7 Tips for Improving Reading Fluency
Reading fluency, the ability to read quickly and accurately, is important to develop good reading comprehension skills. Students who read fluently can focus on the ideas behind the words rather than the words themselves. This helps them both understand and retain what they have read. Many children with dyslexia struggle with reading fluency, reading slowly, stopping to sound out each word, skip over words or substitute similar words. Because of this, they frequently have poor reading comprehension.
There are a number of strategies teachers can incorporate in their classrooms to help students with dyslexia develop better reading fluency.
Model Good Reading
The more you model good reading by reading aloud, the more your students will understand what fluent reading sounds like. Use lots of expression, pause to accentuate a point in the story and vary your speed and tone to match the meaning of the words. Incorporating different types of writing, such as stories, fairy tales, poems or narratives, helps students see how you use different tones depending on what is being read.
Discuss with the class your reading style. How did they know you were excited? What made them believe you were scared? These discussions can help students understand how tone of voice can change the meaning of words and keep the listener interested in the story.
Choral Reading: Reading as a Group
Reading fluency takes practice and students struggling with reading are often hesitant to read aloud in class. Instead of asking one student to read, use an overhead projector to put the words of a poem on the board. First, you read a line, and then have the class, as a whole, read the line. Do this line by line, then read the poem in its entirety together. Students who worry about reading in front of the class may be more apt to read along as part of a group. This gives all of your students practice in reading aloud.
Record Before and After Readings
Select short (no longer than one minute) poems or stories for students to read. Record each student as he or she reads it for the first time. Let them practice reading it, adding expression, over several days. You might also want to send it home for them to practice reading it in front of parents. Help struggling students to add inflection to their voice to add interest to their reading. Once the students have practiced, record their reading again and let them see the difference between the before and after recordings.
Have students read the same selection several times to become more familiar with high-frequency words. Use the same selection for several days before moving on to a new selection. Instead of using selections, you can use a list of high-frequency words and have the student read through the list every day.
Follow Along in the Text
Provide the class with a written text of what you are reading and have them follow along with their fingers as you are reading. This helps the students connect the words on the page to the sound of the words and helps them connect the different tones and inflections in your voice with the written text. You can use this method by providing audio books along with the written text of a book and have the student follow along with the recording, at first with their finger and as they continue to listen, students can read aloud along with the recording.
Use five or six high-frequency words and repeat them in different order. For example:
• This, them, too, the, these, those
• Those, the, too, them, this, these
• Too, the, these, this, those, them
The student will need to look carefully at each word and recognize the different words quickly.
Create a Set Reading Time
Set aside 10 minutes of every school day for silent reading. Let the students choose what they want to read. This can be from a magazine, a book or a collection of poems. Allowing students to choose their own reading material will help them develop an interest in reading. Have students share a sentence or two about what they read. Teachers can use this time to allow independent readers to read alone and work closely with other students, allowing them to read out loud to the teacher or a classroom aid.
Assessing Reading Fluency for
Special Needs Students
Reading fluency is the ability to read words, phrases or passages quickly and to process that information in a meaningful way. Children with dyslexia may have difficulty smoothly reading groups of words. When a student slows down, sounding each word out and therefore focusing on each individual word, the meaning of the whole sentence or passage is lost. Fluent readers are able to read as if they are speaking, reading with accuracy, speed and expression. By doing so, they focus on the ideas being presented rather than focusing on each individual word.
When measuring reading fluency, all three components, accuracy, speed and expression, must be measured.
Accuracy in reading is the ability to recognize or decode words while reading. This requires a student to recognize high frequency words and to quickly sound out words and blend letters together in words not yet known. Students must also be able to decode, or discover the meaning of words they have not learned based on cues in the text or using previous knowledge to give clues to the meaning. Mispronouncing words can change the meaning of words, causing a child to completely miss the meaning of the sentence or passage. Accuracy in reading, therefore, is an extremely important part of overall reading proficiency.
Accuracy is measured by the number of words read correctly per 100 words. Timothy V. Rasinski, Ph.D., a professor of literacy education at Kent State University, provides the following procedures to measure accuracy in your students:
• Select several passages based on the instructional reading level of the student. Using 3 passages will provide you with more accurate results. (You will need to know the word count of each passage)
• Have the student read each passage aloud and tape-record the readings. If a student stops and does not attempt to read a word for more than 3 seconds, say the word aloud for the student.
• Use the tape recording to go over each passage, marking any mispronunciations, substitutions, reversals, omissions and when the student did not attempt to read the word.
• Count each error and subtract from the total number of words for the passage to find the number of words read correctly.
• Divide the number of words read correctly by the total number of words in the passage. This should be expressed as a percentage.
• Use the median score for the 3 passages.
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According to Ravinski, students who score between 97% and 100% are independent readers, those who score between 90% and 96% can read with instructional support and those who score below 90% are probably frustrated with reading.
In addition to how accurately a child reads, there are norms based on grade level for how quickly a child should be able to read. Speed, or the number of words a child can read per minute, directly impacts their reading comprehension. The more effort a student uses to sound out a word, the less he focuses on the idea behind the words. According to one study, students who read slowly have difficulty completing assignments and lose interest in school [Moats, 2001].
To assess a student for reading rate, use the recordings you made for accuracy, timing each recording and determining the number of correct words read per minute.
According to a study completed by J.E. Hasbrouck and G. Tindal in 1992, the following are target rates for students at the end of each school year:
Grade Words Per Minute 1 30-60 2 70-100 3 80-110 4 100-140 5 110-150 6 120-160 7 130-170 8 140-180
Students reading below these levels may have difficulty with reading fluency which may negatively impact their ability to understand what they have read. Students who read faster than these levels may also have problems as they may not be paying attention to the meaning.
Prosody, or the expression used while reading, is another important component of reading fluency. This is measured by the pitch, stress on syllables, duration of words and the emotion placed in the reading. Fluent readers add these aspects to reading naturally, using context clues to help express surprise, exclamation or questioning tones in their reading. Slow or struggling readers may read in monotone, focusing on the words rather than the meaning behind the words.
Assessing prosody is done by listening to a student read. The Florida Center for Reading Research offers the following checklist for teachers when listening to a student read:
• Vocal emphasis placed on appropriate words
• Voice tone rose at appropriate points in the text
• Voice inflection reflected punctuation, for example voice tone rose at the end of a question
• Vocal tone indicated emotion such as surprise, excitement, sadness, fear
• Pauses were placed in reading at appropriate times, such as the end of a phrase, at conjunctions, at subject-verb divisions and at the end of sentences
Teachers can use the student's score and measure against further scores to see if progress is being made.
When working with a student on reading fluency, it is important to integrate all three aspects of fluency. Teachers who focus on improving a student's rate of reading may sacrifice accuracy or expression. Strategies must be in place to help a student improve overall reading fluency.