Automaticity is Essential

Automaticity is Essential

Posted by Brainspring on 26th Mar 2019

Automaticity is a term that is frequently used when talking about phonics instruction and developing fluency. In Phonics First and Structures, our goal is for students to master skills to the point of automaticity. We use the Three Part Drill to help build automaticity and we emphasize that automaticity develops through constant practice and repetition. We stress that students need automaticity to become fluent readers.

But what does automaticity really mean?

Automaticity Basics

A way to explain automaticity is to use the analogy of driving somewhere you’ve been to many times. Can you remember a time you arrived at work and couldn’t even recall how you got there?  You don’t remember buckling your seat belt or turning the ignition, but somehow you’re there (and you hope you stopped at the red lights!). That’s automaticity. You’ve done something so many times that it becomes automatic and you go on autopilot.

The actual definition of automaticity:

Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.

More Basics …

Students need to be able to decode words in a text without conscious effort in order to read fluently and gain meaning from what they read. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. Automaticity allows the student to attend to the meaning of what they are reading because they are freed from focusing all their effort and attention on decoding.

The brain is a powerhouse, capable of doing many things simultaneously. However, while reading, if the brain is occupied with decoding, it cannot focus well on comprehension. Once decoding becomes automatic, however, it no longer occupies the mind and the mind is free to focus on comprehension. This is our goal for all our students, regardless of age.

To return to the driving analogy, think back to when you were first learning to drive. Do you remember finding it hard to even listen to what the teacher (or your parent or older sibling) was telling you as she was teaching you to drive? You were probably so focused on the details of what pedal you were pushing and keeping the car straight without running into another car, etc. that you could not bear to listen to your teacher. Now that you’ve (hopefully) developed automaticity in the basics of driving, you are able to drive and carry on a conversation simultaneously without even thinking about it. You’ve become automatic in this skill!

In conclusion, automaticity is not just a word we use because it sounds impressive; automaticity carries true meaning as an essential process for gaining fluency and comprehension.


Written by Brainspring

Learn more about Brainspring’s accredited Orton-Gillingham professional development
Learn more about Brainspring’s Michigan-based Learning Centers