Accuracy and Fluency

Fluency (automaticity) is reading words with no noticeable cognitive or mental effort. It is having mastered word recognition skills to the point of overlearning. Fundamental skills are so "automatic" that they do not require conscious attention.

Examples of automaticity:

  • shifting gears on a car
  • playing a musical instrument
  • playing a sport (serving a tennis ball)

Point to Remember:

Fluency is not an end in itself but a critical gateway to comprehension. Fluent reading frees resources to process meaning.

For students to develop fluency, they must:

  • perform the task or demonstrate the skill accurately, and
  • perform the preskills of the task quickly and effortlessly.

Once accurate, fluency develops through plentiful opportunities for practice in which the task can be performed with a high rate of success.

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Fluency Instruction

Irregular Word Fluency Building Example: The 1-Minute Dash

  1. Identify a set of irregular words students can correctly identify.
  2. Include multiple cards of each word in the set.
  3. Set a goal (i.e., 30 correct words per minute).
  4. Do a 1-minute small-group practice. Position cards so that all students can see.
  5. Start the stop watch.
  6. Present the first word card so that all students answer.
  7. Provide quick corrective feedback on errors.
  8. Continue presenting words.
  9. Words correctly identified go in one pile; place errors in second pile.
  10. At the end of 1 minute, tally the number of words correct.
  11. Review errors and repeat activity for 1 more minute.

Examples of Irregular Word Reading Fluency Activities

  1. Paired peer practice. Pair a higher performer with a child who needs fluency practice. Use similar procedures as in 1-Minute Dash. Each child may use his/her set of known but not fluent irregular words.
  2. Word recognition grid. Prepare a 5x5 grid of 5 irregular words. One word per row, randomly ordered. Include a short review of words. Then, do a timed recall of words.

Sample 5 x 5 Grid

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Teaching Tips: Selecting Materials to Build Fluency

What you should look for in materials to build fluency:

  • Are passages within the learner's decoding range? (95% accuracy or higher)
  • Is there an explicit strategy for teaching students to transition from accuracy to fluency?
  • Is there daily opportunity for fluency building?
  • Is there overlap in words (i.e., words show up multiple times in different text)?
  • Are target rates identified?

How to Determine Appropriate Level Text

Select text that students read with 95% accuracy: Formula to calculate accuracy: Percent accuracy is equal to the number of words read correctly divided by the total number of words read


Example formula to calculate accuracy: Percent accuracy is equal to the number of words read correctly divided by the total number of words read 80% accuracy would NOT be appropriate for fluency building.

Level of Challenge Percent Accuracy
Independent Reading Level 97% or greater
*Instructional Level 94-97%
Frustration Level 93% or lower

*For fluency building, materials should be at instructional level or above.

(Modified from Hasbrouck, 1998; see References)

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Accuracy and Fluency skills can be assessed with two DIBELS measures:

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TIP: For more information about Accuracy and Fluency, including additional teaching strategies, visit the Big Ideas in Beginning Reading website.