Friday, June 27, 2014

Building Fluency: Tips and Activities for Beginning Readers

When I first started Elementary ESL students it was before State Benchmark Testing and Annual Yearly Progress. I spent most of my time with the most limited English students on speaking. When AYP came along and high stakes testing, the emphasis turned to all of the language skills of speaking, reading, writing, and listening. At that time I was more concerned with teaching vocabulary and building background for my students until I became part of our school leadership team. I had some wonderful opportunities to go to some outstanding conferences around the country with top reading experts. I realized how important fluency was to reading comprehension, especially when I did Dibels testing every week with my 2nd and 3rd grade learning center students who were reading below grade level.

Fluency is one of the 5 skills necessary to achieve reading proficiency. For students to comprehend what they read they need to become fluent. They need to:
  • recognize words automatically
  • group words into meaningful phrases
  • apply rapid phonic,morphemic, and contextual analyses to identify unknown words
The only way that students become fluent readers is to read. Over the past 20 years research has identified repeated reading as the key strategy for improving students' fluency skills.  Since accuracy and automaticity are a fundamental principals of fluency, teachers who work with beginning readers need to spend a significant amount of time on basic word recognition and word analysis skills. To be effective, teachers need to provide daily opportunities for students to learn to read words accurately.

We all have made sight word cards for our students to practice but I'd like to share a few new pair activities you may want to try with your students in addition to what you already do. Here are a few that I found on the Florida Center for Reading Research website. These are all timed activity to help students increase their speed. Although they are timed activities, they would be great activities without timing to give students more opportunities to learn sight words, vocabulary words, or word families. These would also be great for RTI for struggling readers.

The first one is called Fast Match

To play Fast Match you will need 2 sets of the same words for each pair of students, a timer, pencil, and Time Recording Sheet.
  • Each student places their ten words face up in rows like the picture above. 
  • Start the timer. (you may want to practice this a few times without the timer.)
  • Student 1 looks at the cards and says a word, eg. "water" and student 2 quickly finds the matching word in his row.
  • If a match is made, student 1 picks up both cards, reads them, and places them in a stack.
  • If a match is not made, student 1 reads another word.
  • Reverse the roles, and continue playing until all the cards are matched.
  • Stop the timer and record the time.
  • Repeat the activity attempting to increase the speed.

The next activity is called I Point, You Say. You will need 1 set of word cards and 1 copy of the word list, laminated, pencil, and Time Record Sheet. 
Word Cards
List of Words
  • Place high frequency word cards face up in rows on a flat surface.
  • Place the list of words and time in the center.
  • Provide each student with a Time Recording Sheet.
  • Working in pairs, student 1 picks up the list of words and student 2 sits in front of the word cards.
  • Student 1 starts the time and reads the first word from the list of words.
  • Student 2 looks quickly for the word card and points to it.
  • If the student is correct, student 2 reads the next word on the list.
  • If incorrect, student 1 provides assistance.
  • Continue until all the words are read and identified. 
  • Student 1 stops the timer and student 2 records his time on his sheet.
  • Reverse roles and attempt to increase speed and accuracy.
Here is a sample of the Time Record.
The last activity I want to share with you is called Fast Words:
To play Fast Words you will 2 copies of the word list and laminate, a timer, Vis a Vis Markers, Time Sheets, and Timed Reading Progress Charts for each student.
  • Place 2 copies of the target word practice sheets, Vis a Vis markers, and timer in the center.
  • Before timing, students practice reading the words to each other.
  • Student 1 sets the timer for 1 minute and tells student 2 to begin.
  • Student 2 reads all the words across the page while Student 2 follows with his Vis a Vis pen marking any words that are read incorrectly.
  • If all the words on the sheet are read Student 2 goes back to the top of the page and continues reading.
  • When the timer goes off, Student 1 circle the last word read and counts the # of words read correctly.
  • Student 2 records the number on his Time Sheet.
  • Reverse the roles and repeat the activity to increase speed and accuracy.
  • After both students have recorded their # of words correct per minute they will fill in their Timed Reading Progress Chart.

For those of you that use the Fry word lists, I have put together a free packet of all these activities and the 1st 50 Fry word cards, word list cards time sheets, and timed reading progress chart. Just click on the image below to download your free packet.
I hope that you will check out all my new Pinterest Boards and follow me. 
Here are a few of my new ones for Reading, Literacy, and RTI.
Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. I would love to hear about your fluency activities in the comments below.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


  1. You are truly a giver of learning. Thank you for these free materials. I can't wait to use them with my students!