What to Teach with Fluency

Because fluency is a combination of three reading components, any instruction in fluency has to specifically address those three areas: phonics, comprehension, and oral language. If the instruction does not address those areas, it is not fluency. To assist with these three components, also add vocabulary instruction.

Phonics: Phonics instruction helps students with accurate decoding, the first part of the definition for fluency. As students read aloud, they may struggle with decoding some of the words. As you pair fluency with phonics instruction, choose text that contains words with the target letter–sound associations you are studying with phonics instruction. The fluency activities, therefore, will provide students with practice in those target associations and give you the opportunity to assess whether students are mastering them.

Comprehension: Comprehension instruction helps students with the appropriate oral expression of the text, which is the second part of the definition for fluency. Throughout fluency instruction, have students engage in activities that help them understand the text. The opposite is also true: as students are engaging in comprehension activities, include fluency activities. As noted previously, effective strategies for fluency include analysis and discussion of the text, which leads to comprehension.

Oral Language: Oral language helps students with the pacing for reading aloud and, to some degree, the expression, which is the third part of the definition for fluency. Oral language includes the study of how language is used appropriately, and this includes appropriate expression and pacing. As students are trying to figure out how to speak the text, you are really engaging in oral language.

Vocabulary: Vocabulary instruction fits very nicely into fluency activities. You will tie fluency instruction to vocabulary instruction by selecting text that has target words to learn. Also, through the discussion of the text, you will help students figure out what words mean. Ultimately, if students are going to understand what the text means, they have to know what the words mean. As you will see later in the vocabulary chapter, study new words first before students read them in text, whether silently or aloud.

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