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1he LvoluLlon of 1

LvCuL1lCn Cl lLuLnC?

1he LvoluLlon of lluency and lLs lmpacL on lnsLrucLlon
!asslca Parrls
8alanced LlLeracy for LlemenLary Learners
november 17 2010

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The basic deIinition oI reading Iluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly. To me
Iluency is a bridge between reading and comprehension. Teachers modeling prosodic reading
help students internalize the characteristics(Farrell, 1966). The research created new ways oI
developing reading Iluency(Chomsky, 1976). The method oI repeated reading increased the two
main components oI Iluency, reading rate and word recognition. Slow readers are oIten times
considered poor reads. Fluency is the bridge between a reader just reading the text and the
reader understanding what they are reading.

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The Evolution oI Fluency and its Impact on Instruction
The deIinition oI reading Iluency has evolved over the years. The basic deIinition oI
reading Iluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly. Over the years the deIinition
has changed to include characteristics such as good prosody, in other words good expression. To
me Iluency is a bridge between reading and comprehension. A student can have the ability to
read accurately and quickly, however iI they do not comprehend what they reading, the student is
not a Iluent reader.
This literature review was conducted in order to trace the evolution oI reading Iluency
and how its meaning has shaped today`s instruction. Earlier research suggests that reading
Iluency was Ior the purpose oI pleasing oral discourse. Comprehension was not a concern oI
early Iluency researchers. Reading Iluency was not aimed at reIlecting the control oI other
important aspects oI the reading process (Hyatt, 1943). In the 1900s oral reading was Irequently
used to entertain. AIter Iurther research, negotiations about what reading Iluency really is began
(Smith, 1952).
In a study conducted by Kenneth Goodman in the 1960, cues and miscues oI 100 primary
school students were observed. Through observation he concluded that natural intonation came
Irom the student comprehending the text and this was displayed through the use oI oral reading
(Goodman, 1965). According to Goodman, one might suggest through practice and coaching, a
student can produce intonation. However, Ior it to naturally occur, the student must extract
meaning Irom the text. ThereIore, comprehension was deemed essential Ior Iluency in the 1960s
(Goodman, 1965).
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Intonation is still highly standardized when reading aloud, even though intonation is
naturally derived Irom an individual`s comprehension (Goodman, 1965). Prosody comes Irom a
standard method oI exposing the meaning oI text through voice variation. With that said,
students need a way to see into the processes proIicient readers use when engaging in reading
Iluency. An individual`s interpretation oI the text may not aIIect the reader`s intonation due to
the norms that have been set by society regarding proper pitch, stress, and juncture. However it
can account Ior the reader`s level oI comprehension. Students need to be exposed to good
examples oI Iluent readers because prosodic is so standardized. Teachers modeling prosodic
reading help students internalize the characteristics (Farrell, 1966) .
Carol Chomsky recognized the diIIicult task oI teaching reading Iluency and she
understood that reading Iluency needed additional methods (Chomsky, 1976). She conducted
research that provided Iive eight year old students with audio recordings oI books. The students
were also given books that correspond with the audio recordings and they were instructed to read
along with the recordings. The students that participated in the research were all students that
were considered to be at least two years behind in reading. AIter Iour months the students were
able to Iluently read the texts. Students involved in the study achieved higher test scores, and
their conIidence and motivation increased. The research created new ways oI developing
reading Iluency (Chomsky, 1976).
Following the work oI Chomsky, repeated readings became a way to develop reading
Iluency and it remains one oI the best ways to increase reading rate and word recognition. For a
long time, the use oI repeated readings was used to help students with learning disabilities. It
was then mainstreamed to help students` word recognition automaticity based on research
conducted by S. Jay Samuels (Samuels, 1997). Students selected easy passages and read them
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several times until they reached their desired words per minute. Many critics believed that
graphing their words per minute to be boring, however the Samuels Iound that the students
became more motivated by the use oI visual representations oI their progress (Samuels, 1997).
According to Samuels, 'Ior the purpose oI Iluency, speed rather than accuracy should be
stressed (Samuels, 1997, p. 347). He based his statement on the Iact that a loss in Iluency was
due to the eIIorts oI tying to obtain 100 word accuracy. The method oI repeated reading
increased the two main components oI Iluency, reading rate and word recognition.
Kleiman, Winogard, and Humphrey linked prosody to meaning making. ' . the lack oI
prosodic inIormation in written language contributes to the diIIiculty some children have in
parsing written sentences (Kleiman, Winograd, & Humphrey, 1979, p. 11). They believed that
even though prosody was not correlated to Iluency in the research, it is a device that helps
readers to parse sentences into meaningIul phrases which is a characteristic oI a Iluent reader
(Kleiman, Winograd, & Humphrey, 1979).
Kleiman conducted a student in which he used 20 above and 20 below average readers in
