How to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills: Increase Speed and Fluency

Updated on November 14, 2019
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Marisa is an educator and researcher. She has a great interest in healthy foods and health journalism.


These techniques can be applied to yourself, your students, employees and children. Of course, the purpose for reading can be a big factor in a reader's determination and motivation. Required reading in academia or in the workplace can be a challenge if the topic does not seem appealing or motivational. Casual and pleasure reading are usually with topics you have chosen and find personally interesting. Regardless, these simple techniques will not only help you retain the information they will also improve reading comprehension and eventually speed. Remember, you can apply these techniques to yourself or to those you teach or train. 

Before We Begin

  • Clear your mind and environment of distractions.
  • Remember theReader's Purpose: Mentally prepare yourself by actively understanding why you are reading. For example—

I'm reading to learn (informative text)
I'm reading to imagine a journey (fictional text)
I'm reading to understand (biographies/autobiographies)
I'm reading to take a test (standardized tests in academia or in employment)

I have my flashcards posted on the corner of my whiteboard. The yellow card says, Prove It! The smaller cards say Strategies and Critical Thinking.
I have my flashcards posted on the corner of my whiteboard. The yellow card says, Prove It! The smaller cards say Strategies and Critical Thinking. | Source

1. 5 W's and How

There are a variety of ways you can apply this strategy. I encourage you to be creative and customize the technique to your specific needs.

Choose your reading material. Choose an informative text or short passage.

Classroom or training room: Create large flashcards with the following words - Who, What, When, Where, How and Why.

Personal use: Create a mini bookmark with the flashcard word prompts written on it. A bookmark is a great visual cue to remember the question prompts as you read.

  1. Review word prompts. Show the words to your readers (or review them yourself). Tell the group that they will answer three of the six word prompts when they finish reading the paragraph. (This signals your brain to be aware of the who, what, when, where, how and why as you read. This creates instant awareness!)
  2. Read. Read a paragraph or two. Reading can be done orally or silently.
  3. Check for retention. Choose a reader to orally complete 3 word prompts of their choice. Once they choose they will then adapt the question to their reading material.

For example, say they chose Who, What and Why. The reader then completes the prompt with a suitable question that they themselves will answer.

  • WHO is the main character? They answer.
  • WHAT happened? They answer.
  • WHY did that happen? They answer.

You will be amazed how eager your readers are to answer. Continue with the next paragraph and so forth. This technique will automatically create awareness of what is being read and the question prompts will enforce understanding. If a reader knows WHO did WHAT and WHY or HOW they did it then they can also describe WHEN or WHERE it happened. These are basically the events of plot.

4. Regular application. If you begin to apply Who, What, When, Where, How and Why when you read you will be aware and more apt to remember the content. Thus, improving reading comprehension.

5. My observations: I use this technique very OFTEN in my classroom. The interesting thing is my students still use it even when I don't apply it. We will be in the middle of reading and someone will say WHO and the class responds or WHY and they respond. This technique is also useful for reading tests. I train my struggling readers to write the 6 question prompts at the bottom of the page. They jot down answers to each prompt as they read as well as the paragraph number. This step has greatly improved their reading scores.

Why This Works

you are training yourself to look for the main events as well as the cause and effect in your reading material BEFORE you read. These steps make you an active reader instead of a reader that is not alert to the various who, what, when, where, how and why prompts.

2. Nouns and Verbs

Parts of Speech - Nouns & Verbs (similar to above, but you only need to remember two parts of speech instead of 6 question prompts)

Get back to the basics and review your nouns and verbs.

  • Nouns are a person, place or thing.
  • Verbs show action as well as present tense and past tense.

As you are reading simply identify the nouns and verbs.
 This strategy creates awareness of Person, Place and Thing (noun) as well as the action and/or tense involved (verbs). It is similar to the strategy above in the sense that the noun (person) tells you WHO it is about. The noun (place) tells you the setting (WHERE) and the noun (thing) helps identify the object discussed (WHAT). As for verbs. Verbs are action and they tell you WHAT, HOW or WHY something is happening. Verbs also identify WHEN. Therefore, if you simply apply additional focus on the nouns and verbs you pick up on quite a few details and it helps support retention of the information read. 

