Helping Your Child Read with Fluency: Part 3 Speed
So glad you came back for Part 3 of this four part series: Reading with Fluency! (In case you missed it, get Part 1 and Part 2 here!) I hope you are learning a lot about how reading fluency can be developed and improved upon.
Speed. When I ask students what they think I am looking for when they read aloud, they think speed. This is why we get kids who race through the reading and have NO IDEA what happened. To them, speed=awesome!
In a Nascar race, sure, but in reading, not necessarily.
So What's the Deal with Speed?
In my experience, students are so caught up with having a good speed by the time they get to me, because they either haven't been taught what reading fluency is, or they chose to listen to part of their teachers' explanations in the past. Or there is the likelihood (probably the most reasonable) that they simply think that is the easiest thing they can do to become a better reader. If they aren't good at expressing themselves or know they will make mistakes because they stumbled over words with more than 2 syllables, then they know they can at least pretend to know the information and make it seem like they are a better reader by reading more quickly. "Then, maybe, just maybe," they think, "the teacher won't notice when I make a mistake because I was going so fast no one else could understand what I was saying!" (Not true, by the way. Or if it is, most teachers will ask you to do it again.)
Is Speed Important?
Yes! But it is not any more or less important than the other two parts of reading fluency that I have already discussed: expression and accuracy. Ideally, you want your reader to sound like someone who is speaking naturally while reading. Imagine how someone speaking would say what is written in the text. Imagine the speed at which they would speak. That is what you want your reader's speed to be.
Now, speed can, and should, vary while reading. If the narrator, or speaker in the text is excited, the speed should be quick. If the narrator or speaker is tired, the speed should be slow. It should sound just like it would if someone were speaking. Your reader can read too fast, just like they can read too slow. Reading slowly makes the text boring, less lively, and difficult to understand. Reading quickly makes the text jumbled, overly excited, and difficult to follow. Finding the balance and adjusting their speed to the right tone of the passage is what your student should strive for.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Child's Speed
Read to Your Child
Children should hear people read to them with fluency. Even older children! The more they hear someone read to them, the more they will understand what fluent reading sounds like.
Work with your child to have them practice reading. When they are reading too quickly, ask them to slow down and demonstrate an appropriate pace. When they are reading too slowly, ask them to speed up and read at a quicker pace. If that doesn't work, you can ask them to read like different animals. If they need to read more quickly, tell them to read like a cheetah! If they need to read more slowly, tell them to read like a turtle. Eventually they will learn how to get the right pace. And when your child is reading at the right pace, tell them! They won't know unless you tell them. It is also important to practice with texts that you intentionally choose because they have sections that need to be read at different speeds. This helps your child to practice reading at different speeds during a single practice session and also understand that speed can vary in a reading depending on the words in the book. For example, they should read a section where someone is excited much more quickly than a section where someone is bored.
Give it Time!
If you are practicing with your child and listening to them read, letting them hear you read, the best thing you can do is give it time, especially if they are struggling with expression, accuracy, or comprehension. All of those things need to develop before we can develop speed. When they start to understand and succeed at the other parts of fluency, they will begin to pick up their speed and read at an appropriate speed.
When working with students and teaching fluency, speed is one of the last things I work on. As I have mentioned before, when students understand what they are reading, read with expression, and pronounce the words correctly, they will be able to read at the correct speed.
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To download my freebie, 5 Stress-Free Ways to Practice Reading at Home, click below! See you back next time for Part 4!