Improving reading fluency in our students is one of the main goals of any elementary school teacher. If they are not fluent readers, they are unable to gain meaning (comprehend) from what they are reading. There are a few components to being a fluent reader…
- Phrasing – putting words together in meaningful groups within a sentence
- Expression – reading to match the feeling, paying attention to punctuation and dialogue
- Emphasis – emphasizing certain words to match the author’s meaning
- Automaticity – reading known words without hesitation
- Pace – reading like we speak; not racing through text, or reading in a staccato fashion (word by word)
I have broken down each of these five components into 9 Surefire Ways to Improve Reading Fluency in your students.
Way #1 ~ Read It Like You Know It
- If you have to stop and sound out a word, that’s okay, but go back and reread the sentence. When reading it again, read the unknown word as if you’ve always known it.
- Turn bumpy reading into smooth reading. If you read a sentence pausing after every word, go back and read the sentence again, chunking words into phrases.
- Use the Word Wall. If you come to an unknown word, check the word wall to see if it is one you have learned before.
- Practicing with Fluency Passages encourages your students to read a piece of text more than once. Students familiarize themselves with unknown words during each read, therefore increasing fluency.
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#2 ~ Pay Attention to Punctuation
- We use different types of voice depending on the punctuation at the end of a sentence. (Period – read like we speak; Question Mark – raise your voice at the end of the sentence; Exclamation Point – excited voice)
- Notice if there is punctuation within a sentence, such as commas, colons, etc. Teach students to chunk phrases before commas, so they can pause for a breath within a sentence.
Way #3 ~ Voices for Characters
- Teach your students to pay attention to quotation marks (inside the quotes is the character / outside the quotes is the narrator).
- Encourage your students to create voices for different characters. Reader’s Theatre is a great way to help your students create characters through dialogue.
- Students also need to be aware of the context in which the character is speaking. “What is the character feeling while talking?” Change your voice to match the mood of that moment.
- Notice the author’s tags in the text. They may not always use “said”. Other possible words include “whispered”, “shouted”, or “cried”. Make sure that your voice reflects that vocabulary.
#4 ~ Read Like We Speak
- No more “robot” reading (reading word by word). We need to read like we speak, chunking words into phrases before pausing to take a breath.
- Read a story like you are teaching others. I always encourage my students to practice at home as if they are in front of their own classroom. My daughter likes to set up her stuffed animals and pretend they are her “students”. LOL Reading at home is a necessity to increasing fluency!
- Pause at the right parts of the sentence, so as not to change the original meaning. (For example: “The old men and women sat on the bench.” To keep the meaning, it should be read like this… “The old men and women / sat on the bench.” If it is read this way… “The old men / and women / sad on the bench.” – The meaning could be that the women are old or young, we don’t know.) It’s crazy how pausing in a different spot can completely change the author’s meaning of the sentence.
Way #5 ~ Reading Fluency Warm Up
- Practice warming up before you read a hard book. In Guided Reading Groups, we start with reading common phrases that we see in many stories and passages. I create “Phrase Lines of Practice” for them to warm up with prior to giving them their book to read. By being able to chunk these phrases, students will increase their fluency.
- Students can warm themselves up by reading an easier book smoothly before moving to a “just right” book. Many teachers have book bins for their students that contain books a little below, on, and a little above their reading level to practice with.
#6 ~ Read with a Partner
- Strategically pair your students, so that they are practicing with someone who is on a similar reading level.
- I like to challenge my students (especially my higher readers) to see if they can read in “one voice”. Can they also include expression and pausing at the same time?
- When taking turns reading, they are to listen to each other and provide feedback to their partner. What was a “keeper” (something great) and a “polisher” (something to work on)?
Way #7 ~ Listen to Yourself Read
- I keep my class library in a corner away from my teaching/small group area. There are pillows, a rug, and bench in that area to encourage students to grab a book, sit down, and read. In this area, I like them to whisper read to themselves, so they can listen to what they sound like.
- I also keep a small tub of fluency phones that students can use read to themselves. My younger students really like them, as they pretend they are “on the phone” with someone.
- If I have students over there reading to themselves, I try to walk over at some point and “check in”, asking them “How do you sound?”.
#8 ~ Move Your Eyes
- Teach your students to train their eyes to always “look ahead” in the text. This skill comes later, once less time is spent on decoding words. By being able to move their eyes quickly, they will be able to increase fluency.
- Also encourage students to track text and “snap” to the next line quickly when reading. When students first start trying to do this, they may lose their place a few times. 😉 Using a pointer, or line reader may be helpful.
Way #9 ~ Make Reading Fluency Practice Fun!
March Madness “Tournament of Books”
Students will choose 16 books that they will be reading in the next 4 weeks. They will fill in the outer brackets with the titles of the books they plan on reading. They will read two books and choose a winner to move onto the next bracket. Students will continue until all brackets are over and they have a winning book! Head on over to our Free Resource Library to snag up this freebie! (Password: ETTC2020)
Get our Tournament of Books in our Free Resource Library! (Password: ETTC2020)
1 Minute Fluency Drills: We work in partners to time our fluency and accuracy each day! Read more about how I do this here!
Read Around the World –
I use this activity to encourage my students to read at home and hopefully involve their families. Before school starts, I create posters with pictures of different landmarks around the world (Pyramids, Great Wall, Tower of Pisa, Machu Pichu, Statue of Liberty, etc.) Students are given a reading log with 20 spaces to record titles of books they read. (Kinder/1st) Every time they fill out a reading log, they are able to move to a new landmark and get a prize. I also create mini “passports” for them to have stamped after they visit each place.
AR Goals/Prizes –
Our Librarian helps us increase fluency by setting an AR point goal for each student and giving them prizes when they reach it. After reaching the first goal, another one is set and so on. It’s a great way to check on their reading comprehension as well.
Help your students increase their fluency skills by using these Surefire Ways to Improve Reading Fluency. Don’t forget to grab some of the great FREEBIES we have included throughout this post! 😊
-Written by Janessa Fletcher
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