Do you have students who seem more focused on rate than on overall reading improvement? As students build fluency, it’s natural for them to them to try to read faster. When they become too focused on speed, however, they often lose accuracy and expression. Reading fluently means reading accurately, expressively, and at an appropriate rate. We tell students that fluency means reading “like you speak,” at a rate others can easily understand. The ultimate goal of reading is always comprehension, not speed.

How can you slow down students who are overly focused on rate? We’ve collected several tips from our experience in the classroom and from teachers who have shared their wisdom with us over the years. Here are some ideas to try:

  1. Read along with the student and tap the table twice for every period and once for every comma. This helps them internalize how long to pause for punctuation. Then teach students to tap the table in the same manner as they read alone.
  2. Teach students to take a breath before each punctuation mark.
  3. Model fast reading and then reading with expression to demonstrate the difference.
  4. Use a metronome to have students stay with the beat.
  5. Have students watch a segment on the Discovery Channel or a similar program and pay attention to the narrator’s voice. Encourage them to sound like the narrator when they read—to have a clear voice that people can easily understand.
  6. Have “Radio Friday” (or another day of the week) in which students practice reading a passage like a newscaster or a radio personality.
  7. Post a humorous sign with the message you want to get across, such as, "Slow down, or you will be pulled over for speeding!" 

If students are working in Read Live or a program with a timed-reading component, try the following:

  • Have the student read the passage to you, untimed and with correct phrasing, before the timed reading.
  • Emphasize comprehension by having the student retell the story to you before the timed reading.
  • If students have a words-correct-per-minute goal, try lowering it slightly. Most students don’t like having their goals lowered, but in some cases it may be necessary. Lowering the goal once is usually enough to help the student read at a more appropriate rate.
  • In Read Live, reduce the number of read-alongs. With less audio support, students will need to work harder on word recognition, forcing them to slow down and learn to read the words accurately.

If you’re taking remedial actions like lowering the goal, it’s important to try just one remedial action at a time, and give students time to adjust. Often a nudge in the right direction is enough to help your students slow down.

It is exciting for students to increase the rate at which they can read, but becoming truly fluent is inherently more rewarding. When students are fluent with the text, they have enough mental energy left to comprehend. As all readers know, comprehension is what makes reading enjoyable and life-changing.

Do you have additional suggestions for slowing down your speed readers? We’d love to hear what’s worked in your classroom. Comment below to share your thoughts with fellow teachers.