February 18, 2019

By Dr. Lynn M. Edwards

Elementary students are at a critical age for developing the skills and knowledge necessary to become successful, lifelong learners. Reading fluency is an essential component of this idea.

When educators incorporate systematic and explicit fluency lessons into Tier 1 and Tier 2 reading instruction, they are ensuring students learn how to read fluently. In contrast, students with poor fluency are likely to have limited reading comprehension and often do not enjoy reading.

In this blog, I’ll take an in-depth look at reading fluency, and I’ll explain how Renaissance can help with research-based fluency interventions for both whole-class and small-group instruction so students can improve fluency and become strong readers.

Boy reading a book

What is reading fluency?

Reading fluency is the ability to read text with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody:

  • Accuracy means being able to decode words correctly
  • Automaticity means being able to quickly and effortlessly recognize words
  • Prosody means using appropriate tone, pacing, phrasing, and inflection of words while reading

Fluency and automaticity are also used in contexts outside of reading, like to describe the development of other skills such as math fact fluency, letter sound fluency, or the ability to drive a car or play a musical instrument. Fluency is a crucial aspect of learning any skill, just as it is with reading.

Teacher and students

The importance of focusing on reading fluency for learners

Being able to read fluently is essential for learners to (a) understand and (b) remember what it was that they just read. It is believed that fluent readers are more likely to comprehend what they’re reading than students who aren’t fluent. Because of this, reading fluency is a necessary part of reading comprehension.

Establishing reading fluency is also likely to promote the enjoyment of reading, which increases the probability that a student will want to read. In general, fluent readers experience success during reading with low levels of frustration, while non-fluent readers read much more slowly and struggle to understand what they’re reading.

Little girl with a book

How to identify students in need of reading fluency intervention

Teachers can identify students in need of reading fluency intervention by using FastBridge from Renaissance. In FastBridge, teachers would use FAST assessment results, including Sight Words (50,150) and Sentence Reading subtests within the earlyReading suite of CBMreading. The Sight Word assessments and CBMreading may also be used to monitor fluency intervention progress.

Sight Words

The Sight Words (50) subtest is included in the earlyReading screening composite score in the spring of kindergarten. The Sight Words (150) subtest is in the fall, winter, and spring composite in first grade.

earlyReading composite

The earlyReading composite includes four subtests, and that score can be used to identify students who are not on track, or at risk, for performance at grade level. For students whose composite score is below the benchmark goal, it is recommended that teachers look at specific earlyReading subtests to determine specific student difficulties with fluency.

For example, if a student’s score on the earlyReading Sight Words subtest is low, it might indicate a need for fluency instruction focused on sight words. Teachers also have the option of completing the sight word inventory to determine which words are known and unknown to each student.

For students in grade 1 and above, teachers should look at performance on CBMreading. If a student’s score is below the benchmark on CBMreading, it might indicate a need for fluency instruction focused on reading connected text.

For students who are significantly below the benchmark on CBMreading, it is important to examine both accuracy and words read correctly per minute. Some students with low CBMreading scores may also need a phonics intervention, and additional assessments may be useful to determine which intervention is the best place to begin supporting the student.

Teachers may also consider a few indicators that help in identifying students in need of reading fluency instruction or intervention, including difficulty with:

  • Identifying sight words accurately and/or quickly
  • Reading connected text with higher than 95% accuracy
  • Reading connected text at the appropriate rate (reading below grade level benchmark in words read per minute)

Supporting foundational literacy

Learn more about tools and resources from Renaissance to enhance students’ reading fluency.

Teacher high-fiving student

5 fluency intervention strategies to implement in the classroom

Becoming a fluent reader involves utilizing different strategies focused on word recognition and automaticity. If you have students struggling with reading fluency, try these evidence-based reading fluency interventions.

#1: One-minute readings

The key to one-minute readings isn’t speed. Instead, it’s the connection between timed one-minute readings and their ability to help students move from word recognition to reading comprehension.

#2: Reading comprehension

Have students read aloud, and then allow them to reflect on the reading and express their thoughts and feelings. As they read aloud, ask them, for example, to picture themselves in the main character’s shoes to help guide their reflection post-reading. This is a helpful tool to enhance reading comprehension.

#3: Activity sheets

Provide students with activity sheets that relate to their readings. Activity sheets can be used in the classroom or at home with family members as a way to help them support the student’s learning.

#4: Fluency modeling videos

Provide students with various methods of fluency modeling, whether it be through videos you show in the classroom or you as the teacher modeling fluent reading.

