Fluency is an integral skill for students and many believe reading fluency and comprehension are related. Reading fluency is a skill that needs to be taught through out a student’s elementary school years. Fluency instruction is crucial in elementary years, but has been found to be equally important beyond the elementary grades, even into high school, especially among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Rasinski, 2004).
Fluency is a reader’s ability to read fluidly with accuracy and appropriate pacing and expression. If a student is incapable of reading fluently then the likelihood of comprehending what is read decreases. According to Rasinski (2004), “Reading fluency refers to the reader’s ability to develop control over surface-level text processing so that he or she can focus on understanding the deeper levels of meaning embedded in the text” (p.46). As students get older, students with poor fluency skills have difficulty with the reading required for academic success beyond their elementary years (Spear-Swerling, 2006).
Instruction in fluency depends on the individual student’s needs. It is important to assess each student individually. There are many ways to assess a student’s reading fluency. Many schools have started using an online reading assessment AIMSWeb. Students are given three grade level passages. For each passage a student’s reading is timed for 60 seconds. The person assessing the student keeps track of the words the student reads incorrectly (errors). The student’s errors are subtracted from the total number of words read giving the assessor a reading fluency score. After all three reading passages the best of the three scores is the one recorded. According to Rasinski (2004), listening to a student read a grade level passage and using a rubric that scores the students expression, phrasing, smoothness and pace is the best way to assess a student’s fluency. Rubrics assess the student’s fluency skill-by-skill not just words per minute. After a student is assessed then the instruction can begin. Rasinski (2006) suggests using repeated readings as one strategy to instruct students on reading fluency. After the teacher reads a passage aloud to students they are asked to following along silently then aloud as a group. Rasinski also suggests using a variety of passages i.e. reader’s theater, poems, speeches, and riddles. Oakley (2003) also states repeated reading is a beneficial strategy for teaching student’s to be fluent readers. “It is necessary to teach reading fluency explicitly because many children don’t just pick it up” (Oakley). Along with repeated reading Oakley also suggests modeling fluent reading and teaching self-monitoring to students. Listening to audio books and teacher read alouds are important for students to get a sense of pacing and expression. Students need to learn how to self monitor their reading. Having students record and listen to themselves helps them learn to monitor their reading.
Current technology is new and ever changing and this dynamic helps peak student interest, which in-turn increases student achievement. Many educators are continuously looking for modern ways to utilize technology to motivate students. According to Sklar (2009), Aliso Elementary School in Orange County piloted an iEngage program that gave 5th graders in the pilot class an Apple iPod. The teacher was hoping to use the iPods to help increase her student’s reading fluency. She noticed that her students were more engaged and more excited to learn when they were allowed to use the iPod. In Sklar’s article she interviewed a student who mentioned the app that helped him the most was iTalk for fluency because he could hear how he read. The student noticed the more he used iTalk his reading improved. He also enjoyed using iTalk to listen to his reading improvements.
Fluency is a skill that needs to be taught, modeled and practiced during and sometimes beyond elementary school. Technology can help engage students and increase fluency rates. Using apps like iTalk that allow students to record themselves reading, while practicing their pacing, expression, and accuracy allow students to listen to themselves and helps increase their fluency rates.
Oakley, G. (2003). Improving oral reading fluency (and comprehension) through the creation of talking books. Reading Online, 6(7), n7. Retrieved from http://www.readingonline.org/articles/Oakley/
Rasinski, T. (2004). Creating fluent readers. Educational Leadership, 61(6), 46-51. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar04/vol61/num06/Creating-Fluent-Readers.aspx
Sklar, D. (2009). Legendary local: Saddleback teacher issues ipod touch to students. News-n-Views. Retrieved from http://www.news-n-views.com/asp/articlenews.asp?art_id=3676&internal=1&issue_date=10/11/2009&place=0648256&edent=8853059
Spear-Swerling, L. (2006). Preventing and remediating difficulties with reading fluency. WETA. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/spearswerling/Preventing_and_Remediating_Difficulties_with_Reading_Fluency