Fluent readers are able to read with proper phrasing and know when to pause when reading a sentence. There was a meme a while back that argued for the importance of punctuation and how it saves lives with its captions reading, “Let’s eat Grandma! vs. Let’s eat, Grandma!” This meme shows the importance of commas and pausing when reading to maintain the author’s message.
Fluent readers also read with accurate speed, intonation, and expression. This does not mean that in order to read fluently, a reader must read quickly, but instead that the reader can read accurately at a good pace. It’s important not to teach that fluent reading means reading fast as we do not want kids to read so quickly that pausing to read phrasing or with expression is missed. We also want to teach kids that when they read fluently, this helps them make meaning and understand the text.
When teaching fluency, asking kids to “chunk” the text or “scoop up the words” are two strategies commonly taught. But, another strategy that can be implemented to teach fluency is to use emojis when asking students to read. My daughter is in kindergarten and is often asked to bring her poetry notebook home to practice reading. I decided to try something different with her when she practiced reading her poems to me. I began by asking her to draw four different emojis: happy, sad, mad, and excited. She created the emojis so that they were from her perspective rather than a generic version. After she had the emojis, we practiced speaking in each of the emotions and talked about how our voices changed when we read in a happy voice to when we read in a mad voice. Then, I asked her to read one of her poems in a happy voice. The poem was about things a bear likes, so the emotion fit the poem. But when she read the same poem in a sad voice, she stopped and explained that the poem did not make sense when reading it in this voice because the bear is not sad. By reading in a voice that did not match the text, she was able to decipher that the meaning was off.
This lesson is an example of how fluency and meaning-making are connected because the way we read a text either maintains the author’s meaning or changes the meaning. In my daughter’s case, reading her poem in a sad voice changed the meaning of the text in a way that did not make sense to her. It is important to teach students to read with accurate and appropriate speed as well as intonation because we want them to enjoy the books that they are reading. We want students to laugh at funny parts in a text, feel upset at unpleasant parts, or feel excited when suspense is building. Because being able to make sense of and enjoy the books that are read is what keeps students engaged in their reading!