Fluency describes when students are able to read quickly, accurately, and with expression (also referred to as prosody). They not only recognize words automatically, but also group them together into grammatical phrases, which enhances their ability to interpret and understand the text [1].

“Children who do not develop fluency, no matter how bright they are, will continue to read slowly and with great effort.” [2]

There are fast and slow routes to reading, and the fastest way to read a word is by sight. Some students, who are effective decoders, may not transfer their vocabulary into long-term visual memory, and thus don’t learn to read words by sight. This is frequently the case for students with LDs. This becomes a problem because being able to read quickly is important for reading fluency and comprehension. When students need to decode every word, their working memory is consumed with this task, and cannot be used to keep track of the meaning of the full sentence or paragraph [3].

Teaching Fluency

word reading and reading fluency

Figure 1. Instructional activities for word reading and reading fluency, taken from the Road to Reading Infographic

To develop students’ reading fluency, instruction should target word reading as well as sentence and passage reading (see Figure 1). Effective instructional strategies include guided oral reading and repeated reading with guidance and feedback. Conversely, strategies that are not recommended to build reading fluency include independent silent reading periods and round-robin reading, in which each student is asked to read a passage. While these strategies may have other benefits, they are not shown to enhance fluency [4].

Click here to access the Road to Reading Infographic. 

Repeated Reading

Repeated reading is an instructional strategy in which students read and reread familiar texts. As students become increasingly familiar with the passages, they are able to decode the words with greater ease. This reduces the cognitive load of the reading task, and allows students to focus their energies on other aspects of fluent reading, such as pacing and intonation. This notion is intuitive; it is also supported by the research. The report of the National Reading Panel concludes:

“Classroom practices that encourage repeated oral reading with feedback and guidance leads to meaningful improvements in reading expertise for students – for good readers as well as those who are experiencing difficulties.” [5]

Integrate repeated reading into your classroom practice by building it into structured class time, but also by simply making familiar texts available to students during unstructured time. This allows them to authentically engage with the texts and increase their familiarity with its passages.

Guided Reading

Guided reading is an instructional strategy in which small groups of students engage in independent whisper reading, while the educator offers individualized support and feedback to each student. Guided reading can be used to help students develop a wide range of reading skills, including fluency. The handout below describes how to implement guided reading in your classroom.

Preview of Guided Reading PDF

Click here to access the printable document How to Implement Guided Reading in an Inclusive Classroom.

To adapt this activity to target fluency development, Mike Di Donato and Brian Hayes, former teachers at Sagonaska Demonstration School, offer the following advice:

Slow it down. We already know that students with a learning disability in reading have deficits in processing speed, memory, and phonological processing. It is unfair to ask them to be fluent readers when all of their brain’s power is working on decoding the words on the page… Reading fluently takes a long time to master. To help students become fluent readers, have them practice reading at least a few levels below their independent reading level. This instructional method relates back to perfect practice. When students are reading below their independent reading level, calculate their words per minute. Once you know this, have them read the same passage until their words per minute reaches a goal you have previously set for them. Be sure to keep the goal attainable by the fifth or sixth reading of the same passage. Then, set a new goal and give the student a new passage at the same level. As time goes on, students will eventually read at the predetermined speed. When this happens, give the student a slightly harder text to read and repeat the process[6]

The video clip below provides an overview of Guided Reading and considerations for students with LDs.

Click here to access the transcription of this video.

In addition to guided reading, the shared reading strategy discussed previously in this module, is also an effective strategy for building fluency. The teacher provides a model of fluent reading for the students, who follow along by whisper reading. The greater the frequency of the shared reading activity, the more fluent the students’ reading will become as they gain familiarity and confidence with the text.

The following printable handouts provide additional strategies for developing students’ fluency. To read the original article associated with these handouts, click here to access the article Reading and the Brain: Strategies for Decoding, Fluency, and Comprehension.


Click here to access the handout Interventions for Reading Fluency (K-2).

Click here to access the handout Interventions for Reading Fluency (3+).

To learn about research on effective fluency interventions, click here to access the article Improving Reading Fluency: Which Interventions are the Most Effective?



[1] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005

[2] National Reading Panel, 2000, p. 3-3

[3] Fitzer & Hale, 2015

[4] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005

[5] National Reading Panel, 2000, p. 3-3

[6] Di Donato & Hayes, 2015