Please Note

I am not saying to only read nouns and verbs. You still read the whole text while seeking out the nouns and verbs. The strategy is to identify the nouns and verbs as a means of creating awareness and comprehension.

Improve Reading Speed and Fluency

This technique is used by educators and speech therapists to help improve word recognition, pronunciation and speed. With increased speed and fluency a reader can begin to apply greater focus on attaining reading comprehension.

Materials needed; A long word list such as Dolch or high frequency words (2 copies if using a partner), a pencil and a timer.

This activity works best with a partner. Your partner has a copy of the same list you are reading, the timer and a pencil. Read your list of wordsout loud and read them as quickly and clearly as possible. Your partner should start the timer as soon as you begin following along as you read. Your partner should stop the timer as soon as an error is made, mark the section where you stopped and record the time. Repeat the process. The goal is to improve speed AND the amount read with each attempt. 

(Take turns with your partner - competition can be fun and motivational - warning, may cause laughter. GOOD! Learning and improving should be fun!)

This strategy has a variety of benefits. This has been especially helpful for my ESL and Dyslexic students. It's a fun activity and my students enjoy it when I join along. Be a good sport about it - there is nothing funner than stumping a teacher!

Teaching Tip - As ELA teachers (as well as other subjects) we do quite a bit of oral reading in class. On more than one occasion you will have students that are very slow readers and they stumble across the words. The above activity would be an excellent tutoring strategy. I have seen it greatly improve their skills and confidence.

Business Tip - Perhaps you are trying to get your employees to apply certain verbiage on a sales call. Or, you want them to learn your company's Mission Statement. You can do the activity above with your customized text instead of a word list. Your employees will have a better chance of learning the company's objectives and approach through fun training sessions.

© 2011 Marisa Hammond Olivares


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    • torrilynn profile image


      7 years ago

      hi miss olive,

      the tips that you have included in this articles are great

      i feel that they will greatly helping me when reading

      articles or stories in general. thanks

      voted up

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      You are such an awesome teacher and writer. I never get tired of reading your advice :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Thanks so much to all of you for your supportive words. These skills and strategies are useful for young readers and adults alike. Creating mental awareness as we read is a wonderful thing. Happy reading to all.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great skill to have, and you explain everything so well. A well-laid out hub, MO!

    • HouseBuyersUS profile image


      7 years ago from Centreville, Virginia, USA

      great strategies and tips...very useful hub...thanks!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Great strategies and tips. I love it that these are tried and tested strategies that you have used. Awesome job!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic hub! I enjoyed learning more about improving reading comprehension and fluency. I'll use these tips with my boys! Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • The Marker profile image

      The Marker 

      8 years ago

      Another lesson I've learned. Thanks MissOlive.

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for sharing this information, Ms. Olive. I am actually planning to do some activity to improve my kid's reading comprehension and fluency this summer vacation. Your hub came exactly at the time I needed it.

    • jhonrude profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Missolive, It is a unique and valuable article. This is a great knowledge.

      Vote up

    • myrtle McKinley profile image

      myrtle McKinley 

      8 years ago

      Hi Missolive,

      Loved this hub especially the part about reading comprehension. I never had a problem comprehending, just avoiding distraction to keep concentration on track. I must clear my mind of these distractions as you said. Thanks so much for the helpful info. I am new to hubbing, and would appreciate you checking me out. Thanks Again, Myrtle

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      sholland10 - Thank you Susan. I am a big fan of discussions. They really help the readers begin to understand the various elements. I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment.

      Cagsil - I am grateful that you have stopped by to read and comment. Thank you for the compliment and the votes - much appreciated.

