Assessing Sentence Fluency In Students: Explaining Through Examples

Language fluency is often interchangeably used with sentence fluency, however, the latter is an aspect of the former, which dictates the overall proficiency of the individual. Sentence fluency refers to the appropriateness of certain words or phrases put together. It can be about the right vocabulary, correct sentences, varying lengths of sentences, and an overall structure and tone of a conversation or a write-up. 

For children, sentence fluency can be a way to become more expressive, efficient in the language, and confident with new vocabulary and tenses. While a child can be good with reading or speaking but struggles with writing proper sentences, it is important to note that, both spoken and written sentence fluency are important for a child to be proficient at language. 

The article below discusses the transition from early childhood to middle school years and the subsequent improvements that occur in sentence fluency through examples. 

Understanding sentence fluency through some examples

Every individual goes through different phases when trying to become fluent in a language. When it comes to sentence fluency, below are some examples that indicate the sentence fluency of a child in a variety of situations. 

1. Asking Questions and Giving Answers

Asking Questions and Giving Answers

Sentences either come with a question mark or a full stop. In other words, they are either posed as a question or an answer. In the early stages of childhood, when the child is still acquiring spoken language, most of the questions come from elders, to which the child replies in one-word sentences or through non-verbal gestures. Hence, asking questions and replying to questions asked can be considered an important milestone in a child’s sentence fluency development. Questions like, “what do I have for breakfast? Where are my toys? Can I play with this” etc are some simple questions that a child must begin with. 

2. Introducing Oneself

Introducing Oneself

“Myself” which consists of 5 or 10 sentences about the child, is the first thing that is taught to the child. It consists of sentences like My name is XYZ, I am this many years old, I am a boy/girl, etc. A child memorizes these sentences in the beginning, however, as years pass by, they learn how to tweak these sentences. For instance, “I am 10 years old” and might change to I just turned 11 or there would be new additions like My favorite animal is a dog, based on how fluently the child has acquired new vocabulary in everyday usage. 

3. Explaining Oneself

 Explaining Oneself

With growing age, children learn to explore and label both their external and internal worlds. Hence, being able to explain themselves in front of their parents, teachers or peers is dependent on their sentence fluency. They seek clarity on the usage of tenses, verbs, and adjectives and then accordingly learn to express themselves. While a young toddler might use just two or three words to make themselves understood, a school going child would be able to explain a situation in a full sentence. For instance, a toddler who sees a cat might just say cat and point in its direction, while a school-going child would be able to clearly say, “There’s a cat on the stairs”. 

4. Narrating an event

The narration of an event involves answering the what, when, where, why, and hows. While some young children might come gifted with the art of storytelling and narration, it is during the school years that children are able to narrate an event with explicit details. For instance, telling teachers what happened due to which they couldn’t attend class or asking permission from parents to go to a certain place, all come with mastery over sentence fluency in narrating an event. 

5. Holding a conversation

Holding a conversation

Once sentence fluency is established so that the child can introduce and explain themselves as well as narrate an event, the next important thing to consider is whether they can hold a conversation or not. Sentences like “do you get it, see you next time, can you please repeat, do you like the weather, where do you live” all come with an exploratory undertone, hence, helping to establish a conversation.  A child exhibiting good teamwork in class activities can be fluent in holding a conversation. 

6. Using transition words

The use of transition words makes a write-up engaging and easy to read. Children can be taught the use of transition words as early as 3rd grade. Sentence fluency gets to an abstract level when children have to decide the proper phrasing of transition words. This can get a little trickier during the narration of an event. However, a child who can use, first, next, later on, afterward, and finally, in a coherent manner, is said to have learned sentence fluency with transition words. Otherwise, a likely tendency amongst children is to use and then create flow. 

7. Using new vocabulary

Using new vocabulary

Children use very basic words like I’m happy, I’m sad or I’m angry, as they feel more comfortable using these words with their range of sentence fluency. However, as they become more confident with their sentence fluency, they start using more complex and rich vocabulary. For instance, using words like I’m elated, or I’m overwhelmed, can express the confidence a child has developed in his own sentence formation skills. 

8. Using proper tenses

Using proper tenses

A kindergartner or a toddler can easily mix up tenses, and create sentences that may not be grammatically correct. Mistakes like “I is sad” where they could have said “I was sad” are fairly common. It takes them time to master the proper usage of tenses in sentence formation. While simple tenses might still be easy for school-going children to learn, continuous tenses take slightly more time and practice. Once the child can form sentences like  “I have been learning cycling for two years now, My father has been a great player until he got a job, or next month, it will be two years since my favorite teacher left, one can establish that the child has achieved mastery over tenses in sentence fluency. 

9. Writing short paragraphs

Writing short paragraphs

Unlike small kids, school-going children are often given classwork to create short paragraphs, like writing a letter, a diary entry, or an essay on any topic. For any given topic, sentence fluency is very important in creating such write-ups. Using new words, correct tenses, phrases of varying lengths, and having an understanding of how the paragraph will sound when spoken aloud in class, all relate to a child’s sentence fluency. Even though the focus of teachers is much more on spelling and handwriting, sentence fluency in writing transcends these fundamentals and looks at creativity and correctness in phrasing. 

10. Using expressive features

Expressive features in writing would be different from the spoken form. For instance, adding an exclamation mark or a question mark can provide insight into what the sentence is conveying, but pauses, tone, pitch, and other non-verbal features can shed light on the spoken expressions. Sentence fluency while talking about flow and proper phrasing, also means that the speaker doesn’t seem robotic or the write-up doesn’t come out as bland. Hence, using classroom readings or writing activities with these expressive features can help the student to learn the non-verbal underpinnings behind certain sentences. For instance, “It was raining last night and I couldn’t sleep due to the thunderstorm” when said using proper pauses and tone, can convey the true intentions or feelings of the speaker. 

Strategies to improve sentence fluency

There are several ways in which children can improve their sentence fluency, below are some which can definitely help: 

  • Reading Aloud: A great way to improve written sentence fluency is by reading the paragraph aloud. When a child reads his/her write-up, he will get an idea of whether it is conveying the meaning he/she intended or whether she can make it better. 
  • Underlining the first word: Another trick to master sentence fluency is by always re-reading the first word of every sentence. If the opening of all sentences is the same, then the child can make changes to the sentences, by starting the sentence from a different word. 
  • Watching movies or shows: While written sentence fluency can still be rechecked before actual delivery, however, children can find it embarrassing to make mistakes while speaking. Hence, watching movies or shows in the language being learned can help expand vocabulary as well as sentence fluency.
  • Communication: There is no better way than communicating in the language with the child, to help them learn proper phrasing and sentence fluency. Being accommodating and kind when correcting mistakes, can help them improve their sentence fluency. 


Sentence fluency is an important area of language development. Children can sometimes suffer from spoken sentence fluency and sometimes from written expression. Nevertheless, as they grow in age, and with proper guidance, knowledge of tenses, sentence formation, narration, and diction are acquired, which helps with the sentence fluency of the individual. Furthermore, teachers can also engage students in some games and activities to help them become more fluent, and understand its cruciality better. 

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