When you reach that magical point in the year where your students can decode almost ANY word you put in front of them, if you’re like me you’re tempted to breathe a huge sigh of relief! But your job is just beginning in many ways! We can’t simply have little decoding robots. Students MUST develop fluency in their reading to truly be successful readers and to comprehend what they read. But what exactly does fluent reading entail?
There are two components to fluency instruction and practice: school instruction and practice at home. First up, let’s talk about fluency instruction at school.
These strategies are best taught in your guided reading groups or other small groups. They’re perfect for practicing in centers, as well.
Accuracy involves properly decoding words and having a strong mastery of sight words. Students who can accurately pronounce and read words are much more likely to be fluent readers. How can you encourage accuracy in your readers? We love to read nonsense words! Since nonsense words are novel, they haven’t been previously memorized. Students must *truly* have knowledge of vowel rules, special sounds, vowel pairs, word endings, and more to accurately and quickly decode nonsense words. These are especially fun to practice reading with a timer to encourage students to quickly decode them. You can choose words that target the special sounds or phonetic components your students are working on!
Another HUGE component of accuracy is sight word recognition and retention. We love playing sight word games to help students develop instant recall of sight words. We love using a mix of Dolch words AND Fry words. Fry phrases are especially useful in practicing fluent reading. Fold up some “French fry boxes”, copy the Fry phrases on yellow card stock, and your students will have a blast practicing their Fry phrases. It’s also fun to time students reading these phrases to see if they can improve their speed over time. Remind them that accuracy is definitely more important than speed, though!
Finally, repeated readings of familiar texts are one of the best ways to develop accurate and fluent reading. Let students choose texts they have already mastered so they don’t have to stumble over unknown words. Instead they can focus on simply reading fluently.
In developing fluent readers, it’s also important to focus on reading rate. Have you noticed that your students seem to read either PAINFULLY slowly, like a turtle….or at warp speed? We want students to develop a just right reading rate in the middle. If they read too slowly, they forget what they’ve already read because reading is so tedious. If they read too quickly, they risk mispronouncing words or skipping important events and details. Here are some fun ways to practice rate.
Read Like a turtle and Read Like a Rabbit is a fun activity. Encourage students to read a given reading passage three times–first like a turtle, much too slowly. Then, read like a rabbit, much too quickly. Finally, have them read it at a reasonable rate. Since the last reading will be their third, they’ve also practiced the fluency strategy of repeated readings!
Another meaningful way to help students develop a reasonable rate of fluent reading is to time themselves reading Dolch phrases. This gives great sight word practice but also encourages them to improve their time and their fluency with each reading.
Punctuation is a crucial component to fluent reading. Students who don’t have a solid understanding of punctuation marks and what they represent are not likely to be fluent readers. We don’t just want to introduce end marks, either. We want to be sure students understand how to respond when they see a comma or quotation marks as well.
In this activity, students will be shocked to see how much the meaning of a sentence changes just by changing the punctuation mark and, thus, your inflection.
Another meaningful way to practice using punctuation to help students read fluently is to play “Flash and Read.” Quickly flash a card with one word and a punctuation mark on it. Students must read that word using their expression and inflection to match the punctuation.
Pull out mini sticky dots and let students place them under each punctuation mark. As students read, the dots will draw their attention to each comma, end mark, and quotation mark, reminding them to adjust their reading to match.
It’s critical for students to be able to match their voices and expression to characters, settings, moods, and events. In this activity, students must read the dialogue of various characters. I like to have students peek ahead to see who is talking and then adjust their voice and expression to match that character. This is actually a super fun activity that students really get into! You can tape these cards all around the room and even add a few props to go with each character card (a tongue depressor and mask for the doctor, an apron and spoon for the mom, etc.)
In “Picture It”, place picture cards and dialogue cards in a small photo album. Students study the picture first to get an idea off the character and scene. Then they read the dialogue by adjusting their expression and voice to match that character.
But don’t just stop at fluency instruction. CELEBRATE fluency in the classroom. Two very special end of the year events we like to have are a Read Aloud Rodeo and a Poetry Party. They give kiddos the chance to showcase their new reading skills. And who doesn’t like dressing up and eating snacks? 😉
Do you LOVE these ideas? You can grab them in our Fluency Focus packet on Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s full of engaging activities to help your students master the four components of fluency– accuracy, rate, expression, and punctuation!
Looking for even MORE fluency practice for your high first through low third grade students? Help your students practice and develop fluent reading month after month with these fabulous Monthly Fluency packets Deanna Jump and I have teamed up to create! They are perfect for guided reading groups or as homework assignments. Each month includes 4 weeks of fluency homework featuring a unique and seasonal poem, two differentiated fluency passages, and a fun fluency activity. Also included in each month are 2 centers or small group games plus 3 Reader’s Theater scripts. SAVE BIG by buying the bundle! Click the picture to preview the product on TPT!
Now…. ready for your FREEBIE??? Another fun way to practice fluent reading is with this “Big Voice–Little Voice” activity. You can find this mini clipboard in the scrapbooking section at Walmart. Explain to students that sometimes the things we say need a BIG voice. If we won a contest, would we say “I won the contest.” Or…would we say, “I WON THE CONTEST!!!!!!” Likewise, we sometimes need a little voice. ‘ “I’m really scared,” said the little boy’ would need a weak, timid voice.
Attach these free printables to a regular sized clipboard and a mini clipboard and let students practice reading them with a BIG voice and a little voice.
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