. Do you have strategies you do to increase your students’ reading fluency?

A Close Look at Fluency- girl with a magnifying glass

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Hi! I'm Tessa!

Tessa Maguire image

I’ve spent the last 15 years teaching in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, and working beside elementary classrooms as an instructional coach and resource support. I’m passionate about math, literacy, and finding ways to make teachers’ days easier. I share from my experiences both in and out of the elementary classroom.

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