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The Read-Aloud  #1    
9-12 Fluency for Secondary Students


What is fluency?
Fluency is the ability to read text effortlessly with accuracy, speed, and expression. It is also described as the rate of reading in a particular time frame. Fluent readers have developed the ability to chunk words into phrases and to skillfully use these chunks to read materials quickly.

Why is reading fluency important for secondary struggling readers?

  • Reading fluency is an important ability for secondary (middle and high school) students because of the large quantities of text they must read for class assignments.
  • The reading demands of adolescents are high; causing students with poor reading fluency to fall behind in text reading.
  • When students do not recognize words with automaticity, they spend time on struggling through materials that could be devoted to comprehending text.
  • Students with poor reading fluency read less in a given amount of time, reducing the amount of material read overall, which has a negative impact on both developing vocabulary and learning the content.

What is the goal of reading fluency instruction for secondary struggling readers?

The goal of reading fluency instruction for secondary students is to help them become fluent readers so more emphasis can be placed on comprehending content.

What are some instructional guidelines for building reading fluency?

  • Students should read text that is at their instructional/independent reading level.
  • Materials that are age-appropriate and written at a student’s independent level are recommended.
  • Students should possess the following prerequisite skills:
    • Sound/symbol correspondence,
    • recognition of phonetically regular consonant-vowel-consonant words,
    • recognition of some sight or high frequency words.

(adapted from Council For Learning Disabilities Infosheet: Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities in Reading: Developing Reading Fluency)

Fluency Instruction

Essential Element:  Fluency

Framework  Reading
                     Standard 11:  Students shall acquire and apply skills in vocabulary      
                     development and word analysis to be able to read fluently.

 One of the most important tools in building fluency is the read-aloud, yet as students get older, they are less likely to be read to.  In fact, many would say that reading aloud to a high school student is a waste of time.  However, the read-aloud concept offers several benefits even to the older student.  In his book The Fluent Reader, Rasinski cites studies to underscore two of these benefits:  expanded vocabulary and improved comprehension.  He adds that the read-aloud also improves fluency as students come to understand that meaning is not only words but the interpretation of words.  Perhaps most importantly, the read-aloud fosters a motivation to read.  Another study which Rasinski cites says that “a well-planned read-aloud program, even for older students, can stimulate interest in books and introduce students to quality literature in various genres, well beyond their reading level.”


  • Engaging authentic literature in a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.  These pieces may be chosen for whole-class instruction in the elements of literature, or they may be chosen to stimulate interest in reading.  Entire pieces or memorable passages will be excerpted for reading aloud.
  • Read-aloud activities designed to be used with the whole class or with small groups of less fluent readers.  These activities are designed as mini-lessons requiring five to ten minutes; however, student performance of polished pieces may require additional time.  All of the following are taken from or adapted from The Fluent Reader by Timothy V. Rasinski; his book provides many examples of fluency-building activities that can easily be adapted for older students.

Direct Instruction

The teacher will explain why it is important to read fluently.  He/she will emphasize that good reading is more than reading fast and calling words correctly.  Fluent reading helps to convey meaning through appropriate expression, phrasing, and pace.  The teacher will demonstrate by reading a passage disfluently—no intonation, word-by-word—and then by reading a passage fluently.


All of the read-aloud activities that follow call for the teacher to model fluent reading of pre-selected passages.  The teacher demonstrates, perhaps several times, how to read the passage with expression and appropriate phrasing.  Often, s/he will use the read-aloud as an opportunity to think aloud about how a good reader constructs meaning.

Guided Practice

All of the read-aloud activities that follow allow students to practice what they have heard the teacher model.  In many cases, students will move beyond pieces which the teacher has modeled and will apply what they have learned about fluent reading to passages which they have selected.  Most of these activities can be done collaboratively or independently; all require teacher and/or peer feedback.  These guided practices afford the teacher the opportunity to assess fluency progress either formally or informally.


Most of the read-aloud activities that follow allow the students the option to perform pieces on which they have worked to achieve fluency.  Performances may be for the teacher and a small group, the whole class, or larger audiences.  Performances also afford the teacher another opportunity to assess fluency progress.

The Read-Aloud  #1

The Read-Aloud helps to reach these goals:  improvement of comprehension and vocabulary, increased fluency, and increased motivation.  Responding to the Read-Aloud encourages students to engage with the text on a personal level and to exchange ideas with others.

Setting the Stage

Setting the stage for the read-aloud helps to convey the importance of the experience.  Timothy Rasinski describes lighting a ritual candle and reciting the Shel Silverstein poem “Invitation.”
    If you are a dreamer, come in,
    If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
    A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer. . .
    If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
        For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
        Come in!
        Come in!

Thinking Aloud

Thinking aloud occasionally allows the teacher to share how s/he negotiates text and constructs meaning.  “Good readers—readers who understand what they read—often carry on a conversation with themselves during reading.  Thinking aloud while reading aloud allows you to show students how this conversation might take place.”(Rasinski, p.47).


The read-aloud experience must include an opportunity for the student to respond.  Although the reader has gained information from the text, s/he must respond in order to understand fully.  Responses might be:

  • Oral
    • Oral reading of selected passages
  • Written
    • Poetry or other expressive writing
  • Visual
    • Create images evoked by the events or language of the passage
  • Physical
    • Pantomime

Tier II Additions

  • Oral
    • Pair Share with a stronger reader
  • Written
    • Journal writing
  • Visual
    • Design a poster or collage to reflect passage
  • Physical
    • Other kinds of movement

Tier III Accommodations/Modifications

  • Oral
    • Discuss select passage with teacher, paraprofessional, or student peer
  • Written
    • Respond with a word or short phrase
  • Visual
    • Draw to recreate memorable or vivid scenes
  • Physical
    • Other kinds of movement


Tier IV Modifications

  • Oral
    • Discuss 1 element from teacher-selected passage with teacher, student peer, or paraprofessional
  • Written
    • Allow student to use any electronic means (i.e., AlphaSmart, computer,etc.) available to respond
  • Visual
    • Offer student 2 pictures and student points to 1 that best represents the passage
  • Physical
    • Other kinds of movement

Tier V Modifications

  • Oral
    • Discuss 1 element from teacher-selected passage with teacher, student peer, or paraprofessional allowing student to use eye gaze or head nod to communicate
  • Written
    • Have student dictate response to teacher, student peer, or paraprofessional
  • Visual
    • Allow to student to respond with eye gaze or head nod
  • Physical
    • Other kinds of movement

Copyright © 2006 Arkansas Department of Education.  All rights reserved.  School districts may reproduce these materials for in-school student use only.  No resale.  Materials may not be reproduced, distributed or sold for commercial use or profit.  ADE employees are not authorized to waive these restrictions.

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