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Introductory Scenario

You are working with a group of students and are trying to figure out which of them has mastered grade-level reading and which need more help. In other words, you want to measure their reading fluency. The students are working on two types of activities, one in which they read a passage silently by themselves and another in which they take turns reading aloud to the rest of the group.

One of the students, Alan, sits down to read his assigned silent-reading passage. Very quickly—a couple minutes before any of the other students—he puts down his book and announces he’s done. But when you ask him who the main character in the passage was, he says “Jack” when the real main character was named “Zack.”

In the oral reading activity, his classmate Marta stands up to read to her classmates. In a monotone voice, she reads the assigned passage quickly, stringing the words together into an uninterrupted strand of sounds that doesn’t pause for punctuation like commas and periods. She finishes the passage much faster than the other students, and has a hard time recounting the sequence of events in the story when prompted.

Alan and Marta completed the silent and oral reading activities faster than their classmates.

TAKE NOTES:

Would you rate them as being the “best” or most fluent readers of the group?

Why or why not?

WHAT IS FLUENCY

In the last few units, we’ve discussed the components and skills that make up successful reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphology. This unit will cover what happens when they all come together: fluency. You may recognize this term from when it’s used to describe people learning different languages. In this context, “fluent” means that someone fully understands a language and can speak it with ease in conversations with other fluent speakers.Fluency is important for reading and reading instruction too. Once a learner can read fluently, it unlocks both deeper comprehension and motivation to read.

Fluency is the ability to read effortlessly & accurately.

But how do we observe fluency? When students read aloud, it is easy to notice their speed and style of reading. Oral reading helps us understand both speed and expression.

But students also read silently, to themselves. In fact, the vast majority of overall reading is done silently. How can we notice or measure what happens when a student reads silently? And how can we tell whether a student understands what he or she reads?

Furthermore, since fluency combines several aspects of reading, especially print awareness, decoding, and comprehension, it’s hard to nail down on its own terms. Which aspect should be more important in the way we measure fluency? We will return to these questions later in the unit.


 

Module: Helping Students Read

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