15 Tips for Building Fluent Readers

January 25, 2016 by

15 Tips for Building Fluent Readers

Building fluent readers is crucial to reading success in the early years.  Back in the day, “Popcorn Reading” or “Round Robin Reading” were popular strategies used to engage students (usually one at a time) to practice reading fluency.  Since then, research has shown, these strategies are not as effective as some would have thought.  This strategy did not benefit all students, and it isolated and revealed the lower level readers and/or introverted students in the classroom.  I have utilized many strategies to help my students build fluency throughout the school year.  I would like to highlight three strategies I use in my classroom.  I will also be featuring some of the wonderful fluency ideas from our fabulous teachers in the Fearless First Grade Teacher Group.

1. Cultivate a culture where imperfection is okay.  Show your students that not always fully understanding right away is a part of the learning process.

Students will thrive in an environment where they are not always in constant “fight or flight” mode.  When you create a culture where mistakes and imperfection are embraced, students will learn more because their emotions will be in check.  I created this free learning scale, shown in the picture below because I wanted to train my kids to recognize what they know and what they don’t know.  I told them that they could be a 1 or a 2 when we start the lesson or unit, but that doesn’t mean they will not move up to a 3 or a 4. I also remind my high fliers that they might think they are at a 3 or a 4, but after doing a bit of independent work, they may realize that they are not at the level of understanding they thought they were at, and they might move down to a 1 or a 2 until they get some more help and/or practice.  Teaching students to be aware of their understanding truly helps to build a culture where they do not feel threatened when they are not at the same level as other students in the classroom.  This type of culture will help build students’ confidence in reading fluency. Teach students to embrace imperfection.  Cultivate a culture where it is okay to make mistakes. 

2.  Teach your students to coach each other, and encourage the use of reading strategies.

I go over our core reading strategies at the beginning of the year.  Some kids have them, and some kids will come in and have no idea how what they are.  I model appropriate reading strategies during our daily read aloud, and any other time I can slip in them in when I am reading orally.  If you model every day, most students will naturally pick up the reading strategies when reading independently.  After I have most of my kids using our reading strategies independently, I then have them begin to use them during partner reading.  When kids are partner reading, and one gets stuck, there has to be a system in place to decode the words and/or gain meaning of the text.  By giving the students the power to help each other with strategies, I am not doing all the work when it comes to getting my students the help they need.  They are taught to give two (appropriate) strategies, and then if their partner can not figure it out, they can give them the answer.

I use these fabulous reading strategies shown above.  I print them on different colored paper, and put them on a ring.  I have posters hanging in the classroom, and each student has a mini-set in a special “Strategy Folder” in his/her desk.

Reading Strategies Bundle

3.  Understand that comprehension is equally important when practicing fluency.

I will never forget the year when I had a student who truly had comprehension issues.  It was the second week of school, and I had already categorized her into the “high” readers. I went over to her desk because she was fiddling with a pencil.  I asked her to read the passage to me quietly, and she did.  Mind you, she could read multi-syllabic words with no issues at all.  I asked her what she read about.  She just looked at me, and she had no idea.  I read the passage to her, emphasizing the key details and I asked her again what she read.  She had the same blank stare as before.  I think it is important to remember that sometimes we emphasize fluency so much, that we forget about comprehension.  That is why I created fluency passages with comprehension questions included.  The comprehension question sheet includes two text-dependent questions, and one higher-level thinking question.  This helps me to identify students that are missing comprehension skills after they read the given passages.

 3. Understand that comprehension is equally important when practicing fluency.

I created these Phonics Based Reading Comprehension Passages with emphasis on each component of phonics so that students could practice their fluency and comprehension skills.  Each comprehension sheet comes with 2 text dependent questions and 1 higher level question.  They also come with a built in accountability chart on the bottom of each passage to track words read correctly and any errors.

Fluency and Comprehension Passages Bundle

Reading Fluency Passages

I also offer 1st-3rd Grade Monthly Reading Comprehension Passages! Each set includes 120 passages!

1st Grade Fluency Passages

First Grade Monthly Fluency Passages

2nd Grade Fluency Passages

Second Grade Monthly Fluency Passages

3rd Grade Fluency Passages

Third Grade Monthly Fluency Passages

Here are some of the responses from the teachers in the Education to the Core Facebook Group! These teachers never cease to amaze me with their up-to-date strategies.  Read on for some of their amazing strategies from classrooms around the world!

4.  “I use short silly sentence flash cards to practice fluency during whole group in kindergarten. We also learn strategies, “Does that sound right?” “Get your mouth ready.” “Try that again.” When working in small groups.

We also use the iPad’s to record reading of familiar text and listen for fluency.” -Lisa M.

5.  “Poetry reading by modeling…just going line by line listening to the inflections in my voice. Then, practicing with others and breaking it apart. There is ownership in that process. I have used whole brain teaching signs for capital letters and punctuation to understand sentences and the message they convey.  Children need the auditory input before we sit them down to sound it out. I have found that this also assists with their ability to self correct.” -Lynn M.

