Effective strategies for building reading fluency

Schoolkids in classroom. Girl reading task aloud at lesson.Research has consistently shown that reading fluency — rapid reading of high-frequency words and rapid decoding — is essential for reading comprehension. The U.S. National Reading Panel (NRP) 2000 concluded that instruction in guided oral reading is an important component of elementary reading programs and is associated with gains in fluency and comprehension.

Guided oral reading refers to modeling of fluent reading followed by repeated readings of the text by students. The NRP reported that both good and poor readers benefit from guided reading. They recommended that teachers use guided oral reading practice to enhance their reading instruction.

Fluency for children with disabilities

The NRP research analysis did not reveal whether students with learning disabilities benefit from guided oral reading. Because students with disabilities often have problems with fluency, researchers David J. Chard, University of Oregon, and Sharon Vaughn and Brenda-Jean Tyler, University of Texas/Austin, set out to study the effects of guided oral reading with these students.

Fluency refers to both the speed and the accuracy with which a student reads connected text. Chard et al. analyzed studies to determine which features of a fluency intervention were most effective. They studied the effect of the amount of text read, the difficulty of the text, the number of repetitions, the type of feedback, and the criteria for advancement to more difficult text. They also studied the effects of both single-word and connected-text practice on fluency.

These researchers found, in general, that repeated and guided readings improve reading rate, accuracy and comprehension in reading-disabled students. Their findings suggest that these students benefit from interventions that have multiple components focusing attention on increasing both the rate and the accuracy of reading.

Oral reading vs. silent reading

Oral reading practice with familiar texts enhances fluency, but there was little evidence that silent reading improves fluency. Students benefit from having a model of fluent reading. Adult modeling is the most effective, but when this is not possible, an audiotaped model or peer modeling is also helpful.

In addition, providing corrective feedback of misread words during reading significantly increases reading accuracy. Drill in single-word reading was not as effective as practice with connected text. In addition, fluency develops more quickly when standard criteria are used to adjust the level of text difficulty as the student makes progress.

For example, Chard et al. found that requiring students to meet criteria such as reading a minimum of 75 words correctly per minute, with less than 5 errors and 87 percent correct on comprehension questions was more effective than setting individual improvement goals.

Modeling fluent reading appears to boost students’ comprehension as well as fluency. Combining interventions on fluency and comprehension led to greater gains in both areas. Chard et al. suggest that future research study whether these results hold true for non-disabled readers as well.

“A Synthesis of Research on Effective Interventions for Building Reading Fluency with Elementary Students with Learning Disabilities” Journal of Learning Disabilities Volume 35, Number 5, October 2002 Pp. 386-406.

Published in ERN October 2002 Volume 15 Number 7

One Response to “Effective strategies for building reading fluency”

  1. Joseph

    Another simple, research-proven technique that parents can use to help their children build fluency is to make sure the television’s closed captioning option is always turned on or use the English subtitle option with children’s DVDs. I have an article about that on my blog.


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