First You Have to Teach Them to be Disfluent Readers

Teacher question:

You say that one-quarter or one-fifth of the reading instruction time should be spent on oral reading fluency. But I teach kindergarten and most of my kids can’t read, so fluency instruction doesn’t make any sense. What should I do instead?

Shanahan responds:

When we talk about oral reading fluency – or what I prefer to call text reading fluency – we’re referring to the ability to read text accurately, with automaticity, and appropriate expression or prosody.

As such, text fluency is a mash up of a plethora of applied skills including decoding ability, knowledge of high frequency words, ability to multitask – processing one word while moving along to look at the next, and while this is going on, trying to construct meanings, and so on.

Often, text fluency instruction focuses on reading speed; trying to hurry kids along (since we use reading rate as an index of automaticity).

A better way to think about text fluency instruction, however, is as a coordination task that requires the reader to integrate and consolidate their abilities to orchestrate several skills and abilities simultaneously.

Unfortunately, we don’t talk much about the roots of text fluency.

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