Reading Activities That Will Increase Fluency
by Voyager Sopris Learning on February 7, 2023
Fluency is the ability to speak or read a language with ease and accuracy, and it is an essential component of language proficiency. When students aren’t fluent they not only speak in fragments but also have difficulty understanding what is being said. This is why it is important to incorporate activities to increase fluency into routine reading instruction and reading intervention.
Fluency activities are designed to help English Learners improve their fluency by providing opportunities to practice speaking and listening in a natural and fun way. We’ll explore some effective fluency activities that can be used in the classroom or at home to help language learners develop their fluency and reading skills. These activities are designed to be fun and engaging while also providing learners with the opportunity to practice their language skills in a real-life context.
Why Is Reading Fluency Important?
Building fluency is important for a number of reasons. It allows for better comprehension and understanding of the text being read. This is also sometimes referred to as comprehension instruction. When a reader is fluent, they are able to read smoothly and accurately, which means they can focus on the meaning of the text rather than decoding of the words. Improving fluency skills is also important for vocabulary acquisition, as it allows readers to encounter and process more words in a shorter amount of time as they become more fluent.
Research has shown reading fluency has been positively correlated with academic success. Children who are more fluent readers tend to perform better in school and have an easier time learning new information. But along with an ease of learning, fluency has the potential to develop a love of reading as well—because at the heart of education, we don’t just want students to simply understand what they are reading. We want them to care about what they are learning as well. Strong reading fluency has the ability to join academic success with an adoration of reading.
Ten Reading Fluency Activities
Obviously one of the best ways to increase reading fluency skills is simply to read. But there are a number of different ways to make the simple task of reading more fun and engaging for young learners. Many of these activities are not meant to be done exclusively, but instead in combination with each other. Incorporating a variety of activities will allow learners to experience different aspects of each activity they may not get from doing just one routine assignment.
Repeated reading is a strategy that involves reading the same passage multiple times with the goal of increasing fluency and reading comprehension. The idea behind this activity is that with each reading, the student will continually become more familiar with the text.
Quite often, we miss things on a first read through that we pick up later—even adults. Therefore, repeated reading is good practice for everyone. This activity can lead to improved fluency, accuracy, and understanding of a given text. It can also help with vocabulary acquisition and retention.
One tip for repeated reading is to focus on a different aspect of the text. For example, on the first reading, students can focus on the meaning or plot of the text. On the second reading, they can focus on the structure or the author’s choices. And on the third reading, they can focus on the vocabulary. With each reading, students will become more fluent as they add each focus to their repertoire.
This activity involves building a pyramid of sentences by starting with a short, simple sentence and adding more complex elements to it with the goal of helping readers understand the structure and meaning of a sentence.
Some of the benefits of using this activity include improved understanding of sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary. As sentence pyramids build upon each other, readers see how different parts of speech work together to create meaning.
One tip for sentence pyramids is to have the teacher or students write the initial sentence at the top of a page or a board and then work their way down as the sentence begins to grow and expand. You should then be able to draw an actual triangle around the completed assignment to give students a visual of how sentences can grow and expand.
Partner reading involves having two people read a text together, usually with one person reading aloud and the other person listening and providing feedback. This allows students to practice basic skills such as identifying sight words and decoding, but it can also help to improve pronunciation and intonation for the reader. The listener in this activity will also develop listening skills and critical thinking skills as they provide feedback.
As students take turns reading and listening in partner reading, a private yet supportive setting is created, where both reading comprehension and reading confidence can grow. More student-centered approaches like partner reading or dialogic reading allow students to take more active roles in their learning.
One tip for partner reading is to encourage partners to offer a “glow” and a “grow.” A “glow” is something their partner did really well during the reading, and a “grow” is a suggestion for improvement.
Stop the Pointing
Sometimes students will point at each word they are reading when they learn. While this may help at first, it can eventually hinder students from reading seamlessly and fluently. Pointing at the words as they are reading them can cause a student’s reading to sound like a choppy robot voice rather than smooth.
Instead of having students point at every word as it is being read, have students only point at unknown words. This can help develop vocabulary skills by only slowing students down on new words that may need a little more thought rather than pausing on every word.
Learners always seem to be motivated by competition, and reading can involve a spirit of competitiveness. Set up a reading contest that encourages students to read a certain number of books or pages—or for a certain amount of time—and then reward them for their efforts.
The reading contest goals should be set up against themselves, not against each other. By having students compete against themselves, teachers are letting each student practice goal setting based on their own reading abilities and interests. Teachers can even place students in small groups with similar interests and independent levels as a way of creating a support system of peers who can encourage students in their reading goals.
Scooping phrases involves breaking a sentence into smaller chunks or phrases and reading them one at a time instead of reading the entire sentence all at once. This allows students to focus on the meaning of individual parts of a sentence, which can be more approachable for students at a younger reading level.
This activity is especially beneficial for students who are only reading and pronouncing one word at a time in a sentence with a big pause in between each word. Moving from reading each individual word to reading whole phrases is an important step many students struggle with at first.
One tip for how to implement this activity is to use phrase cards, similar to how one would use flashcards to learn individual words. Write some common phrases on the cards with a long curved line underneath the whole phrase. Have students read each word and then trace the line with their finger as they reread the whole phrase smoothly.
Echo reading involves reading a sentence or passage out loud and then having someone repeat it, imitating their intonation and inflection. This is often done first with a teacher modeling how to read a text fluently before students practice echoing the teacher’s fluency and expression. Students can also echo read with a peer and take turns reading a book together.
Echo reading promotes fluency in a guided way that eventually fosters fluency during independent reading as well. When students see how words can come to life through proper expression and pronunciation, the meaning of the words becomes more powerful.
Reading aloud is one of the most traditional forms of learning how to read, creating a more accurate reader of each student. Even as education has transformed with advancements in research and technology, the timeless act of reading out loud has always been a beneficial activity. One thing to remember with the read aloud is it will grow and evolve with each varying grade level. At a younger age, students need to hear the teacher reading aloud often as a model for fluency. However in older grades, students take a more active role in practicing their fluency by reading aloud. For example, fluency for fourth and fifth grades may involve more interactive activities, like a reader’s theater.
One element of fluency is the speed at which a student can read. Timed reading is an activity helpful for measuring the speed and accuracy of a student. A passage with more high-frequency words may be read more quickly, but reading passages with new vocabulary and complex syntax may cause students to read more slowly.
One tip for timed reading activities is to record a student’s oral reading of a book or passage. Set a timer, hit record, and see how much the student is able to get through in the given time. Then, both students and teachers can use the recording to evaluate their performance. Another tip is to use a short amount of time, such as one to two minutes. With practice, students will be able to increase their words per minute over time.
Audio books are a great resource when it comes to utilizing technology to support teaching fluency. Often, especially at a younger age, reading involves much more than just the eyes. Students may need to read with their eyes as they look at the words, their fingers as they trace the words across the page, and their ears as they hear a text being read out loud to them.
Audio books are especially beneficial for students who may have a learning disability like dyslexia. When a teacher cannot read every text out loud to each student, audio books allow for differentiation and assistance. As students hear the sounds and rhythms of spoken language, they improve their own reading skills. Just make sure students are still following along with a printed version of the text if possible rather than use audio books in isolation.
Time spent frequently reading is the best way to achieve fluency, and there are a myriad of different activities that can make words on a page come to life for all types of learners. The key to fluency really is repetition of reading, and with so many different options and activities, students can become stronger readers while also having fun. Fluency is one of the key elements of reading that we focus on at Voyager Sopris Learning®, and we strive to assist educators by offering tools and resources to support their reading instruction.