A fluent reading is a reading with precision, rhythm and expressivity. Any program to improve reading fluency has to work on these three aspects. Up to the 4th grade, reading comprehension and fluency are positively correlated. This means that students with good fluency have a good understanding of what they’re reading. From 4th grade onwards, this correlation starts being less intense, and can even become negative in high school. So, starting from 4th grade, there are children whose reading fluency can be adequate and whose reading comprehension can be inadequate, and the other way around.
This procedure is similar to the one used by athletes. They train by repeating an exercise to improve their time or technique, and they repeat it over and over. It’s proven that reading the same text four or five times helps produce the basic effects of the improvement of reading fluency. This is tedious. To motivate them, it’s good to explain to the students what happens in their brain when they read, and how it can be improved. You teach them to evaluate reading (precision, rhythm, expressivity and comprehension), and the adult practices with them. Once this dominated, you introduce the repeated reading strategy. It’s really useful for the students to read something to their relatives, and to ask all of them to sign it.
- Selection and handing out of the text
- Repeated readings of the text in front of other people like relatives or friends, who sign after the reading.
- Another way is to hand out a text and a number of words per minute they need to read, and ask them to keep reading the text until they achieve that goal.
Usually, the tests used only evaluate about the reliability and validity. For school centers, it’s more useful to use “informal reading inventories” where we can evaluate the students’ precision, rhythm, expression and comprehension, so that we can improve it and create a program at the center. To manage this, we need the following:
1 Select several passages from texts organized by difficulty by grade (from 1st to 6th grade and then 7th to 10th grade). To accomplish this, we select some texts arranged by difficulty. A group of experts evaluates and comments on the selection. It’s better if the texts are narrations at first, and then from 4th grade onwards, they can be exposition texts too. The evaluation is more precise if we also include a list of 20 words. About half of them should be words of frequent use, and the other half should be uncommon words, and some pseudo-words.
2- You define the aspects to evaluate about fluency and comprehension, and you go through a registration procedure so the teacher finds it easier to register the students’ reading (omissions, additions, substitution, inversions, repetitions, syllabication, lack of intonation and pauses, speed and comprehension).
3- You establish the evaluation criteria to determine the students’ reading level. This is fundamental to improve it, because it lets you adapt the texts and activities according to the students’ level, and then it lets you evaluate their improvement and even create flexible groups or group work according to their levels. You can use three levels:
- a) Independent level: the student is capable of doing it alone and without help.
- b) Instructive level: the student needs help from the teacher.
- C) Frustration level: the student’s reading is inferior to what’s expected for his age.
As an example, a girl reads 100% of the words right, so she would be in the first level. If she fails in about two to five percent of words, she would be in the second level, etc. These percentages can be modified according to the teacher’s opinion.