While activities for emergent readers to practice fluency can look slightly different, the basic concepts are the same – helping students to lessen their focus on decoding words so that they can comprehend the meaning of the text and make connections, all while adding phrasing/appropriate pauses to their reading so it sounds like talking. Not too much to ask of a 4-7-year-old, right?
There are so many simultaneous actions taking place while reading that students need to coordinate, sometimes I wonder how any child actually learns to do it effectively! With the importance of the fluency-comprehension connection, the team at ETTC wanted to share some of our favorite activities for emergent readers to practice fluency! # 1 is my favorite!
1. Read Alouds
Yes! A million times YES! Read alouds. Daily. It seems more and more that time for this is being systematically stripped away (I know it was in my district). Shh, don’t tell, but I may have just shut my door and stolen time from other content areas purely because this is SO IMPORTANT.
Students need to hear fluent readers reading. I recently read an article on Reading Rockets, ‘Reading with Your Child by Bernice Cullinan and Brod Bagert,’ that perfectly sums up why I was willing to break the rules for the sake of the read aloud: “When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.” Not only is this a beautiful sentiment – it holds true. Let them hear you reading aloud to help them internalize the ‘rhythm and melody of language.’
Plus, there are SO many amazing children’s books out there that I wanted to share with my students and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do so (and help them learn to love to read for the pure sake of reading, imagining, and enjoyment).🧡
2. Listen to Reading
Uh, wait. Isn’t this the same as #1? Well, for those of you who can’t squeeze in the read-aloud, you have the option of using a reading center during your instruction (I always had this as a center while I was teaching small groups). There are so many options today and yes – I even had a cassette player in my room – which I still used! I also recorded myself and burned my own listen to reading CDs if I wasn’t able to purchase them from Scholastic as well as having a set of iPads the students could use to access Epic! and Storyline Online.
Using the iPads, students could also use my sets of QR codes (cardstock with the book cover and a QR code that I laminated and put on a binder ring) to access a read-aloud on YouTube (with monitoring). The best listen to reading digital activities in my opinion have the words on the screen and as they are read, the words light up or are otherwise noted. Are you seeing the theme here? Listening to fluent readers is critical! This is also why I encourage families to read nightly – taking turns between adult and child reading.
3. Repeated Readings
You want to read that book, again?!? I can just hear the request for the same book we have been reading every night… Does it get old for us adults? Yep. But it is golden for emergent readers. Whether with a bedtime story, guided reading books in a small group, or a shared reading text – repetition is key for fluency.
In my class, we used a shared reading book each week and by the second or third day, I generally had students venturing into choral reading with me. Not only was I providing for them a model of reading fluency, but through the repeated readings of the same text, they were able to focus less on the decoding and more on the fluency aspect (yes, some of this is memorization, but that’s OK!). Even the lowest readers who weren’t able to keep up with the choral reading option were able to hear fluent reading while following along with my pointing to each word as we read, participating as they were able.
In guided reading, the students read their book multiple times as well and they went into their ‘read to self’ book bags for a few weeks – helping ensure that this time was as impactful as possible. If you want something easy (for you) and printable, check out our Practically First Grade Reading Comprehension Passages and Questions for a huge bundle of 120 monthly themed fluency passages (1o/month).
4. Reading Texts with Repetition
Early emergent readers benefit greatly from the repetition of text (think, “I see the ____.” and the only thing that changes on each page is the item they see, with picture clues). This frees up the student from getting bogged down in the decoding work of reading and allows them to focus on fluency (among other aspects). Our No Prep Monthly Mini-Books for the Year or Alphabet Foldable Booklets are perfect examples of these emergent reader texts (and the Alphabet Foldables even have three different levels of difficulty!) and students get to keep their own copy of the book!
5. Read to a Partner
There are lots of opinions out there about reading to a partner and fluency… I’m of the mindset that the more you read, the more fluent of a reader you become, so any reading is going to help. Students read their guided reading books to another first-grade student during this, but I also had them read to their big buddies from time to time, and vice versa (big buddies reading a picture book to my students, which they all adored doing!).
