Fluency is important to help aide in reading comprehension.
Why is fluency important? When a child does not have to focus on trying to "decode" (or sound out) words, then they will be able to place their focus on understanding what they are reading (comprehension).
Fluency is the ability to read with speed (rate), accuracy, and expression. Basically, it's the ability to read like you speak (smoothly) and not like a robot (choppy). There are many ways to help with fluency. Here just a few ways I help my children develop their fluency.
- Learning basic sight words will help with fluency. Sight words are words that students should know instantly when they see them. In my opinion, the real definition of a sight word is a word that children can not read by sounding out phonetically. There are two sight word lists that educators use the most: Fry Sight Word Lists and Dolch Sight Words.
- Fry sight words are 1000 words that are arranged into groups of 100. They are based on the most common words read. This site has a great explanation and lists of all 1000 words. http://www.sightwords.com/sight-words/fry/#lists
- Dolch sight words are a list of 220 words that are the most commonly used words in written language. For background information visit the Dolch Sight Word page: http://dolchsightwords.org/
- Learning/practicing sight word phrases will also help with automaticity and fluency. The resources I use the most are Mrs. Perkins website for Dolch Sight word phrases and Tim Rasinski's pdf for the Fry phrases lists. There are MANY MANY other useful websites that include games and flashcards (both printable and online). All you need to do is search for "Dolch phrases" or "Fry phrases." Sometimes I will put the words on flash cards, in a power point, or I give them the word list to read. If a child reads the phrase in a choppy manner, I will have them repeat it back to me after I model the appropriate speed and expression. I will often have students say the phrase back to me using another voice such as a "happy," "sad," "angry," "tired," or "excited" voice.
- Repeated Readings is also a strategy I use to develop fluency. I will give a student a passage on their independent reading level and have them read it through once while I time them. Then, I challenge them to "Beat the Clock" on the second read, and again on the third read. By the third time a student reads the same passage they begin to read the passage more fluently. You can also record a child reading a passage three times and have them listen to the recording when they are finished with the third reading to show them how their fluency has improved.
- I LOVE Florida Center for Reading Research's (aka FCRR) Student Center Activities for fluency (look under instructional materials for teachers). They do not have to be used only as a center. I have used them one-on-one and in a small guided reading group. I love their activities for all areas of reading. If you have never seen these before, it is worth spending time looking at them. I use their fluency activities frequently with my students.
If you want more ideas for building fluency please visit Reading Rockets which is another amazing resource!
The ultimate goal of learning to read is to understand what you have read (comprehension). Although fluency is an important part of learning to read and it definitely helps comprehension, I have taught many children who could not read the recommended number of words per minute (ORF=Oral Reading Fluency= WCPM= words read correctly per minute), but could answer any question about the book or passage they read, as well as retell the important details in the story. Therefore, if your child is struggling with fluency, but can fully understand (comprehend) what they are reading, then don't worry! You can still work on building fluency and expression, but don't stress about how many words a minute they can read, or how long it takes them to read a passage because the goal of learning to read is COMPREHENSION!