In chapter 4 of the Samuels and Farstrup text, fluency is "described as the bridge from phonics to comprehension". The two components of fluency, automaticity and expressiveness are both surface level components which can be observed by a teacher as indicators of reading ability. Automaticity is especially important in regards to reading comprehension. When students are able to recognize words automatically, they can use more of their "cognitive resources" to think about what the text is telling them and create meaning. Being able to reading with expression is also important as it is an indicator that the reader understands the text. They are able to add emphasis to words or phrases that are meaningful, something that nonfluent readers struggle with.
I thought it was interesting that it was pointed out the fast reading isn't necessarily fluent reading. Like many schools, my school uses the DIBELS to assess reading fluency. While I think it generally provides a fair assessment of reading fluency, I have also noticed that there are students that are capable of reading quickly, and even with inflection, that don't fully understand what they are reading. One student in particular, a 4th grade girl, has a lovely reading voice and does a great job decoding text. She uses the sing-songy voice one uses when reading aloud and anyone listening would label her as a strong reader. She does, however, struggle with comprehension. Although not required by my school, I require the students to retell their readings after using the DIBELS and this girl is frequently unable to tell me what she has just finished reading. She is, in fact, one of the lowest scoring students in the class in terms of comprehension.
There are many methods for improving student fluency, many of which are listed in the Fluency Instruction PowerPoint, but I also liked the MAPPS strategy outlined by Samuels and Farstrup. This method begins by (M) modeling fluent reading for students. This can be done by reading to students, something that even the most reluctant readers enjoy! Next is (A) assisted reading. To me, this seems to be similar to guided reading groups and could be achieved during reading workshop in several ways. Students could read with a partner, listen to audio books, or work with the teacher or small group. (P) Practice is the next step, which includes wide reading, but also includes deep and repeated readings. While I do provide time for students to practice during reading workshop time, I have never really encouraged students to reread texts (other than picture books) because it isn't something I typically do as an adult reader. It is also hard to do this when students are pressured to meet Accelerated Reader (AR) goals (I am not a proponent of the program, but it is really promoted in my school). With AR, students cannot retake tests on the same books, so encouraging them to reread a book that they can't earn more points on would ultimately end in disappointment. The next step is (P) phrasing. This includes working with students on reading groups of words in meaningful ways. Finally, students need to (S) synthesize all of the elements to be truly fluent.