Fluency is the ability to read a text quickly and accurately with ease and expression. When fluent readers read aloud, it sounds like they are speaking. In contrast, the oral reading of readers who have not yet developed fluency is slow, word by word, choppy, and plodding.
Although the terms automaticity and fluency frequently have been used interchangeably, they are not the same. Automaticity refers to fast, effortless recognition of words in isolation or in lists. Fluency refers to fast, effortless reading of words in sentences and passages. Automatic word recognition is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of fluency. Some students may recognize words in isolation or in lists automatically and still lack fluency when reading those same words in sentences. They need instruction in fluency.
Fluency is important because it is a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Fluent readers can focus their attention on the meaning of text because they do not need to concentrate on decoding the words. Because less fluent readers must focus their attention on figuring out the words, they have less attention left to devote to understanding the text. Fluency is essential to comprehension and automatic word recognition is essential to fluency. Thus, fluency is a bridge that the reader must traverse to get from word recognition to comprehension. Automatic word recognition, fluency, and comprehension are inextricably intertwined reading skills. The main findings of the National Reading Panel (2000) on fluency stated that instructional procedures that improve fluency also have a positive impact on word recognition and comprehension.
Two major instructional approaches to fluency have been investigated by researchers:
- Repeated reading approaches in which students read passages aloud several times and receive guidance and feedback from the teacher as they read aloud.
- Independent silent reading approaches in which students are encouraged to read extensively on their own.
The National Reading Panel pointed out that research has not yet confirmed independent silent reading as a means of improving fluency and overall reading achievement. Research has, however, confirmed that repeated oral reading with feedback and guidance improves fluency and has a positive impact on comprehension. In repeated oral reading, students read and reread a text a specified number of times or until specified levels of speed and accuracy are reached. Listening to good models of fluent reading also promotes fluency; however, students must reread the text themselves after listening to the model.
© ______ 2004, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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