Making Fluency Functional in Your Reading Block

Reading fluency can be fun and functional with these fluency lessons and activities. From a pre-assessment to running records, centers, tools, and more, check out these tips and tricks for mastering fluency!

Are you struggling to find ways to make fluency functional in your reading block? Teaching fluency can often feel tedious for both educators and students, but it doesn’t have to be this way! With the right strategies and tools, teachers can help foster student interest in fluency activities while also giving their students the skills they need to become effective readers. In this blog post, I will go over some simple tips and techniques that can help you structure your fluency instruction.

*Today’s post will focus on structuring your fluency instruction, but I will be going into further detail about phonics, phonemic awareness, and decoding in a future blog post in this series.

Assess Where They Are

Reading fluency pre- and post-assessment for primary reading fluency practice and activities, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade

Initially, when we are planning our fluency instruction, we will need to know where are students are. So, I would always start with a pre-assessment. This may look like a cold read of a grade-level text and a list of grade-level sight words.

  • Gather a word list and passage of text
    • Unfamiliar to the student
    • Appropriate for the reading level of the student
  • Set up the pages for a cold read
    • Put the list/passage in front of the student
    • Put the same list or passage on a clipboard for yourself
  • Give reading instructions
    • If you are using a program there may be written instructions to be read aloud
    • If not, simply say, “I would like you to read at a comfortable pace, (think quickly and carefully) until I ask you to stop.”
  • Set a timer for one minute
  • Mark their accuracy while they read.
    • Keep a marking guide close by for reference, but mark it in a way you will know what the errors are for later.
    • If the student pauses, wait three seconds for an attempt at the word
    • Supply the word after three seconds
  • Thank the student and give them a high-five, release them
  • Record their reading accuracy
    • Number of words read
    • Subtract the number of errors
  • I like to record the student data in my progress monitoring binder so that I do not lose it.

For initial assessments and end-of-year assessments, many teachers and practitioners like to take a similar assessment three times and average the scores. This will depend on each teacher and school.

Fluency Mini-Lessons

Reading Fluency lesson plans and activities for primary reading 1st grade 2nd grade 3rd grade

Next, you can begin instruction. Based on your initial assessments, you will have the data necessary to group your students. Remember that when grouping, it doesn’t always have to be by accuracy rate. Also, consider error type and skill needs.

Fluency mini-lessons can be short and simple. They need to have initial instruction, modeling, shared practice, and skill application.

For fluency lessons, modeling is so important. Students need pacing and expression in order to implement their own practice.

Variety in skill application will be a great tool, as well. I like to make sure each fluency lesson has activities that practice reading in different ways. For example, have students read short phrases or word lists, and short passages or texts; not simply one or the other.

Centers and Skill-Application

reading fluency centers activities for 1st grade 2nd grade 3rd grade

While you’re teaching mini-lesson with your small groups, the remainder of your students can be working in centers, partner work, independent reading, etc. Fluency centers are great because repetition and exposure are a major part of the practice. Here are some ideas for fluency skill centers:

  • Fluency Stairs
  • Fluency Strips
  • Timed Phrases
  • Nonsense Words
  • Find-a-Word
  • Punctuation Expression
  • Missing Words

Progress Monitoring

Of course, you will want to progress monitor with running records (like the initial assessment) throughout the year. These will likely be done quarterly or alongside your school/district’s assessment schedule.

  • Conduct a new running record for each student
  • Adjust your student groups based on reading rate and/or skill needs
  • Track student progress in graphs
    • I like to keep student assessment data in my progress monitoring binder AND in students’ own reading binders.
    • They can fill in their graphs and track their progress, too!

Hot and Cold Reads

Progress monitoring is great for everyone. But, these can also be used as skill applications and interventions. Hot and cold reads are a great way to have students practice their fluency in a structured way. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent volunteer, student teacher, or para-educator, get them involved!

  • Select your group of students (students who are reading with grade-level fluency or higher will not need this intervention. You can progress monitor those students less often).
  • On Mondays, conduct a new running record for each student (or you can do this bi-weekly if your schedule does not allow weekly).
  • Students can practice reading the passage aloud with a partner daily.
    • I like to have students practice first thing when they arrive at school in the morning.
    • They will grab their passage, read it to a friend or teacher, then put it away and start their morning work.
  • On Fridays, conduct another running record on the same passage.
    • If you only have volunteers or extra hands one day a week, students can read a practiced hot read, followed by a new cold read on the same day.
    • With each read taking only 1 minute, your volunteer should still be able to get through everyone in one day.
  • Students will record their results in their graphs!
    • This will reinforce that practice leads to progress 🙂
    • Students will love seeing their graphs grow!

Fluency Tools

Fluency tools for reading fluency activities, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade

Lastly, don’t forget about tools! What makes reading fluency fun and functional? Brightly colored pointing sticks and whisper phones! 🙂

Whisper phones are great for students because it allows them to hear their own fluency rate and expression. I recommend having enough for each student so that you are less concerned about germ spreading. Be sure to disinfect them between each use.

Pointing sticks are simple and effective. They can be as simple as fun straws or pencils, or you can use actual pointing sticks. These are very helpful for word tracking.

Highlight strips are excellent tools for students who have trouble tracking and keeping focused. It helps them to see one line at a time, as opposed to the confusion that can be caused by the words above and below.

Here are a few Amazon Affiliate links to my favorite fluency tools:

Ready-Made Resources for Teaching Fluency

If you’re looking for resources and activities that are ready to be implemented, I have RF units for each grade level. These units have everything you need to structure your fluency lessons, from assessments to centers, fiction and nonfiction passages for running records, and even comprehension. These fluency practice units are Common Core-aligned products. They align with the fluency cluster of standards in the Reading: Foundational Skills domain, which includes RF.2.4, RF.2.4a, RF.2.4.b, and RF.2.4.c.


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