Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reader's Theater: Fluency and Comprehension

"Without fluency, there is little comprehension"

What is reading fluency?

Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.

Why is fluency important?

When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is choppy.

Reading fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and reading comprehension. Since fluent readers don’t have to concentrate on decoding the actual words, they can focus their attention on what the text actually means. They can make mental connections throughout the text, as well as apply those connections to their personal backgrounds and experiences. Simply, fluent readers recognize the words and comprehend their overall meaning at the same time.

The Struggle to Achieve Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is a significant struggle for many. The less fluent a reader, the more he or she must focus on decoding individual words. Less fluent readers have difficulty with oral reading, which is often slow, choppy, and without natural expression. Less fluent readers must focus their time and attention on figuring out the words, leaving little room for actually understanding the text. Since reading fluency is the key to reading comprehension, less fluent readers often fall behind in educational and professional achievement. 

Although some readers identify words well when those words are alone or on a list, they may not read the same words fluently when they appear in a passage of text. Automatic word recognition is an important reading skill, but it’s not the end of the story. It’s crucial to help students move from word recognition in isolation to reading fluency in context. This takes training and practice.

The Power of Reading Out Loud

Students who read and reread passages orally as they receive guidance and feedback become better readers. Indeed, repeated oral reading significantly improves reading fluency for a lifetime. Therefore, it’s important to understand your student’s strengths and weaknesses on the reading fluency scale.

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