hob icon




This page describes fluency and its elements, research findings, and suggestions on how it is learned and taught. Topics include: fluency development, two methods on how to assess fluency, prosody, how to assess it, a prosody scoring guide, and checklist, and instructional ideas.

Fluency development

Stages of fluency development

  1. Entry level
  2. Acquisition
  3. Proficiency
  4. Maintenance
  5. Generalization
  6. Adaptation

Repeated reading is not recommended for students below first-grade as they do not have the letter sound correspondences and blending words.

Peer-tutoring has been demonstrated to be flexible and empirically sound.

Repeated reading instructional components
1. Passages should be read aloud to a competent tutor. Tutors must be trained to monitor students' oral reading and provide feedback.
2. Corrective feedback should be provided. Feedback on word errors
Student hesitates for 3 seconds: provide word and have student repeat it.
Student mispronounces/omits word: provide word after reading is complete but prior to rereading.
Performance feedback
Provide student with feedback on reading, speed, and accuracy after each passage reading.
3. Passages should be read until a performance criterion is reached. Read passages until student reaches a predetermined fluency level.



Fluency is the ability to read a text, both orally and silently, with appropriate speed, accuracy, and expression. However fluency doesn’t guarantee comprehension.  The three dimensions are accuracy, automatic processing, and prosody.

Need to be able to

Use both letter-sound and meaning cues to determine exactly the pronunciation and meaning of the word that is in the text (knowing how to correctly pronounce words in context.

  • “The dog had a bow in her hair.”
  • “The bow of the ship was black.”

It is not enough to get the word right. It has to be gotten right by using only enough mental power to have enough cognitive power to use to comprehend the text.

If the time it takes to do so is too laborious, comprehension and reading will not be achieved, work is left incomplete, lose interest in reading, and school.

Automatic processing (without conscious thought) defined in terms of speed, word recognition accuracy, word recognition speed, and prosody - proper expression in terms of phrasing, pitch…  is a critical part of proficient reading.

It has nothing to do with oral reading performance.

Dysfunctional readers are forced to focus their attention on word recognition, leaving less capacity for comprehension.

How to Assess Fluency

Method 1

Having students read a grade level passage for one minute a teacher can get a quick sense of these three. Students that score below grade level are at risk.

Method 2

However, remember - Fast isn’t fluent. Statements such as “Pick up the pace”, “Let’s see if you can beat your previous score.” or other statement that emphasizes speed over comprehension should not be made.

Fluency can account for about 30% of their variance in performance on tests.

Assess prosody

Prosody is the rhythmic and tonal aspects of speech. Pitch (intonation), stress patterns (syllable prominence), duration that contributes to expressive reading of text. Signal questions, surprise, exclamation, and other meanings beyond semantics of words being spoken.
Prosody in oral reading should signal reading comprehension of the reader and enhance listening comprehension of the listener. That is, prosodic readers understand what they read and make it easier for others as well.

Prosody can be measured only through observation of an oral reading of a connected text. During the reading of a passage, a teacher can listen to the student's inflection, expression, and phrase boundaries.

The following rubric can be used to rate reader fluency in the areas of expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness, and pace on this four point scale.

A quantifiable scale provides a score that can be used to compare a student against him or herself across time or between students in a class or school.


Prosody scoring guide

Expression and Volume

  1. Reads words as if simply to get them out. Little sense of trying to make text sound like natural language. Tends to read in a quiet voice.
  2. Begins to use voice to make text sound like natural language in some ... areas of the text but not in others. Focus remains largely on pronouncing the words. Still reads in a quiet voice.
  3. Makes text sound like natural language throughout the better part of the passage. Occasionally slips into expressionless reading. Voice volume is generally appropriate throughout the text.
  4. Reads with good expression and enthusiasm throughout the text. Varies expression and volume to match his or her interpretation of the passage.


  1. Reads in monotone with little sense of phrase boundaries; frequently reads word-by-word.
  2. Frequently reads in two- and three-word phrases, giving the impression of choppy reading; improper stress and intonation fail to mark ends of sentences and clauses.
  3. Reads with a mixture of run-ons, mid-sentence pauses for breath, and some choppiness; reasonable stress and intonation.
  4. Generally reads with good phrasing, mostly in clause and sentence units, with adequate attention to expression.


  1. Makes frequent extended pauses, hesitations, false starts, sound-outs, repetitions, and/or multiple attempts.
  2. Experiences several "rough spots" in text where extended pauses or hesitations are more frequent and disruptive.
  3. Occasionally breaks smooth rhythm because of difficulties with specific words and/or structures.
  4. Generally reads smoothly with some breaks, but resolves word and structure difficulties quickly, usually through self-correction.


  1. Reads slowly and laboriously.
  2. Reads moderately slowly.
  3. Reads with an uneven mixture of fast and slow pace.
  4. Consistently reads at conversational pace; appropriate rate throughout reading.

Scores range 4-16. Generally, scores below 8 indicate that fluency may be a concern. Scores of 8 or above indicate that the student is making good progress in fluency.

Adapted from Zutell & Rasinski, 1991.


Prosody Checklist

  1. Student placed vocal emphasis on appropriate words.
  2. Student's voice tone rose and fell at appropriate points in the text.
  3. Student's inflection reflected the punctuation in the text (e.g., voice tone rose near die end of a question).
  4. In narrative text with dialogue, student used appropriate vocal tone to represent characters' mental states, such as excitement, sadness, fear, or confidence.
  5. Student used punctuation to pause appropriately at phrase boundaries.
  6. Student used prepositional phrases to pause appropriately at phrase boundaries.
  7. Student used subject-verb divisions to pause appropriately at phrase boundaries.
  8. Student used conjunctions to pause appropriately at phrase boundaries.

To develop reading fluency use assisted reading and repeated readings.
Students need to hear what fluent reading sounds like and how to interpret text with their voices. Research suggests these kinds of practice improves their abilities in these areas as well as comprehension. Four elements to consider: 1. Have the necessary prerequisite skills, 2. choose an appropriate intervention, 3. implement instructional components, and select appropriate reading materials.

Passages for performance - poetry, scripts, speeches, monologues, dialogues, jokes, and riddles are great for this. Poetry cafes and readers’ theater festivals. Comedy clubs.

Interactions used by teachers to increase prosody:


Instructional sequence

  1. Pair students and provide them with a 100 - 200 word passage at their instructional level and a transparency of the passage and a marker and data-sheet.
  2. Each student takes turns as a recorder.
  3. The recorder records the time and marks incorrect or missed words. Missed words are determined as mispronunciation or If the reader hesitates more than 3 seconds, The recorder pronounces the missed word, has the reader repeat it, and continues to read. The recorder marks an X on the transparency over the missed word placed on the copy of the passage.
  4. The recorder announces the end of the one minute time period, provides feedback to the reader, and has the reader pronounce them.
  5. The recorder records the number of words read, errors, and correct words per minute on a progress sheet.
  6. Students switch roles and repeat the process no more than four times per session.
  7. End in a positive manner.

Instructional suggestions to develop fluency

How to know when to move on? 95-100% accuracy at grade level by words per minute from the Rate chart.

Rate chart
Grade Time Correct words per minute


































Other interventions: