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Beyond Phonics: Developing Reading Fluency and Comprehension Skills

Reading fluency tips

Reading is a fundamental skill that plays a significant role in our lives. It enables a better understanding of the world, more effective communication, and learning new things. However, developing reading fluency and comprehension skills is not always a straightforward process. While phonics is a widely used approach to teaching reading, it has limitations. Below, let’s explore other strategies you can use as a parent or teacher to help youngsters become better readers. Let’s dive in!

First, What is Reading Fluency?

Before looking at the methods, let’s start by defining the central concept. Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly, and with appropriate expression, whether reading aloud or not.

It involves proper pronunciation, reading speed, and the ability to convey meaning through rhythm, intonation, and emphasis. Reading fluency at an early age develops comprehension skills and improves as reading skills strengthen with age.

By mastering reading fluency, young readers can enjoy the reading process and grow their vocabulary over time. That is, rather than coming to dislike reading because of poor comprehension, which can negatively affect their sense of self and relationships with others.

Effective Strategies for Developing Reading Fluency

There are a few valuable strategies that teachers and homeschooling parents can employ to help kids become more fluent readers. Let’s start with repetition.

Repeated reading is one of the most effective approaches. With this method, students read a passage multiple times to gain familiarity with the text. Repeated reading improves accuracy and speed while also building confidence.

Partner reading is another excellent strategy that promotes engagement and supports comprehension. Youth work in pairs while taking turns reading aloud to each other. This approach helps students build connections with the text and enhances their ability to understand and remember what they have read.

Another effective teaching strategy whose popularity has grown in recent years is the use of Elkonin boxes. But what are Elkonin boxes?

With this method, students draw boxes on a whiteboard or paper, each representing a phoneme in a word. They can then use manipulatives like small toys or counters to place one in each box as they sound out the word. Elkonin boxes help students develop phonemic awareness and improve their decoding skills.

Finally, with audio-assisted reading, students listen to a fluent reader while reading along with the text. The goal is to help them develop their own fluency and expression. Audio-assisted reading can be super-useful for students who struggle with decoding or have difficulty with word recognition.

How to Assess Reading Fluency

Assessing reading fluency is an important aspect of monitoring progress and identifying areas for improvement. There are different methods you can use here.

One common approach is timed readings, which measure the number of words read per minute. Teachers or homeschooling parents can choose texts appropriate for the student’s reading level and use a stopwatch to time their reading. This method helps track progress over time and determine if a student is reading at a satisfactory rate.

Another approach is using formal assessments, such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) or the Reading Fluency Scale (RFS), which provide more comprehensive information on students’ fluency. These assessments measure reading rate, accuracy, and prosody and can help identify specific areas for improvement.

Informal assessments can also provide valuable information about an individual’s fluency. For instance, observing youngsters during independent reading or using checklists.

The Significance of Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is more than just understanding the words on the page. It is the ability to comprehend, analyze and interpret what is being read. Without this, reading becomes a meaningless activity.

Good reading comprehension is crucial for academic success and is a skill that is used daily in many aspects of life. Students who develop strong reading comprehension skills are better equipped to understand complex texts, make connections between ideas, and apply what they learn in new contexts.

Developing reading comprehension skills involves a combination of strategies such as activating prior knowledge, making predictions, visualizing, questioning, summarizing, and connecting the text to one’s own experiences.

Effective Strategies for Developing Reading Comprehension

To develop reading comprehension, teachers or those who homeschool can implement a few proven strategies that encourage active engagement with the text. Pre-reading strategies, such as activating prior knowledge and predicting what the text is about, can prepare students for reading.

During-reading strategies, such as asking questions, making connections, and visualizing, help them better understand the text. Finally, you can use post-reading strategies, such as summarizing and reflecting on the text, to help students retain what they have read and make connections to their own lives.

Additional Ways to Develop Reading Fluency and Comprehension Skills

Beyond phonics, you can use other strategies, such as vocabulary instruction, explicit comprehension instruction, and independent reading, to impart reading skills to learners. Let’s go through each of the three:

Vocabulary Instruction

When students encounter unfamiliar words, they are more likely to struggle with comprehension. This is where vocabulary instruction comes in.

Here, teachers provide explicit vocabulary instruction that includes word meaning, word usage, and context clues. Vocabulary games, such as word walls and word hunts, can also effectively build vocabulary.

Explicit Comprehension

Explicit comprehension instruction entails teaching specific comprehension strategies, such as predicting, summarizing, and questioning. This method requires modeling and scaffolding of the strategies for the students and providing opportunities for independent practice.

As a teacher, you can use it to assist learners in better interpreting and analyzing what they read. That can lead to deeper understanding and, with better reading habits and study skills, better academic outcomes.

Independent Reading

Independent reading allows youth to apply the skills and strategies they have learned to self-selected texts. It promotes engagement and motivation, builds background knowledge, and helps students develop reading stamina.

Teachers and parents can support independent reading in several ways. One example is reading the first few chapters together before going on ones own with the book. That can help readers get their bearings with the new setting, characters, and plotline.

Another idea is to suggest they independently read a book that was already read together. Encouraging them to read aloud and providing guidance along the way is also valuable.


Reading is a powerful tool that can open doors to new worlds and opportunities. Developing reading fluency and comprehension skills is a process that requires intentional and targeted instruction.

While phonics remains a widely used approach to teaching reading, practical strategies, such as repeated readings, partner reading, choral reading, pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading strategies, along with exposure to various texts, can help kids become more proficient readers.

Additionally, providing opportunities for students to build background knowledge through real-world experiences and connecting literature to their lives can enhance their comprehension skills. As educators, it’s important to recognize that each student’s reading journey is unique.

As a homeschooling parent or teacher, the responsibility is to support and guide them in their individual growth. Nurturing a love of reading and providing the necessary tools and strategies can empower youth to become lifelong learners and successful members of society.


Top photo: A teacher supports reading fluency in the classroom. Photo by Yan Krukau via Pexels.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Phonics: Developing Reading Fluency and Comprehension Skills”

  1. As a teacher for many years …. I found one strategy does not fit all students. There does need to be a partnership between school and home. One would hope the outcome would be to see/understand the need for reading and to develop/grow a love for reading.

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