6.  “I love teaching them to use hand signals when they see punctuation marks in the text. It is incredible the difference this makes and they LOVE it!” -Erin B. from Mrs. Beattie’s Classroom

7.  “Scooping fluency phrases and increasing the amount of words per scoop gradually.” -Heather W.

8.  “I teach a lot about fluency during Shared Reading. Sometimes during whole group mini-lessons but mostly during Shared Reading. Then as I confer and teach in small groups I reinforce the same points. I have a blog post about building a fluency continuum with my students and have also presented about shared reading. I will link posts later tonight…but wanted to pop in. Also, Emily over at Curious Firsties has an awesome blog post about how she teaches scooping to her kids…I track my kids phrasing on formal running records by scooping below the words instead of ticking above. On informal running records I show the phrasing by how close my marks are together. For example, a three word phrase followed by a two word phrase would look like: /// // but if it was word by word it would look more like: / / /. Longer pauses get bigger gaps such as: / / /” -Lisa from Growing Firsties

9.  “I use silly poems and have them practise reading them using different expressions/tones/speed/ etc.” -Jasmine D.

10.  “I went to a whole workshop on fluency. Every day or 2 class reads a poem or song. Each child has a copy that they glue in a notebook.1st) teacher reads it to model how it should sound. 2) choral reading twice 3) partner read 1 to other and vice versa, then together, 4) 3 kids share to the class. Homework that night- read it to as many people as you can (includes pets and stuffed animals!) and make a check next to the poem to show how many times you shared it. Read it next morning before going on to the next poem.” -Mindi S. 

11.  “I’ve always believed the best way to improve theirfluency is to let them hear me read as much as possible. My firsties who really struggle with fluency have 5th grade buddies they read to during lunch (when they have finished eating). The local SPCA has a program where they bring dogs in and the kids read to them on Thursdays. When I worked in Louisiana and we used DIBELS, there was a huge focus on prosody, but it was a highly debatable issue when the kids were simply slow readers – and some are, but generally improve after just a few weeks of consistently hearing a fluent adult (or older student) read to them. I also think everything those above me said is important – it’s a huge task and I feel has SO MUCH to do with the oral language students have grown up hearing.”  Alisa from First Grade Fun Times

12.  One thing I explain and then do with my second grade kiddos, is compare reading to riding ( driving) in a car. Reading one word at a time is like a jerky car ride. It will take a long time to get were we are going. A smooth steady ride is what we want and enjoy. ( It is fun for me to act the actions out as if I was driving each scenario. ) Next, we look at the punctuation. Stop signs…what happens if we blow through those? Commas= pause, to take in the words we just read, just like we would slow down for just a second to get a good look at something, as we pass by. I explain that different types of genres have different speed limits. A couple of examples: Non- fiction slower careful “driving” reading and most fiction allows for faster speed limits. When we get ready to practice together, I ask students to get their finger “car” out and ready to go for a drive. There are many more analogies one can use.

Wilson Fundation strategies are taught and practiced into the whole classroom and with intervention groups I utilize Orton-Gillingham. The car analogy is just a fun hook to help engage them after so much intensive support. -Alecia L.

13.  If your school has google drive, I just heard on a blab about an app called fluency tutor.It looks really neat. Your kids read aloud, it records them, you can go back later and do a running record, and they can listen to themselves I believe. There is a cost but you get a free month and school districts may pay if they already have google classroom. Looks promising! -Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead


14.  Students should hear what fluent reading sounds like from the teacher.  Teachers should model and read often.  Reading a story repetitively gives student reading fluency practice.  I always say, “Read it again. Practice makes perfect.”  -Tanya from The Good Morning Teacher


15.  So for kindergarten it’s definitely different in the beginning/middle of the year when it comes to fluency. Once they have mastered letters and sounds we start fluency with cvc words. I model 3 different ways to read them. 1.) for the pre-emergent readers: say the sounds only 2.) for emergent readers: say the sounds and decode the word 3.) for novice readers: just read the word without decoding. I usually do this during small reading group time so I can group my students accordingly. I model with my cvc words on a white board. Then we do it together, and then I give them a copy for them to use in front of them. This is usually a quick 1-2 min warm up before I start my reading group. We do this till the end of the school year. To step it up and get them ready for first grade, I then add small passages. I model the passage first, then we do it together and then they read on their own.

Aside from the guided fluency practice with the small groups, I also do partner reading. I try to pair a novice reader with a emergent or pre emergent reader. They sit in chairs side-by-side, and I post a 5 step (kid friendly) process on my document camera that they follow. They have book pots with all their old books that they have read from small reading groups in there. They are to choose a book together (that they both have) and go through the 5 steps. This is student let and takes a TON of modeling before they can do this independently. The end result is to have them reading the book by themselves and then with their partner with fluency. -Sarah C. from Kindergarten Smarts

Hopefully you found a few strategies to implement in your classroom right away!  If you enjoyed this space, be sure follow me on InstagramPinterestFacebook, and Teachers Pay Teachers to stay posted with the latest ideas, tips, and freebies!

15 Tips for Building Fluent Readers


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