Developing Fluency and Prosody

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Graber and Morales (2023) provide and overview of fluency and prosody and suggest some research-based strategies teachers can use. This post provides an overview of their key points.

Relationship between fluency and prosody

  • The size of a reader’s sight word vocabulary (i.e., words that are automatically recognised) influences fluency and ultimately facilitates comprehension.
  • Once skilled readers can read with fluency they also demonstrate prosodic and expressive reading – varied tones, stressing particular syllables or words for emphasis, appropriate phrasing and appropriate pausing which coincides with punctuation marks and grammatical structure.

Assessing prosody

  • Prosody is more difficult to measure compared to assessing accuracy and rate.
  • The Multidimensional Fluency Scoring Guide measures evidence of prosodic reading of passages that students have previously practised through repeated readings using a rubric scored from 1-4.
  • Training teachers in the use of fluency assessments leads to increases in their knowledge of each element of fluency including prosody.

Shifting instructional focus

Assessment ResultsInstead ofTryRationale
Low comprehensionRound robinsRepeated oral readingDevelops word familiarity improving accuracy and prosody
Slow decodingSilent readingPartner readingProvides multiple opportunities to practise
Low automaticityOne-minute drill passagesText phrasingBuilds awareness of word emphasis and the impact of sentence meaning
Low reading rate, inaccurate word reading, lack of prosodyCurriculum based measurement passages in isolationMultidimensional Fluency Scoring Guide (MFSG)Assesses each component of fluency allowing targeted instruction
Low comprehensionIsolated vocabulary instructionWord laddersProvides practice in decoding and encoding leading to more accurate and automatic reading which improves fluency

Choral reading combined with repeated reading

  • Select an appropriate level passage which includes elements requiring expressive reading.
  • Provide each student with their own text.
  • Read the passage to students to model fluency and expression while students track the text with two or three fingers.
  • Students read with the teacher, ensuring they are tracking with two or three fingers.
  • Repeat the choral reading until it can be read fluently and accurately. To keep students engaged ask them to use different voices – whisper reading, angry reading, etc.
  • In pairs, students take it in turns to read the passage. The listener has to share one positive thing they noticed as they listened to the reader and the reader has to share one thing they tried to do when reading. This is to increase awareness and self-efficacy.

Word ladder

  • Use letter blocks or cards featuring individual graphemes (e.g., individual letters, digraphs, trigraphs).
  • Choose a starting word for students to form (e.g., hit).
  • Students replace a single card to make a new word (e.g., the ‘i’ can be replaced with the digraph ‘ea’ to make ‘heat’).
  • You can increase the challenge by asking for a particular phoneme to be replaced (e.g., initial, final or medial).
  • Upcoming vocabulary relevant to the text being read can be used. Students can be directed to replace a specific phoneme with a specific grapheme and then determine if a real word has been formed.

See the Reading with Expression post and the accompanying card-based activity.


Graber, K., & Morales, S. (2023). Fostering teacher success in fluency instruction: What ever happened to prosody? The Reading League Journal, 4(3), 50-54