Teachers throw the word “fluency” into parent conferences, but what does it mean, and why is it important? Fluency leads to increased comprehension. And increased comprehension matters, because in grade 3, the shift goes from learning to read to reading to learn.
What Is Fluency?
- Fluency is not about reading as fast as you can, but about reading at an appropriate rate with accuracy and inflection.
- Every time your child is reading, he/she is decoding the words carefully in her head.
- The more exposure children get to new words, the faster their young minds can remember words and recognize them without sounding them out. This is called automaticity.
- As students transition into fluent readers, they are able to focus on the content of what they are reading rather than the words.
- Students who are not fluent readers by 4th and 5th grade have a more difficult and stressful time completing assignments in all areas of the curriculum.
How Is Your Child Doing?
Listed below are reading level recommendations for students to read grade level–appropriate texts by the end of the year. Experts’ opinions vary, but these are some good baselines to monitor your child’s fluency.
Keep in mind that these are a simple gauge and just one measurement tool used to identify students’ readiness. Every student learns in a unique way and at his or her own pace. If your child is not at grade level, focus on increasing his or her current score by 10 to 15 words by the end of the year and then celebrate your child’s successes!
If you would like to test your child at home, pick a grade level–appropriate book and time your child reading for one minute. Count the number of words he/she reads correctly within that time frame. (Added words and incorrect words cannot be counted.) Please do not ever make your child feel deficient because he/she cannot read the correct number of words per minute. Use some strategies listed below to help your child improve automaticity.
How Can You Help?
These are some areas you can focus on to improve your child’s fluency.
- Phonics (letter and sound rules)
- Phoneme awareness (blending and separating sounds)
- Phonic word patterns such as oy, ow, ou, sh,ch
- Appropriate pronunciation
- Repeated readings (reread books)
- Choral reading (read aloud together)
As a former primary teacher, I know how important reading fluency is to your child’s success in school. Please leave a comment if you have a question for me about my recommendations.
Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.