You can read aloud to your students and let them read along using fluency modeling videos.

#5: Reading fluency tracker

Creating a reading fluency tracker gives students agency and motivates them to improve. It also allows teachers to have a quick view of the student’s progress.

Here’s how it works:

As students read one passage repeatedly, they graph each attempt with a different colored crayon or pencil. For example, instruct a student to read a passage three times and graph their attempt each time to see how the student is progressing through each attempt.

Two boys on a tablet

Fluency interventions available from FastBridge

Given that fluency is a foundational skill needed for being able to read for meaning, how can we support students in developing it? To meet the needs of your students, FastBridge offers both whole-class and small-group reading interventions that target fluency skills.

These can be used for both core instruction (Tier 1) and supplemental instruction (Tier 2). They are research- and evidence-based reading fluency interventions that are aligned with FAST assessments and state standards for English Language Arts for grades K–5.

Currently, there are four fluency interventions available through FastBridge for educators to use. These interventions are designed to be used to build both word-level (e.g., sight word recognition) and paragraph-level (e.g., reading grade-level passages or stories) fluency skills.

For each reading fluency intervention described below, there is a series of eight lessons to build an understanding of each intervention and when to use it for which students:

  • Lesson 1: An introduction to the intervention
  • Lesson 2: Standardized administration information, with a short video
  • Lesson 3: Whole-group step-by-step administration guide, with student and teacher materials to use
  • Lesson 4: Small-group step-by-step administration guide, with student and teacher materials to use
  • Lesson 5: Formative assessment with progress monitoring recommendations
  • Lesson 6: Practice options, including a checklist to monitor intervention fidelity
  • Lesson 7: Clarification in implementing the intervention
  • Lesson 8: Resources, e.g., references for the research on which the intervention is based

#1: Sight Word Flashcards

This first reading fluency intervention should be used when students have an accuracy instruction need that is specifically related to sight words. That is, students need to increase their accuracy to higher than 95% and automaticity of sight words, first in isolation and then generalize to connected text passages.

#2: Sight Word Bingo

This second reading fluency intervention should be used when students have an automaticity need specifically related to sight words. Sight Word Bingo is focused on increasing the automaticity and retention of sight words such that students can identify each word in three seconds or less.

Sight Word Bingo can be used alongside the first intervention, Sight Word Flashcards. For example, a teacher could use Sight Word Flashcards three to four times a week and then, at the end of the week, use Sight Word Bingo, focusing on the sight words that were taught throughout the week.

This intervention can also be used on its own three to four times per week.

Young students with volunteer in classroom

#3: Listening Passage Preview with Phrase Drill

This third reading fluency intervention should be used when students have an accuracy need related to fluency reading paragraphs and stories. The intervention materials include instructional passages for grades 1–3. These passages may help support students when focused on reading fluency because they include a high proportion of decodable words and sight words.

The goal of this reading fluency intervention is to increase word reading accuracy to 95% or higher when reading connected text.

#4: Repeated Reading with Partner

This fourth reading fluency intervention should be used when students have an automaticity need related to reading longer texts, such as stories.

Repeated Reading with Partner is designed to support students in increasing their words read correctly per minute by reading stories with a partner. The intervention materials include stories appropriate for students in grades 1–3.

The goal of this reading fluency intervention is for students to increase their reading rate so that they can understand what they read and learn to enjoy reading.

Group of students in library

Renaissance: Offering FastBridge resources to help support reading fluency interventions in the classroom

To sum up, reading fluency is an important component of proficient reading because we need to recognize words quickly enough to retrieve their meaning and tie them with other words in a passage. Many students struggle with this skill, which leads them to:

  • Become non-fluent readers
  • Struggle to comprehend what they read; and
  • Develop a dislike for reading

With tools and resources provided by Renaissance, educators can utilize evidence-based reading fluency interventions for both whole-class and small-group instruction to help improve student fluency and develop confident readers.

FastBridge has fluency interventions like…

  • Sight Word Bingo
  • Sight Word Flashcards
  • Listening Passage Preview with Phrase Drill; and
  • Repeated Reading with Partner

…and also combines curriculum-based measures (CBM) and computer-adaptive tests (CAT) for screening and progress monitoring. All of these resources allow educators to learn about the reading strengths of their students and provide them with the necessary tools to make them better learners.

Learn more

Connect with an expert today to learn more about bringing FastBridge and other Renaissance solutions into your district.

Share this post