Promoting reading fluency

Answered by Neil Farmer


When should children transition from reading aloud to reading silently in guided reading lessons?


The key here is fluency. Too often silent guided reading is not guided reading at all but rather just 'quiet reading' where not a lot of 'reading' is happening but teachers feel that they are adding value to reading by providing this opportunity for children to interact with books. Too often children are not challenged in their reading, especially the more able, whilst others will struggle with books and texts that are beyond their comprehension. 

If we are talking about the EYFS here there should be a continued diet of reading aloud with children, in small groups and individually. To increase fluency and language acquisition/understanding it is not recommended that children take turns in reading a line each. Silent reading seems like a good idea since it gives children practice. Turn taking seems like a good idea since it focuses on oral reading.

But increasing fluency requires more practice, more support, and more guided oral reading than either of these strategies can deliver. The focus is on talking about the text, the new vocabulary, what the sentences mean and how they know what might be happening and why.

Key question streams and areas to look at in detail

1. Reading on the line

This has a direct answer that can be found in the text.
E.g. Kim ran quickly to the river.

  • Who ran to the river?
  • Where did Kim run to?
  • How did Kim run?

2. Reading outside the line

Has the 'right' answer but requires knowledge of meaning of words or text features.
E.g. The plump little kitten purred contentedly.

  • What does 'plump' mean?
  • Can you tell me what the word 'contentedly' means?
  • Can you think of a word that might mean the same – or a different word?

3. Reading beyond the line

This has many acceptable answers and invites a personal response based upon personal experiences or interpretations of the author’s intent.
E.g. The fox grinned at the chicken.

  • Do you think the chicken feels happy? Why?
  • Why do you think the fox grinned?

4. Reading between the lines

This has plausible answers based upon information in the text. This involves inference and deduction and should be followed up with – 'how do you know that or what tells you that?'.
E.g. The fox grinned at the chicken.

  • How is the fox feeling as he looks at the chicken? What makes you think that?

Developing independence

When children move from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn' is perhaps the ideal time to introduce elements of silent reading – but checks will still have to be made to ensure that children have fully understood what they have read, and time needs to be built into the day to ensure this happens.

In reality it depends on the competency of the reader: some children need support in the mechanics (i.e. the decoding of words), others in comprehension and the use of expressive vocabulary.

Last Updated: 
27 Nov 2018

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