Pillar 4: Oral Reading Fluency

The literacy instruction methodology known as the Science of Reading depends and builds upon five distinct but interwoven pillars. These five pillars are:
  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Oral Reading Fluency
  5. Comprehension

Fluency is often described as the linking knot between the five pillars. Students improve their fluency as they grow as decoders through practice and explicit phonics instruction. As they read faster and with more accuracy, so too improves their comprehension and their ability to read with meaning. In fact, fluency is often defined and measured in four parts: accuracy, speed, expression, and comprehension. These four indicators of a student’s fluency ability clearly illustrate the role of fluency as the connector between the pillars of the Science of Reading.

While it is commonly agreed that fluency is an imperative measure of a student’s ability to read and understand, it’s also often considered the most time consuming and difficult of the pillars to measure and improve. The best way for a student to improve their reading fluency is through modeling of reading and reading practice.

When students experience reading modeling and listen to a mentor reader read with accuracy and intonation, they can develop their ability to read with proper cadence and meaning. It takes skill and practice to recognize speech patterns in reading so they know when to change their voice and produce meaning through the way they read.

In addition to listening to a mentor reader, students need significant practice opportunities to develop as fluent readers. In order to skillfully decode, students need opportunities to practice reading out loud and for speed. Reading audibly can be both difficult and frustrating for striving readers but is essential for improving their fluency and comprehension. Some schools adopt reading programs like Amira Learning which allows students to privately practice reading out loud with an AI tutor.

In order to improve reading fluency, students can:

Re-read: Re-reading a familiar text allows students to practice reading faster and with meaningful cadence and intonation. Research shows that re-reading a familiar text will help improve fluency with other texts.

Read for time:  Fluency is based on a student’s ability to read quickly and with accuracy. Families can practice by measuring their students as they read as many words as they can in a story in one minute.

Mentor Reading: Practice reading together by having a mentor reader (like a caregiver or babysitter) read one page and then the student read the next. In this way, students are listening and replicating proper reading skills and intonation.

Reading appropriate texts: If a student is reading a great fluency practice text, they can easily read about 85% of the words in the passage or story. If they are struggling more than that, the text is probably too hard for fluency practice. If the student can easily and accurately read all the words, they are not getting enough productive struggle to improve their fluency.

Fluency is an imperative part of reading improvement for all students. Their ability to accurately and quickly read is a strong predictor of their ability to understand their reading and to enjoy reading in the future. This skill is difficult to practice and assess because it takes significant time and work for the reader and often requires reading out loud. Of the five pillars of the Science of Reading, this is the connecting hinge between the different pillars but also creates challenges for educators and students.

In order for students to effectively develop their fluency they should practice reading out loud with a successful reading coach. Many schools utilize an AI reading coach called Amira. When students read with Amira, they are improving their fluency by accurately reading and working with the AI coach when they struggle so they are able to persist and continue to develop their skills.
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