If you choose to do this, be cognizant of who you put together as partners (having an advanced reader and a struggling reader would not be a great pairing, for example) – this wasn’t a time when student choice for partners was an option in my class. We used it as an option while I was teaching small groups, but my teaching partner and I also used it as a reward for students – allowing them to earn time with the other first-grade class reading with partners. This should tell you a lot – the kids loved it!
6. Reader’s Theater
I include this as one of our activities for emergent readers to practice fluency with some caution. Preparing for a reader’s theater performance, particularly with struggling readers, takes significant time. If you don’t have the time to do so and put your students in front of the class to read at less than fully prepared, this could be of significant negative impact on your students’ self-confidence.
However, if you have the time, this can be a thoroughly enjoyable activity for students, teachers, and even families (I always invited families, our principal, and other staff in to see the performance or recorded it to share later when I was able). Beware that not all students are comfortable with being in front of the class and don’t force them to do so if they aren’t ready to do so. Our Reader’s Theater Scripts are a great place to start if you want to implement this in your classroom.
The goal of this activity is for students to read with accuracy and fluency to assemble the word strips to the pictures to make a story (five strips/pictures with sentences of varying length and number on each strip). After they’ve assembled the puzzle, they can re-read the story and then draw and write about the story they puzzled together, writing in their own words what the story was about at the end. My students love puzzles so this one is a huge hit! This is part of our November Centers Bundle, but you can get it separately.
My teaching partner loved teaching poetry…but me? Not so much. She did, however, convince me to implement a weekly poetry activity, which worked wonders for my students’ fluency! I would select a seasonal poem for each week and we would do different activities (phonics, sight words, visualizing, etc.) with the poem, but the key was reading the poem each day while either a student or I would point to each word of the poem as we did a choral reading of the poem.
Once I discovered our NO PREP Phonics Poems (available in paper or digital), I immediately made the switch. If you know me, you know I love *organization* (the streamlined look and organization of these were key!) and *multipurpose activities* (not only do students get fluency practice with these poems, they also get phonics practice, I can check comprehension with the addition of the comprehension questions for each poem, and they learn about some of the elements of poetry! I call that a win-win!
9. Fluency Phones
These simple tools can make all the difference in the world when you’re sitting at a guided reading table with four or five students reading out loud, simultaneously. You can get them here or make your own using this DIY tutorial from Make, Take & Teach with PVC pipe. They help students to focus on their own reading and truly hear what they sound like as a reader. The prompt of, ‘Make your reading sound like talking,’ works so much better when they can actually hear themselves reading!
10. Tracking Tools
Sometimes, focus can be an issue for students (even for some of those students who you wouldn’t peg as someone having trouble focusing). Early on, pointing to each word is beneficial for multiple reasons. For this, use fun, engaging pointers that you mix up so they’re not always the same (witch fingers, magic wands AKA swizzle sticks, and googly eyes were always fun). Eventually though, pointing to each word becomes a hindrance to fluency. When this time comes, I love using these highlight strips which help students focus on one line of text at a time (perfect for when there are more and more lines per page). The added bonus of this is that often, guided reading books come with phrased sections per line!
11. Sentence Pyramids
Sentence pyramids are a great way to mix up your fluency work and can be as simple or as complex as you desire, depending on your student(s). The idea is simple – start with only the first word of a sentence on the first line. On the second line, put the first and second words. Continue adding a word to each line until you complete your sentence.
This gives students a chance to practice reading each word and gain comfort with it, then re-read the entire sentence thus far before adding on a new word. You can make them silly or content-related, seasonal or tongue twisters – the possibilities are endless. Check out our Sentence Pyramid Fluency Center (part of our July Centers Bundle, but you can get it separately) if you want a print-and-go option.
To improve your students’ fluency, you’ve got to have a strong phonics/word study program and work with sight words that help them to build the foundation of reading skills, allowing them the freedom to focus on the meaning of the words and not get stuck in the decoding. Beyond that, I hope some of these activities for emergent readers to practice fluency help you in your classroom. What other activities for emergent readers to practice fluency do you use and love? Share with us below!👇🏼
Written by: Kristin Halverson
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