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Forced Fluency, The One Strategy for Increasing Reading Fluency

If I could only have one strategy for increasing reading fluency, it would be Forced Fluency. The videos, research, and examples in this post should convince you why this is. Plus, by the end, you’ll see how to use forced fluency in guided reading groups in 5 simple steps (I use this exact strategy in my guided reading groups)!

At the end of this article, I’d love to hear your thoughts and talk with you in the comments!

And if you’re curious as to why fluency is important, you will want to see this reason here.

Forced fluency is an instructional strategy that helps students increase eye tracking skills. It uses disappearing text to help students build comfort and confidence at faster reading speeds. Ultimately improving reading fluency.

What is Forced Fluency?

What is Forced Fluency?

  • When using software like Fluency Builder, it can be a whole-class activity
  • Without software, like Fluency Builder, it is a strategy for small groups
  • Best used as a 4-6 week intervention
  • Increases reading rate
  • Relies on word knowledge such as rapid decoding of digraphs, vowel sounds, and morphemes
  • Quick, should take less than 3-4 minutes per day

What is Eye Tracking?

In order to use vision efficiently, the eyes must move accurately, smoothly, and quickly from target to target. Visual processing is connected to cognitive processing. Both are used by students learning to read as they decode words and predict text based on visual cues.

How to Use Forced Fluency?

Using Forced Fluency is an easy way to help students increase their reading rates and reading levels. You can use software like Fluency Builder or use an index card in guided reading groups to cover text when students read to you.

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How to Increase Reading Fluency

Here’s a quick 5-step teaching strategy you can use in guided reading groups to increase reading fluency. It’s built on research from the University of Oregon that showed fluency accounts for 25-50% of the differences we see in reading comprehension. Wow, that’s big!

Time for This Strategy 5 minutes

How to Increase Reading Fluency in 5 Simple Steps!

  1. Use an instructional level text

    Use a leveled text where a student can read 85-95% of the words correctly.

  2. First Read (30 Seconds)

    Have a student read to you for 30 seconds and estimate the number of words read correctly. Multiply by 2 to figure the words correct per minute (WCPM). Write down the WCPM.

  3. Second Read – Silent Reading

    Ask the student reread the text silently. This builds confidence and allows time to practice reading comprehension strategies.

  4. Forced Fluency

    Use forced fluency 2 times with the student. The student will enjoy the challenge and often ask to do it a third time, playfully, warn them that you’re going to speed it up. This gamification is fun!

  5. Final Reading (30 Seconds)

    Ask the student to do a final reading (not using forced fluency). Calculate their WCPM and celebrate their growth!

Repeat this 5-step process over the course of two weeks with different texts. If you complete a reading level assessment before and after, you will see a small growth in reading fluency!

Continue using forced fluency for 4-6 weeks, and you will be impressed by the reading level growth (we saw massive growth in reading levels!) you see in your students.

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Have you used similar techniques before in guided reading? Have you used forced fluency, and maybe it was called something else? What concerns you about using this approach?

Leave us a question, thought, or idea in the comments below!

Forced Fluency, The One Strategy for Increasing Reading Fluency





15 responses to “Forced Fluency, The One Strategy for Increasing Reading Fluency”

  1. Katie

    I’ve used a similar strategy, but I like the 5 steps. I could see using this with my below-level groups in October after we finish all the DRA testing! Thanks

    1. Misty A

      Does your school require you to wait until October to start guided reading groups? Mine requires us to start before we even have the DRA levels finished. It’s tough like we’re guessing.

      1. Erica

        Wow, that’s a challenge. I guess you’re using the time to establish expectations, goal-setting, explore reading interests, etc.? What else could you do without their reading levels?

  2. Sharla

    Eye tracking is new to me. It makes sense as to why students with dyslexia need larger font size sometimes. How does this strategy work with students with reading disabilities?

    1. Matt

      It works well. In guided reading, you have an appropriately leveled text, and the student determines the speed. So if someone is reading 15wcpm, you would use the index card to speed them up by about 10-20%. This would be just under 20wcpm. The growth might be slower depending on the student’s individual learning challenges.

  3. Nikki

    I love it!

    1. Erica

      Thanks, Nikki!

  4. Kendra

    Thanks for the strategy. I look forward to getting the updated guided reading resource!

  5. Jake

    This is a good article. How would you use the strategy whole-class without the software Fluency Builder?

    1. Erica

      Before we had Fluency Builder, I used a document camera to project a text to the class. Then we’d do the strategy with an index card. You can do it that way. The benefit of Fluency Builder is it maintains pacing because the whole text isn’t revealed. It creates a sense of control for slower readers and a sense of “let’s go faster” for faster readers.

  6. Allison

    Thank for another great resource. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the survey results.

  7. Tiffany

    I’m not sure I understand how this work as a whole-class activity?

    1. Erica

      You can project Fluency Builder on a screen and students will read using Forced Fluency and then answer basic comprehension questions. Each day, they practice two texts. At the end of the week, they assess and track their progress.

  8. Sylvia

    What grade level would you use this? My curriculum doesn’t focus much on fluency. Grade 4

    1. Matt

      This strategy could be used with emergent, developing, and fluent readers in grades 3-5, and for intervention with any aged reader. It even works with students who’s first language is not English.

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