Quick Ideas for Improving Reading Comprehension and Reading Fluency

by Karen Birt

Many of us remember those days in the learning-to-read process when we read aloud haltingly, sounding the words out and maybe guessing what the words were from the first letter. In a classroom setting, we counted the students ahead of us to see which paragraph we were going to read. Or maybe we were the other student, the one who could read quickly and disliked waiting on slower classmates.

Most of us moved beyond the halting reading as we became proficient readers. But some students never do. Even on the high school level, reading fluency and comprehension can be an issue for some students. Fluency refers to the ability to read with accuracy, proper speed, and appropriate expression, while comprehension encompasses understanding and interpreting the content of what is read.

If you have students who struggle with reading comprehension and fluency, here are some tips for you.

  1. Have the student mark the text as they read. Use a highlighter (or sticky notes if the book needs to be re-used) to point out the important parts. This works especially well for reading in content areas such as science or social studies where the important facts need to be remembered for a test. (reading comprehension)
  2. Annotate the text. In the margins, write thoughts, questions, connections, pictures, or graphics of the main ideas and the important details. This is similar to the tip above, but involves doodling or writing in the margins. If the book needs to be used again, the teacher may need to make copies of the pages for this one to work. (reading comprehension)
  3. Listen to audio of reading while following along visually with the text. This works well to teach proper vocal expression and timing of reading (make sure the audio reader has good expression). (reading fluency)
  4. Take turns reading aloud with a partner. Preferably, the partner is someone who reads aloud well. For an especially struggling reader, it may help for the partner to read a longer passage before the struggling reader reads a shorter passage. (reading fluency)
  5. Do repeated reading with a partner. With this, a partner reads the passage aloud first, with the second person reading exactly the same passage aloud again. The first reader should use proper expression and speed of reading. You can combine this with point #3: a single reader can listen to an audio reading, pause the audio, and read it again himself. (reading fluency)
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