Reading Fluency Activities
On this page you'll find Reading fluency activities (both word decoding fluency and sentence fluency activities) to incorporate into your fluency lessons for your children or students .
We all know how important it is to be able to read fluently - smoothly, with expression and comprehension. Reading is a skill we use every day - road signs, instructions, subtitles on the TV, forms, emails, directories, TV guide, shop names - just to name a few.
One of the reasons I started homeschooling my children is that my son, Michael, is dyslexic. When he was taken out of school at the age of eight, he still had to sound out, letter by letter, even simple words. I had to find some way of building fluency. I have tried several different programs and strategies over the years. Some have been less successful than others. I have not found the magic pill to cure dyslexia but I have found some things which have substantially improved Michael's reading fluency to the point where, today, he reads for pleasure. I have included some of these activities on this page .
Table of Contents
- Phonics Pathways
- Online Reading Games
- More word games
- Learn irregular words
- 1) Using printed games
- 2) Using a computer game
- 3) Using a commercially produced game
- Teach punctuation marks
- Use a tracking bookmark
- Reading together
- 1) Fun poetry
- 2) Read to your children
- 3) Let someone else read to your children
- 4) Readers' theater
- Encourage your child to read, read, read!
My Favorite Fluency Activity
Fluency Activity: "Eyerobics"
One of the most effective fluency activities I used with Michael was eyerobics. Reading is easier if each word is broken down into syllables - not letters. The eye needs to be trained to quickly recognize syllables. Otherwise words may look like an i-n-c-o-m-p-r-e-h-e-n-s-i-b-l-y large string of letters. (Broken into syllables that word is:
Once my dyslexic son had learned his letters, his reading was very slow and laborious as he sounded out almost every letter of every word:
"C-A-T cat". One book which really helped his reading fluency was Phonics Pathways by Dolores G Hiskes. Dolores calls her system eyerobics - exercises which make your eyes stronger and more able to run smoothly from left to right across the words of a page.
The book uses a phonics approach and helps with word decoding. It starts with teaching the short vowel sounds followed by two letter blends - a consonant and a short vowel. (e.g. sa, se).
Next we get into real words. Read each sound and blend, working across the page. Blend the sounds together smoothly:
Here are some examples a little later in the book:
But reading fluency is a lot more than simply being able to accurately decode words. Phonics Pathways also gives the child practice at reading phrases and sentences. Reading these words in sentences puts the words in context and offers plenty of opportunities for building fluency. Here are some sample sentences:
Ben jumps in his hot tub.
Gus went in his hot tub as well.
Ben felt mad.
Here are some later words, for once your eyes have mastered these easier words:
It important for your child to come to a point where he can accurately and automatically decode words. To accomplish this, Phonics Pathways has lists which may be read several times - from top to bottom, from left to right, diagonally, and/or randomly, until the child no longer hesitates on a word.
All in all we found Phonics Pathways to be an invaluable book for building fluency. Michael's reading has greatly improved and although he is no speed reader, he no longer needs to sound out words and he now reads to learn and also for pleasure.
Fluency Activities for Word Decoding
Playing reading games with your children may help them develop necessary skills for reading fluently (phonics, blending, irregular words, build fluency, comprehension, homonyms, prefixes, suffixes, contractions etc) and a love of reading. And because they are having fun, they will not realize that they are doing "work".
Word games are great fluency activities. Your child can be having fun while reinforcing what he has learned. Word games can help build a child's vocabulary and also help him to see letter patterns within words. Don't be afraid to make up your own rules for games either or to make up your own completely new activity using the tiles, cards or dice out of an existing game. When we played boggle, I would offer extra rewards for longer words so there would be more incentive to look for the 5-letter word. Maybe a reward could be offered for words which do not contain a short vowel sound or for words of more than one syllable.
I love the letter dice. You can play all sorts of games, even individually with them. For example, take a combination of letters that you are learning (eg "ea") and place two dice showing these letters in front of the child. Then give the child three other letter dice and get them to make as many real words as they can.
Make words by using the letters shown. 16 letters (4x4)
A portable, fast, fun word building game where you each construct your own crossword. Use several sets together for larger groups.
Play by yourself in a group to form words out of letter cards.
Try to make as many words as you can from a letter cards
Fluency Activities for Learning Irregular Words ("Sight" Words)
1) Using printed games
Much of English is phonetically decodable. But some of our "simplest" words are hard to decode (e.g. 'one', 'was', 'the', 'there'). To increase fluency with these words (and perhaps some of our other very common words e.g. 'in', 'and'), you could make flash cards. (IMPORTANT - Don't do this at the expense of learning phonics. Your children should be getting clues from the letters in the word and not just looking at the shape of the word etc. If he tries to learn whole words by sight, his reading will be severely hampered because there will be a limit on the number of "pictures" he will be able to remember.) The Dolch Word List is a good place to start. Here are some beautifully illustrated Dolch word lists. The Dolch Word List contains about 200 words which make up between 50 and 70 percent of our English written text. Here are some activities you could do for building fluency:
2) Play memory matching game (with two sets of cards).
3) Play snap (with two or more sets of cards).
