A Lack of Fluency

The recent draft curriculum in Alberta concerns me for many reasons (which I won’t get into here). As a language arts teacher, one surprise was that fluency (which is an Organizing Idea in kindergarten to grade 4) is not included in grades 5 and 6. At yet, both research and experience indicate that fluency instruction is important at all grade levels, even beyond our elementary age students.

What is fluency? Fluency is the ability to read accurately, with automaticity, and with prosody. (Put simply, prosody refers to reading with intonation, expression, and attention to punctuation.)

So why is fluency so important? Ultimately, fluency assists readers with comprehension. If students can read the words on the page with ease and use punctuation to guide their phrasing, they will be able to focus on the meaning of the text itself.

On the other hand, consider someone who does not read with fluency: the reading is likely choppy and the reader may spend considerable time decoding the words on the page. This lack of accuracy, automaticity, and prosody, makes comprehension difficult.

How do we support our students with fluency, especially if decoding the text is difficult?

  • First and foremost, read aloud daily! Pay attention to your own fluency when you do. This modelling is essential.
  • Talk about the importance of fluency with your students to help them understand why they need to reread text.
  • Teach within a growth mindset: “I can’t read this fluently yet but with practice…”
  • Give students many opportunities to reread text. Readers’ theatre and choral reading provide natural reasons to reread. (When students know they will eventually have an audience, they are more inclined to practice.)
  • Practice rereading regular classroom texts including cross-curricular material. Instead of reverting to round robin reading (which draws attention to individual readers and likely causes anxiety for many), regularly pair up students to practice reading a passage, a page, or a paragraph out loud. Remind them of the purposes before you begin: fluency first, and ultimately, improved comprehension.
  • Intentionally embed regular fluency practice into your classroom each week.

One of the benefits of a focus on fluency becomes increased confidence in students! Why not include fluency instruction in your classroom?

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