3 Ways to Improve Fluency

The International Literacy Brief “Reading Fluently Does Not Mean Reading Fast” defines fluency as “reasonably accurate reading, at an appropriate rate, with suitable expression, that leads to accurate and deep comprehension and motivation to read.” Accurate reading involves developing automaticity. Reading accurately involves decoding and instant word recognition which allows the reader to concentrate on meaning instead of the mechanics of reading. The key to the second part of the definition is APPROPRIATE RATE. This doesn’t mean as fast as possible. Most teachers have experienced students who read extremely fast but have no idea what they are reading. The other element of fluency is prosody. Prosody (expressiveness) involves intonation, phrasing, rhythm, and pitch.

The suggestions below are for students which have basic decoding and knowledge of sight words. These are suggestions for improving fluency in either an online or in person teaching situation.


Hearing fluent reading is extremely important. Teacher read alouds can introduce students to a variety of genres, develop important background information, “think aloud” to develop comprehension strategies, and motivate students to read. The National Reading Panel supports teacher reading, peer-reading, and audio recordings.

Student choice often helps to motivate students to be involved in the read aloud. I sometimes select a few books and give them a short book talk about the books, perhaps reading a short section. We then vote and select the book which will be read aloud. While there are many lists available on the internet to help select a good read aloud, your librarian is likely a great resource. This link to Scholastic lists their recommendations and can be sorted by grade level.


Song lyrics are one source for repeated reading. Students read song lyrics along with the music. Repeated reading will help students develop automaticity as students read the same text over and over, striving for error free reading. Aside from song lyrics, almost any decodable text written at an instructional level can be used.

Audio recordings work very well. The teacher or another fluent adult records a passage. Students listen then read along repeatedly until they are confident and reading without errors. At this point, I have my students record themself using audacity or another audio recording app several times. (I usually required a minimum of three recordings). They then select what they determine is their best reading and send the chosen recording to the teacher for evaluation. Since my commute to home took approximately 25 minutes, I used the time to and from to listen to recordings. I left myself short recordings of my comments on my phone. Once a month I kept a recording to use for progress monitoring. As I book conferenced with students, we would sometimes discuss their recording. Quarterly I would evaluate using a fluency rubric. My personal favorite is that of Tim Rasinski.


To prepare for reader’s theater, students must practice their part repeatedly. This helps to develop fluency since students must rely on their expression since they do not have props, choreography, and costumes. Often the scripts require fewer characters than students in a standard class. For this reason, I generally had more than one script going at a time. I had students highlight their parts and practice at home BEFORE practicing with their group. This is particularly important for my struggling readers. I would send an email to parents asking them to practice. I would also let special education teachers know and many times they were supportive and practiced with their students. (Note: Sometimes if students had a particular part they were struggling with, I offered them an opportunity to rewrite the line (with my approval). I also allowed this opportunity for people who thought they could improve the script. This way students could rewrite without anyone knowing they had been struggling. Honestly, it was rare when someone chose to rewrite a line.

I would also recommend adding opportunities for choral reading with your reader’s theater. Research supports choral reading. I often ask my students to read the Narrator parts as a choral reading with everyone reading together. (We practice together before our class “performance.”) Again–repeated reading, and an expressive example for students who need it.


The following scripts are available from Reading Specialty on Teacher’s Pay Teachers.

Click on the titles below to be redirected to Reading Specialty (TPT Store) where you can purchase one of the above titles. These can be used as you work on fluency and to develop important background information. The following scripts are available

President’s Day

Take Me to the Ball Game

St. Patrick’s Day

Earth Day

Memorial Day