Fluency: A key to reading success

Automaticity and Prosody

Automaticity and prosody are two critical components of reading fluency. Automaticity is the ability to accurately and effortlessly read words in text. As a reader becomes automatic and accurate in recognizing words, the reader’s required attention to word recognition diminishes. As such, the reader has greater capacity to employ higher-level thinking processes for text comprehension.

Prosody is to the ability to read orally with appropriate expression or intonation. Studies have found that students who read with good expression generally exhibit better comprehension in silent reading.

Instruction in these areas can lead to improvements in fluency as well as the more important goal of reading: comprehension.

Instructional methods

Several instructional methods to develop fluency can readily be incorporated into regular reading instruction as well as intervention instruction for students who have not achieved grade level proficiency.


To help students develop a clear sense of what constitutes reading fluency, teachers or other more fluent readers can model fluent reading. When reading aloud to students, the teacher can help students notice how she uses her voice to enhance the meaning of the text and to make the reading experience more satisfying. Students can then aim to make their own oral reading approximate the teacher’s reading.

Assisted Reading

In assisted reading, the developing reader is supported by a more proficient reader during oral reading. Common forms of assisted reading are group reading or paired reading. For readers who do not have a person or group to read with, technology provides an answer.

In technology-assisted reading, the reader listens to a fluent recording of a text while reading. Cassette tapes provided one form of recorded reading, but they were often easily lost or damaged. In captioned television programs, the reader sees the words on the screen while hearing the words read.

More recently, teachers have turned to digital recording applications, such as podcasts, to create technology-assisted readings. In other instances, software publishers and online providers have combined authentic literature with technology to create interactive programs for modeled and assisted reading.

One such program is Reading Assistant, an online reading tool that uses speech recognition to correct and support students as they read aloud, helping them build fluency and comprehension with the assistance of a supportive listener. A range of reading levels allow for differentiated instruction. In addition, automatic calculation of words correct per minute and access to comprehension and vocabulary reports make it easy for teachers to track students’ progress.

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