the Iourth grade to determine the impact oI prosody on the parsing oI sentences. Both groups
were giving the same passage to read, however one group was the 'non-prosody group and the
other group was considered the 'prosody group. The prosody group had the passage read to
them twice by a proIessional speaker, whereas the 'non-prosody was oIIered no assistance. The
groups were then asked to parse the sentences into meaningIul phrases. The results oI the study
showed that there were no signiIicant diIIerences between below and above average students;
however there was a signiIicant diIIerence among the groups. The 'prosody group parsed the
sentences more accurately than the 'non-prosody group. At that point prosodic Ieatures were
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deemed beneIicial in identiIying meaningIul phrases within sentences (Kleiman, Winograd, &
Humphrey, 1979).
Not only was prosody linked to meaning-making (Kleiman, Winograd, & Humphrey,
1979), automatic word recognition was Iound to impact comprehension (Stanovich, 1980). In a
complicated educational dichotomy oI top-down and bottom-up approaches, Stanovich Iinds the
middle ground asserting that interactive-compensatory models Ior reading Iluency separate the
proIicient Irom the poor readers. Some believe that higher-level processes in reading (top-down)
characterize Iluent readers; others believe lower-level processes (bottom-up) are superior. The
interactive-compensatory model suggests that Iluent readers juxtapose between higher and lower
level processes (Stanovich, 1980). For example, students compensating Ior deIicient
orthographic knowledge rely on context clues to indentiIy unknown words. Depending on the
proIiciency oI compensatory skills, readers lacking automaticity can rely on speed to identiIy
unknown words through context. Stanovich`s extensive review oI the literature reveals that both
rapid context-Iree word recognition and contextual recognition (i.e. reader expectancy) can aid
the development oI a Iluent reader. This compensatory model could have been a response to the
Reading Wars where phonics (bottom-up) and whole language (top-bottom) paradigms were
aIIecting all aspects oI reading, including Iluency (Stanovich, 1980).
Even though there had been a wealth oI research done on Iluency, it was still being
neglected as a top reading goal. With a Iirm deIinition in place, Iluency could be assessed.
However poor Iluency was oIten used as an indicator oI a poor reader. The assessment results
Iailed to drive instruction. Teachers still regress to phonics instruction when they should de
progressing to Iluency instruction to help students become more prosodic and Iaster in their
reading (Allington, 1983).
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Allington notes the extensive research on Iluency and the Iindings implying Iluency as an
essential piece oI the reading process; he asks, 'Why hasn`t oral reading Iluency become a major
Iocus oI beginning or early remedial instruction? (Allington, 1983, p. 556). He uses the
research to promote practice. The goal is to move Irom word calling to phrasing, thus placing
Iluency on the Iar right oI the developmental reading continuum. However, some readers do not
make this shiIt. Allington Iocuses on classroom experiences only, discussing instructional
circumstances to exempliIy the development oI reading Iluency (Allington, 1983).
Four years later a study using 89 beginning second graders was conducted by S. L.
Dowhower. Dowhower wanted to know whether assisted or unassisted readings had a more
positive eIIect on reading Iluency. This time, however, not only was reading Iluency (in this
case: word recognition reading rate) measured, but also comprehension (Dowhower, 1987).
Dowhower used a time-series experimental design consisting oI two randomly selected training
groups. One group repeatedly read with assistance, the other without. The experiment was
conducted over seven weeks, and reported that both groups reading rate doubled, reading
accuracy increased Irom 89 to 95. Comprehension also increased Irom 66 to 81. Because
there were no signiIicant diIIerences in the groups, repeated readings prevailed as an eIIective
strategy to increase reading Iluency regardless oI assistance. As Iluency increased, so did
comprehension. Essentially, Dowhower demonstrated that repeating readings did more help
students read Iast (Dowhower, 1987).
Over the years Iluency has become a well deIined instructional necessity. The statement
by T.V. Rasinski, 'speed does matter needs to be revisited (Rasinski, 2000). Slow readers are
oIten times considered poor reads. The Iear oI producing a generation oI Iast readers was the
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Iocus oI his original article, but the Iear still remains today. Fluency is more than just speed;
however, reading rate cannot become the new neglected goal (Rasinski, 2000).
Over the years Iluency has taken on several diIIerent meanings. Research has shown that
Iluency is more than just reading rate. To be a Iluent reader, the reader should read with
eIIortless word recognition, read in meaningIul phrases, read at the appropriate rate, and prosodic
reading, iI done automatically, will allow Ior cognition to be Iocused on comprehending the text
(Hudson, Lane, & P.C.Pullen, 2005). Fluency is the bridge between a reader just reading the
text and the reader understanding what they are reading. Fluency can be used to aid in
comprehension as well as to assess it. Fluency has changed reading instruction because it has
redeIined what a proIicient read is and it is now incorporated into a balanced literacy program
(Rasinski & Padak, 2004). Reading Iluency is composed oI accuracy, word recognition, and
prosody and all these add up to the reader Iully comprehending the text.

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