Fluency: Everything You Need to Know

This is the ability to express one’s self in a particular language, in an articulate manner. Fluency encompasses three characteristics: automaticity of reading, word accuracy, and prosody. While decoding the words readily and correctly (automaticity) is important, it’s equally vital to use them in meaningful phrases with suitable expressions to make sense of what one reads.

It is well noted that when an individual reads eloquently, it significantly aids comprehension. But what creates this high correlation between fluency and reading comprehension? The automaticity theory put forward by Dr. S. Jay Samuels could give the answer. He’s a professor and researcher, who’s popular for his work in the field of fluency. According to him, humans possess a limited amount of mental energy. When they want to be skilled in handling a complex task like reading, they should first master the component tasks. This will let them perform the task automatically. For instance, if a reader needs to focus his attention on decoding words, he’ll probably not have adequate mental energy left over to dwell on the meaning of the text. This is in contrast to a fluent reader, who can decode the words automatically and focus his full attention on comprehending the text. If students want to become proficient readers, they need to be able to decode the text automatically as it would help them pay attention to the meaning.

There are three research-proven strategies that can improve fluency, namely:

·         Teacher Modeling: Some examples of this strategy are teacher-assisted reading, audio-assisted reading, etc. Instead of just listening to someone else read, the students would need to be active participants. The reading rate is likely to be slow initially as the students will take more time to learn new words and seek clarifications for the complex terms. But the rate would improve as students learn more words and their fluency gets a boost naturally.

·         Repeated Reading: This strategy involves reading the same material repeatedly until the students master the accuracy of the words and can identify them in other texts.

Progress monitoring: This involves goal-setting and receiving immediate feedback before progressing to the next level. Here, the educator gives the students a particular reading goal and tells them how he’ll assess them. He’ll also give students the means to evaluate their own progress. Chasing a goal and getting quick feedback on their progress can be extremely motivating in improving fluency.

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