Fluency Instruction: Building Bridges from Decoding to Comprehension
The reward we get for reading is meaning. When we read we might be entertained or informed or both, but only if we can get to the meaning. Children must become automatic enough in their decoding to free up brain space to think about what they are reading and make sense of it. Achieving this automaticity is difficult for some children and so, struggling to decode the words in front of them, they have little cognitive space left for understanding what they read. These children get no reward for their reading efforts - no entertainment, no information. Without the reward, they are not likely to continue reading.
When this happens our tendency is to double down on decoding instruction, giving kids extra doses of phonics work and engaging them in all sorts of multi-sensory activities in the hopes of strengthening decoding abilities (tapping, scooping, spelling in sand). Often these efforts are frustratingly slow and ineffective. Kids may improve in decoding, but still fail to achieve the kind of automaticity they need to get their reading reward.
How to get the kids across the divide between decoding and comprehension? Research would indicate that fluency instruction can provide the bridge (Pikulski & Chard, 2005).
According to Tim Rasinski, the leading scholar on fluency instruction in the country, fluency instruction has the advantage of focusing instruction on Russ on Reading: Fluency Instruction: Building Bridges from Decoding to Comprehension: