“Reading fluency is a product-an outcome of a reader’s integration or orchestration of strategic actions. It’s much more than automatic word recognition, although that is one contributor. But it is also a process. Reading fluency itself fuels the reading system because it enables the reader to make maximum use of all the information he has-oral language structure and meaning, knowledge of the visual features or words, and understanding of the story or information book that is being processed. Because the reading is moving along at a pace that resembles language (rather than slow isolated word calling), the reader can constantly check whether the language processed is making sense.”
~Fountas & Pinnell, Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, p. 429
As we can see, from this quote, fluent reading is so much more than fast reading. Just because a reader is reading quickly doesn’t mean they are reading fluently. Imagine a reader reading at a fast pace in a monotone voice flying through all of the punctuation marks. The reading might be fast, but neglecting punctuation and intonation doesn’t support the meaning of the text. Fountas and Pinnell describe six dimensions of fluency that work together to support meaning. We need to provide explicit teaching with a clear demonstration.
The Six Dimensions of Fluency
1. Pausing – Voice is guided by the punctuation marks.
“Make your voice go down at the period.”
2. Intonation – The tone of voice changes to reflect characters speaking.
“Make your voice sound excited like the character.”
3. Phrasing – Putting words together into meaningful groups.
“Put these words together like this.”
4. Stress – Putting emphasis on certain words to convey meaning.
“Make that bold word sound important like this.”
5. Pace – Reading at an appropriate speed. The pace or speed of reading increases when students are phrasing in meaningful units and using punctuation to guide their reading.
“Listen to how I read this quickly”.
6. Integration – Working with all of the above dimensions smoothly and seamlessly.
“Listen to how I read this page smoothly. Now you try it.”
To best support meaningful reading we have to listen for more than just the student’s pace. After administering a running record take a moment to note how the reader sounds, keeping in mind all of the dimensions of fluency. When you see your students struggling with fluency intervene right then and there! Helping students to break the habit of disfluent reading also helps them have a more meaningful enjoyable reading experience. Be on the lookout for my next post with more specifics on how to support fluency.