In a review of the research on fluency, Kuhn and Stahl found some evidence that fluency instruction has positive effects on comprehension. Importantly, they also found that assisted approaches were more effective than non-assisted approaches, and that approaches based on re-reading were no more (but no less) effective than those based on reading various texts. That bottom line is laid out in the abstract of the article.
This is the real deal. Watch how this teacher uses tone of voice, eye contact, and gestures to underscore meaning as she reads aloud from non-fiction text. Notice the students’ responses when the teacher asks them whether authors sometimes assume that they (the readers) know more than they actually know. Lucy Calkins, who introduces the video, is a widely renowned literacy expert who is credited with introducing and developing the idea of the “minilesson” as a key component of Writing Workshops.
Fluency has become a hot topic among reading educators, and this author gets to the heart of the matter. We may not know whether fluency is the chicken or the egg in relation to the overarching goal of comprehension, but we do know what doesn’t work for either fluency or comprehension improvement. Unfortunately, two things that don’t work are being revived in classrooms around the country in the name of improving fluency: whole class silent reading and round robin reading.
There’s no doubt about it: the Confirmation Fluency stage can be frustrating and even disastrous. This resource describes what this stage looks and feels like—from the perspectives of the reader, the parent, and the teacher. Then it offers some great advice for what readers, parents, and teachers can do to successfully navigate the passageway through it.
Here are several tried and true techniques for focusing on fluency. When using these, it is good to keep in mind that although fluency has a high correlation with comprehension, there is no convincing evidence that improving fluency causes improved comprehension. It could well be that getting better at comprehension, especially comprehension of unfamiliar language structures, automatically improves fluency.
The little girl in this video has reached the Confirmation Fluency stage. She is probably helping her mom with a class project, but she is clearly having fun with it. Even though she seems to have read these pieces several times before, and she has the distraction of knowing that she is being recorded, notice the close attention she pays to the print. Chall talks about the goal of this stage of reading as “ungluing from print,” and this little girl is working on getting there.
Here’s a great idea for children just entering the Confirmation Fluency stage. It teaches the concept of sentence and provides every student in the class with lots of practice with paying attention to the printed cues to sentencing when reading.
In this fascinating video, we see several different children reading the same simple text aloud. Notice how the 2nd child mis-reads the phrase “Why not go to see him?” He knows each of those words individually, but he himself has probably never spoken that phrase. When the 1st child reads this same phrase, you can see that she is looking several words ahead as she reads when she pauses after the word “Why” and then reads the sentence correctly, instead of as “Why not? Go to see him.”