Fluency at the word level transcript

Elaine Stanley:

Moving on to supporting students to develop fluency at the word level.

For students to build fluency at word level, they must have that letter–sound correspondence knowledge, and the ability to blend sounds to read words and segment sounds to spell words. If we're talking about Foundation level, when they’re usually starting off learning at the word level, we're talking about working with CVC words, so consonant-vowel-consonant words.

What teachers should be looking for at the word level for fluency is that students are developing their efficiency at combining those two areas, so their letter–sound correspondence knowledge, and also their ability to blend or segment. They've got to bring both of those things together to develop their fluency. So accuracy and automaticity in identifying the letter–sound correspondences, and then accuracy and automaticity in blending the sounds for reading or segmenting the sounds for spelling.

Supporting word-level fluency begins with your explicit instruction during your phonics lessons. And through that gradual release of responsibility process again, students are learning now to blend known sounds to read words and segment sounds to spell words. At this stage in your lessons when you're working at the word level, you'd be incorporating all the letter–sound correspondences that students have learned up to this point, plus the new one that they're learning in this particular lesson.

Then you have opportunities again for daily practice and retrieval through the daily review sessions. So students are really building their decoding and encoding muscles here and developing their accuracy and automaticity. That's what fluency is at this stage, during this repeated practice.

Explicit instruction and daily review are followed up with opportunities for independent practice.

What they're really doing through independent task time is applying what they've learned and becoming more proficient at using it. So, again, that's an important step in building their fluency, but this time at the word level.

In these slides here, which are again from those fluency development slides that you're given with this topic, you can see at the top slide there, they're segmenting and blending sounds to read the word, then re-reading that word to build their fluency.


Then what you would expect students to do is cover up those first two columns. They've got the word in their mind that they've just read, and then they segment the sounds and write the letters, form the letters to write the word, and then they can uncover them and check they match. So, they can do that independently if they're working at this level.

On the second slide there in the middle, you can see some word lists that help build their fluency. If students are working at the CVC level with lots of letter–sound correspondences they've learned to this point, they can be practising blending sounds and reading those words in their particular word list that they're working on.

At the bottom, you can see there, a word ring. We introduced that in our last topic about decodable texts.


Students can have their own bank of words that they're working on at the word level, and they're segmenting and blending their sounds.

It's really important that students are given these skill application tasks at the level they can complete on their own without teacher assistance. For students who are not ready to do this work at the word level, they might be still working on letter–sound correspondence matching tasks in this independent practice time. They've still had exposure to working at the word level in the explicit teaching with teacher assistance and through the daily reviews, so they're still getting that exposure. But when it comes to working on their own, they may be working on tasks as we said before, like matching letters and sounds and beginning sounds in pictures. So, those students who can't do the independent practice tasks at the word level yet would have follow-up support, either in a small teaching group or one-to-one with teacher assistance to move them onto that next level, to get to the word level.

When you're working at the word level, you would also be introducing some irregular words at this stage, which we haven't shown here on the slide, but that's important as well when you're working at this word level because students are going to need to know a certain number of irregular words that they haven't learned the sounds for yet necessarily, but they're going to need once they get to the sentence level for reading and spelling. So that would be happening at the same time.

If you'd like to know more information about that, you can look back at topic two because we give a lot of detail there about how we introduce those irregular words at the same time as building their blending and segmenting skills as we see here.


The key to success with independent tasks is to make sure you have really clear expectations and set really structured routines about how they should operate in the class. And that needs to happen very early on in the piece, so students know exactly how they're expected to work through those independent tasks on their own.

Any new task that's introduced needs to be modelled and practised with the teacher before students can complete them independently. You don't want anything new during independent practice time. You want them just to be able to focus on building their fluency, not working out what the task is asking of them.

With any of these independent tasks, you can bring in paired fluency tasks, where students are working with a partner. That's really effective in helping students build their fluency. For example, with the word list there, students might be working with a partner and taking turns with their lists, or they might bring their word rings and be taking turns, segmenting and blending with their particular list of words that they've got. And fluency at this word level is really important because it's going to start to contribute to sentence reading and spelling fluency.