4) Play bingo (Make your own grid of words for the board or have a duplicate set of cards and lay out 9 or 16 in a square).
5) Play printable games
2) using a computer game
Sight Words Buddy for Windows is a free downloadable program testing recognition of the Dolch sight words at 5 different levels. Enjoy!
3) Use a commercially produced game
This game consists of 92 sight words printed on the back of popcorn pieces. You pick a piece of popcorn out of the box and read the word on the back. You get to keep any pieces you read correctly. There are also 8 POP cards and if you pull one of those out, you have to put back all the popcorn you have collected. Adaptations suggested by customers:
1) Limit the number of popcorn pieces that you put in the box so your child can practice a smaller number of words over and over.
2) The POP card does not mean you put all your cards back in the box but that you bounce around the room like a piece of popping corn.
3) Allow the players to buy imaginary items with their pieces.
4) After reading the word, players then use that word in a sentence.
5) At the end of the game, try to use all your collected words in one sentence.
Fluency Activities for Reading Sentences and More
Fluency Lesson: Teaching Punctuation Marks
Being able to decode words or even read very quickly does not automatically mean that a student will be able to read fluently. Non-fluent readers will often read with an expressionless voice ignoring any punctuation marks. Often they will read until they run out of air before stopping to take a breath. Being able to break sentences into appropriate "chunks" (phrases) and varying the tone of voice will help the reader (and any listeners) to more easily comprehend what is being read. To help resolve this problem, teach your child the meaning of each punctuation mark:
1) comma - pause.
2) period - come to a full stop (maybe take a breath).
3) question mark - usually your voice goes up at the end of a question.
4) exclamation mark - use an excited or surprised voice.
Here are some fun books, with great illustrations, for children to read to show how using punctuation marks in different places can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence.
Here's an example. Can you see the difference between these?
"Do you know who came last night? Santa Claus," said my mom.
"Do you know who came last night?" Santa Claus said. "My mom."
Can you see the difference between these?
Look at that huge hot dog!
Look at that huge, hot dog!
Fluency Activity: Use a Tracking Bookmark
One of the simplest fluency activities is to make and use a tracking bookmark. Sometimes fluency problems are caused by poor visual tracking causing the reader to lose his position. This may be helped by using a tracking bookmark with a 1/8th inch black line on the long side.
Place the black line under your first line of text. As you read, move the bookmark down the page one line at a time so that the black line stays beneath the words you are reading.
On the right are some tracking bookmarks for you to print out to help improve reading fluency. Just click on the pictures to get full-sized versions.
Print the bookmark closest in size to the width of the page you're reading. You may find it easier on your eyes if you print the tracking bookmark on different colored card. Experiment to see which is the best color. If you find that the pictures are distracting it may be better for you to use the plain tracking bookmark.
Fluency Activity: Reading Together - 1) Fun poetry - a great idea for fluency lessons
Choose a book at the child's reading level. Poetry can be a lot of fun and lends itself particularly well to echo and choral reading.
- Read the book or poem aloud to your child several times with him following along with his eyes.
- Read the poem through line by line doing an echo read, where you read a line and your child then reads the same line.
- Choral read the poem together.
- Your child now reads the poem himself. He re-reads the same poem over again until he can read with good expression and at an acceptable pace. It can be fun and motivating for the child if you now record him reading the poem.
One of our favorite poets is Shel Silverstein. Who is your favorite? You can type the name of the poet in the search box and hit the go button to find books by your chosen poet.
2) Read to your children
We have all heard that it is good to read to your children. Besides developing interests in new topics, reading books to your children will show them how books 'work'. It will help children to expand their vocabulary, establish listening skills, build their memory, and help with their language skills, particularly if you read excellent books to them.
This was one of our favorite read aloud books when our children were younger.
3) Let someone else read to your children
Don't fret if you don't have the time to read to your children. Let someone else read to your children for you. Just listen to a story on CD. This is also a great fluency activity for the car.
Having the child read a printed copy of the story while listening to a recorded version (with excellent fluency and expression) would be a productive fluency lesson.
4) Readers' theater
Readers' theater gives students great motivation for practicing reading fluency. The students do not memorize their lines and they do not need to do actions. Readers' theater is similar to those old time radio shows, The students cooperate in reading their scripts to produce a final polished performance. To do this they need to read and reread a particular text. Since repeated reading is one of the best fluency activities, the reading and rereading involved in readers' theater can really help to build reading fluency. Often readers' theater scripts will include lines that are choral read (i.e. two or more readers reading the same passage together). If a stronger reader is paired with a weaker reader for these lines, the weaker reader will be further helped, since choral reading is another important fluency stategy.
Fluency Activity: Independent Reading - Encourage Your Child to Read, Read, Read!
This is one of the very best ways for building reading fluency. Choose books that interest your child and are at a suitable reading level for him. These books could be either fiction or non-fiction.
Okay. Shameless confession time: I bribed Michael to read by tying his pocket money to his reading. This was very motivating for him! And now he now reads for pleasure with no monetary bribes.
Do you have any special fluency activities, strategies, or lessons you would like to share here?