    • Cagsil profile image


      8 years ago from USA or America

      Fantastic stuff MissOlive. It's always a pleasure to learn something new. :) Voted up and useful! :)

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      I will be trying this in my classroom! My high schoolers still need a little prodding, and this type of activity works and promotes great discussion! :-)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      RTalloni - You are quite welcome. Thank you for your very kind comment. It is always nice to spot you on my hubs. Thank you for the vote! :)

      gregoriom - I'm always happy to share - thank you for stopping by to read and taking the time to comment.

      ITcoach - Thank you so much for your kind words. I greatly appreciate your votes and support.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      infiniteresearch - this would be an excellent technique for your 8 year old. Whenever these skills are added early on they begin to easily home in on important facts as they develop their reading. These techniques are great at any age and you'll notice it in yourself as you are guiding her. Basically, it just creates a greater awareness and we can all use that. :)

      Thank you for the votes and bookmarking.

    • ITcoach profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Missolive!!You are brilliant with great talent that you have.You've laid the topic out well, and I think it will help a lot of parents as they have the major part in on their kids reading abilities...keep it up!!

      Voted up and awesome.

    • gregoriom profile image

      Deninson Mota 

      8 years ago from East Elmhurst, NY

      This is a well detailed hub. Is very clear and readable. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks much for these super reading comprehension tips. They will benefit many people, young and old. Voted up.

    • Infiniteresearch profile image


      8 years ago from Ohio

      Great hub voted up and very useful. I plan to use this technique with my 8 year daughter to help with her reading comprehension. I think she will particularly enjoy the flash card bookmark.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Adrienne2 - WOW! What a great complement! Thank you!

      I absolutely love teaching reading comprehension - I'm very glad to share just a tiny piece of what I do in the classroom. Thanks again adrienne. I'm truly honored to have you follow my hubs.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 

      8 years ago from Atlanta

      Missolive you have some of the most useful articles here on hubpages. You are such a compliment to the HP community, and a real blessing. Thanks for sharing this informative piece of info. Voted up!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thank you prairieprincess! Prompts are a very important tool and can be used in a variety of ways. Thanks for bookmarking and commenting :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Oh Miss Olive, I love this one, too! These are such excellent prompts to aid with reading comprehension, because they focus on the most important things: what's happening, who's doing it, and why. Brilliant! Definitely bookmarking this one, too. Have a great day.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      learner365 - Thank you for visiting and voting. Always a pleasure to see you.

      Beata Stasak - Hi there, glad this was useful. I'm sure your son will do fine! Best wishes to both of you :)

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 

      8 years ago from Western Australia

      Very useful and important hub, my fellow teacher:)...forwarded it to my son who is preparing for his exam:)

    • learner365 profile image

      Saadia A 

      8 years ago

      Missolive...Great Hub.Learning made easier :) Voted up and useful !!!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      seedplanter - Yes, the basics are alive and well. I do help this helps parents as well as others. Open ended questions and discussions are very important Thank you for reading and commenting.

      asma! I'm glad you came by to read and comment. I've been wondering about you. Sent you a couple of e-mails. I hope all is well. Thank you for your lovely comment and vote :)

    • asmaiftikhar profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Hello mam that is another unique and useful hub.keep it up!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice to see the basics are still alive & well! You've laid the topic out well, and I imagine it's going to help a lot of parents as they key in on their kids' reading abilities.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      LearnFromMe - THANK YOU! I have featured you on the hub for improving reading speed. Your tips are fabulous! Thank you for the votes and for sharing - honored! :)

    • LearnFromMe profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent tips! Voted up, useful, awesome, and sharing!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      soniacharan - Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm always happy to hear something was an easy read. It is a great complement.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Mumbai,INDIA

      GREAT HUB...


    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thank you molometer! Your hubs have proved to be an inspiration :)

      Appreciate the bookmark and votes!

    • molometer profile image

      Micheal is 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Bookmarked and voted up.

      Well done missolive another brilliant example of your excellent skills.


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