Fluency Instruction for ELLs

English is one of the most challenging languages to decode, so it comes as no surprise that many ELLs may struggle to read fluently.  Fortunately, there are some instructional techniques that teachers can use to help ELLs improve their accuracy, rate, and prosody while reading in English.

Key Elements of Fluency Instruction for ELLs:

1. Provide an explicit model of fluent reading.

2. Provide multiple opportunities to read the same text.

3. Establish performance criteria for rate, accuracy, and prosody.

4. Provide background knowledge and vocabulary support as necessary before and during reading.

5. Set students up for success by avoiding passages that are too difficult or putting them in the spotlight in front of peers when confidence is lacking.

Instructional Suggestions:

1. Provide opportunities for students to listen to texts recorded by native English speakers and/or have students record and listen to their own repeated readings.

2. Create sentence strips from a previously read text or section of text. Have students sequence and reread the text on the sentence strips.

3. Provide opportunities  for students to reread previously read passages. Several examples are below.

  •  Read with a model reader like a teacher, adult volunteer, or older student. Discuss key words prior to reading. Model reader reads first, then student reads. Student rereads passage a second time as fluently as possible.
  • Set up a regular routine for repeated readings. First, pair students with similar independent reading levels. Provide a text to be read throughout the week. Consider having a specific element of fluency for students as a focus for practice (e.g., rate, prosody, accuracy).
  1. Day 1: Pairs read text aloud together and circle unknown words. In the first few minutes of guided group, clarify unknown words.
  2. Day 2: Pairs take turns reading text aloud to one another and provide a score on a rubric focused on the fluency skill of that week.
  3. Days 3 and 4: Individuals read their texts aloud using a recording tool (e.g., an iPad app like Audionote, a website like Voicethread, or onPhotobooth). They listen to the recording and score themselves on the rubric.
  4. Day 5: Pairs do a final read with their partners using the rubric to score one another.
  • Use echo reading. First, provide background to familiarize students with key vocabulary and concepts. Second, read a section of the text aloud while students follow along. Next, reread the same text while students read along with you trying to mimic your rate and expression. For ELLs, it is a good idea to chunk the text into small units and increase the amount over time as students build their skills.
  • Use Reader’s Theater or poetry performance. Students practice a script or poem at their instructional level (if working with an adult) or at an independent level (if working on their own or with peers). After numerous repeated readings, students perform for the class.



Linan-Thompson, S., & Vaughn, S. (2007). Research-based methods of reading instruction for English language learners, grades K-4. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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Michelle Story-Kohl

About Michelle Story-Kohl

Michelle is an ELL instructional coach for Lincoln Public Schools. She partners with many teachers across the district as they support their ELL students’ academic language development. Michelle is available to work with teachers and staff at Lakeview, Saratoga, Campbell, Everett, McPhee, Beattie, Brownell, Everett, Holmes, Kooser, Sheridan, and West Lincoln

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