Reading Fluency for ELLs

Reading Fluency for ELLs

Reading fluency is one of the 5 components that are necessary when a child is learning how to read. Fluency is the ability to read words accurately, with appropriate speed, and with expression. This is not alway possible. For English Language Learners (ELLs) there can be the added challenge that they may not immediately know what a text should sound like in English to compare their own reading to. Do not confuse reading fluency with a students accent.


“Students can read fluently in English with a native language accent.”

-Beth Antunez

Here are 5 strategies for helping to improve the reading fluency of your ELLs.

Listen to Fluent Reading

Listening to a fluent reader gives students a model to base their own reading off of.  Teach read alouds are one way to model fluent reading. This is also an opportunity to expose ELLs to grade level text that they might not be able to decode yet.

Listening to an audio book.

Audio books are another example of how to help students listen to fluent reading. Students can follow along in a text as they are listening to the book if it is close to their instructional reading level.

Students can create their own versions of audio books. You can have students choose a book at their independent reading level to practice reading. When they feel ready, record them reading the book. You can then place the recordings in a folder on a computer, or load the onto a media player for other students to listen to.

Your library might have audio books. I recently came across a set of VoxBooks at my library. These are hardback books with a built in audio player. Check if your school has a subscription to a sight with e-books. Two of my favorites are Raz-Kids and PebbleGo.

Reread Familiar Texts

Rereading helps students gain fluency. After the first few times of reading a text, the student is better able to focus on their fluency. At this point they have worked through decoding some of the unfamiliar words. Also reading an entire sentence or paragraph might give more meaning to the text. This will help with fluency as well.

Read Short  Texts

Short texts give students the change to reread a text faster and with more frequency than longer texts. I used reading fluency strips with my students as one type of short text.

spring fluency strips illustrated sight word strips

Opportunities to Read Out Loud

ELLs benefit from multiple opportunities to read out loud. Unfortunately they are often given fewer opportunities to read out loud than their native English peers. Here are some ideas to increase the opportunities for students to read out loud, that do not create a stressful situation (such as round robin reading). They are choral reading, echo reading, readers theatre, and partner reading.

Oral Language Development

One challenge of many reading programs for native English speaking students is that they assume that student’s are already proficient in their oral language skills. For many ELLs this is not alway to case. As the oral language skills of ELLs increase, so will their reading fluency (Klingner, Hoover, Baca, 2008). I used oral language task cards with my ELLs as a quick way to help improve their oral language skills.

Academic vocab task cards

Would you rather task cards

Vocabulary development will help ELLs make meaning of what they are reading. As they have a better understanding of what they are reading, they will be able to read with more fluency.

Songs, poems, or nursery rhymes are one way to help improve students reading fluency and oral language skills. Students can be given the text so that they practice reading as they follow along/sing. Songs/poems/nursery rhymes can be a low-stress way to practice a text multiple times. There is also something about music that can make it easier to participate in.

Fluency Passages

Additional Resources & References

Klingner, Hoover, Baca, 2008, Why Do English Language Learners Struggle With Reading?

Developing Fluent Readers

Antunez, 2002, English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction

Kids reading

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