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How to improve reading fluency

The concept of fluent reading involves accurate decoding, speed, comprehension and prosody (expressive, personalised reading). The concept is also known as fluency. When we talk about fluency, like anything new that needs to be learnt, it requires practice. One obvious way to train fluency is through the repeated reading method.

American educational psychologist S. Jay Samuels was behind the development of the principle of repeated reading. His argument in favour of the method is based on the fact that students who struggle to develop automatic reading skills will benefit from reading the same text multiple times. Reading the same text multiple times was not a known method in reading instruction previously. On the contrary, students were instead presented with new texts each time they had to read.

Samuels pointed out that this contrast with how we usually approach learning – if you want to become good at something, you need to repeat the same exercise many times – so it makes sense to work with repeated reading in order to strengthen reading fluency.

Repeated reading as a method is especially important for students with reading difficulties. On the first read-through of a text, the struggling reader will rarely experience a sense mastery, whereas repeated reading provides will result in more fluent and satisfactory reading.

Gertrud Brandt, author of the book Fluent Reading in Praxis, highlights a number of methods for strengthening reading fluency in practice. Here are some of the methods highlighted.

Buddy reading

This method involves students being paired up and taking turns reading aloud to each other. The principle of the method is that one student reads aloud while the other follows along in the text. The listener supports and helps with decoding words, talking about difficult/unfamiliar words and correcting mistakes. Afterwards the partners swap roles. Research suggests that this particular method yields significantly good results in terms of reading fluency and comprehension. It can also lead to greater likelihood of self-correction of mistakes, more accurate decoding and greater confidence.

The three-in-one method

This method consists of three parts: 1) teacher modelling 2) direct teaching 3) student reading. Teacher modelling involves the teacher periodically interrupting themselves during their own reading and addressing the challenging elements in terms of pronunciation of different words and how different signs in the text should be interpreted in relation to the reading as a whole. Once the teacher has modelled the text, it’s a good idea to elaborate on some of the examples from the reading in the direct teaching. The students then practise reading the same piece of text and use the same strategies that the teacher used to achieve a more fluent reading and thus a better understanding of the text.

Brandt, G. (2019). Fluent reading in praxis.