7 Reading Fluency Activities: Make Your Young Readers Sound Great!

Photo of teacher reading with student. Student is turning the page while the teacher appears to encourage her. Text says "7 Ways to Support Reading Fluency"

These reading fluency activities will help your students read with expression and phrasing. Their reading will be so fun to listen to!

We have all listened to students who were NOT fluent readers – they read WORD. BY. WORD. with no expression or phrasing. Dysfluent reading is not only hard to listen to, but it also impacts comprehension. Dysfluent readers are often so focused on the words that they are less able to concentrate on the meaning of the text. Reading fluency and comprehension are connected. That’s why it’s important to build reading fluency even with early readers (from late-kindergarten/early-first grade levels and up.)

What Does Fluency in Reading Mean?

People often think of fluency as fast reading, but there is so much more to fluent reading than reading rate. A fast reader can still use a monotone voice and read without phrases. Instead of only words per minute, I like to view fluency as the use of:

  • phrasing
  • punctuation (pausing)
  • expression
  • rate

It’s important to encourage even early readers to pay attention to these aspects of fluency, particularly as they reread familiar text. As your readers become more fluent, you will love listening to them read with expression and sound so grown-up in their reading!

These reading fluency activities will have your students sounding like pros in no time:

Build Fluency with Phrased Reading

Encourage phrased reading with the following reading fluency activities:

Use lines of text to support phrasing

Close up image of the text in a book. Text says "Once upon a time,/ there was an ant/ who went down to a pond/ to get a drink of water."

The lines of print in early texts sometimes signal phrases while reading

Books for very early readers typically include one phrase per line of text (ex: The cat ran up the hill. or The big duck can see a green tree.) As kids read, prompt word-by-word readers to read the whole line together or to read “these words” smoothly (showing them one complete line of text).

Prompts: Read the whole line together. – Read these words together (while teacher frames a line of text with fingers.)

Make fluent reading sound like talking

Sometimes you might model with speech what is sounds like when your students read WORD. BY. WORD. (You might say, “Today. is. a. sunny. day. – 5-6 words is probably all the more you can handle!) Then ask them if they talk like that (with pauses between each word). After they repeat the sentence back to you like they would say it when talking, prompt them to make their reading sound like that – like talking.

Prompt: Make it sound like talking.

Model phrasing and expression

As teachers, we model phrasing and expression in our read-aloud time. But you can also model it during your small group instruction, as needed. Some kids need to hear what simple books sound like when read fluently. Prompt them to listen to how you read one page. Then ask them to reread that page (or read next one), making it sound like your reading. For some kids you might prompt more specifically, asking them to notice how you put your words together, or made it sound interesting (expression) or made it sound like a question.

Prompts: Make your reading sound smooth, like I did. – Make this sound like an exciting story!

Choose texts carefully

When teaching specifically for fluency, it’s important to take a few things into consideration when you choose books for students to read:

Choose texts with dialogue

Beginning readers are more likely to include phrasing and expression when a character is talking. Readers’ theater is one of the best reading fluency activities, since much of the text is made up of dialogue. You can assign the narrator role to an expressive reader or read it yourself, as a model. (Check out some fun readers’ theater scripts for beginning readers here.)

Readers Theater scripts include lots of dialogue to support reading fluency.

Choose texts with repeated phrases

Short “refrains” (such as the words of the Gingerbread Man) or repeated phrases (such as “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin“) encourage fluency because they quickly become familiar, allowing a child to focus less on word-solving and more on fluency. Other repetetive texts might include a repeated sentence at the end of each page.

Consider choosing easier books

Sometimes simply decreasing the word-solving load increases fluency. You might particularly consider this if you are unable to find books with lots of meaningful dialogue or with repeated phrases or the stage your students are at. These easier texts would be great to incorporate into partner reading or even to add to a soft start to your school day.

Think about high frequency words.

Sometimes fluency is impacted because a child is working hard to solve too many words in a text – they don’t know these common words by sight. When you notice this happen, it’s important to spend time increasing the child’s reading vocabulary. You can find suggestions to do this in this post.

If you know that a child is getting tripped up on 1-2 specific high frequency words that appear in the text, you might focus on those words a bit before reading. Try some of the following:

  • Spend time orthographically mapping the sounds to the letters. 
  • Let the child make the word with letter magnets. 
  • Have the child write the word on a white board, erase, write another word, then write the target word again. 
  • Prompt the child to locate the word in the book before reading (ex: “Find the word went”), then read the sentence with that word.

You might also select texts that repeatedly expose students to the same words. For example, for a beginning reader, you might read books with “can” for 3-4 days in a row. For a more advanced reader, you could select books that include the word “wanted” on several pages. (Use some of the techniques listed above each day.) This repeated exposure of examining the word left to write as they read helps students to commit the words to memory more efficiently.

A few final thoughts

Fluent reading doesn’t come naturally for all kids. Sometimes teachers need to specifically teach students to be fluent readers. However, when you use these reading fluency activities, you will be rewarded with improved comprehension for your students. And, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy to some amazing reading!

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Photo of teacher reading with student. Student is turning the page while the teacher appears to encourage her. Text says "7 Ways to Support Reading Fluency"

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