Fluency is a challenge for lots of kids. That’s especially true for grade-schoolers who are starting to read more complex text. Even kids who have good decoding and word recognition skills can struggle with fluency.
These kids often read word by word, rather than by chunking groups of words. As a result, they may sound choppy and robotic when they read. Their reading comprehension can suffer because of this, too.
One way I help my students build fluency is by practicing chunking text into small, meaningful phrases. Research shows this can also help kids improve comprehension.
You can practice chunking text with your child at home. Here’s how to get started.
First, find a short passage from a book or piece of text at your child’s reading level. Write the text on a sheet of paper, or type the text and print it out.
Let’s use this sentence from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as an example:
The frosty grass crunched under their feet as they hurried down the sloping lawns towards the stadium.
Using your best judgment, draw a slash mark between meaningful phrases. The slash will signal when to take a short pause when reading.
You’ll find that most slash marks are between groups of two to five words. When you come to punctuation marks, like commas and periods, draw a double slash to indicate a longer pause. As you add slashes, talk it through with your child. Explain why you’re adding slashes in certain spots.
Here’s what that same text looks like with slashes.
The frosty grass / crunched under their feet / as they hurried down / the sloping lawns / towards the stadium. //
After that, model fluent reading for your child. Read the chunked text aloud with expression and at a conversational pace, so your child can mimic you. Remember to pause at the slash marks.
Have your child read the passage aloud next. Kids should re-read the chunked text three or four times. This way they can hear themselves read the phrases for meaning multiple times. Repeated readings like this are key to achieving fluency.
From there, practice chunking text using other short pieces at your child’s instructional or independent reading level.
Here’s another example, from Roald Dahl’s The Minpins:
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. And above all, // watch / with glittering eyes / the whole world around you / because the greatest secrets / are always hidden / in the most unlikely places. // Those / who don't believe in magic / will never find it. //
Reading fluency develops over time with lots of repetition and practice. Chunking text is one of the best ways I know of to cross the bridge between decoding and reading comprehension.
Read more ways to help your child improve reading fluency.
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About the author
About the author
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.