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St Joseph's Catholic

Primary School, Withnell

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What do we need to know about reading fluency?

Scientific research has consistently recognised the critical nature of fluency as a bridge between effortful decoding and comprehension. A fluent reader is one who can accurately and automatically decode words.

If readers can decode words accurately but have to employ an excessive proportion of their cognitive resources to do so, they have fewer of those resources available for comprehension. However, when readers are accurate and automatic, they can decode with minimal use of their cognitive resources, thus allowing them to channel their effort towards comprehending and making sense of what they have read.


So, how do we teach and nurture fluency in our pupils at St. Joseph's?

Simply put, pupils need to:


  • Be read aloud to: This allows them to hear fluent reading
  • Engage in assisted reading: Pupils read a text whilst listening to a fluent reading of the same text; and
  • Be given opportunities for repeated reading: pupils practice reading texts repeatedly until they can read the text in a fluent manner.


The Fluency Development Lesson (FDL)

The immediate goal of the FDL is for pupils to be able to achieve fluency on a new text every single day, an achievement that many struggling readers seldom experience. The texts we use are usually short in length in order to keep the lessons to no more than 20 minutes (poems can work well, as their rhythm and rhyme lend themselves to prosodic reading).

  1. 1. Teacher presents a copy of the day’s poem to the class, then reads them the poem aloud while pupils follow along silently. The teacher may choose to read the poem multiple times with different levels of prosody. After the reading, the teacher discusses the meaning of the poem with pupils.
  2. 2. Teacher and pupils read the poem together chorally. Multiple readings can be made with different groupings of students.
  3. 3. Pupils work alone or with classmates to continue practicing the poem independently. The teacher provides feedback and encouragement.
  4. 4. Pupils perform the poem with fluency for an audience. The audience could be fellow classmates, the teacher, or others. Pupils are recognized for their good reading.
  5. 5. Teacher and pupils engage in a brief study of selected words from the poem.
  6. 6. Pupils continue rehearsing and performing the poem for family members at home.

What is truly appealing about the FDL is that it allows pupils to feel successful as readers.


Strategies such as Reader’s Theatre mirror the ​‘gradual release of responsibility’ model that is exemplified in EEF ​‘Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning’ guidance report, helping struggling readers to reach independence in a supportive, intentional way:

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