The 15 Best Ideas to Increase Fluency for Young Readers

By sara / January 30, 2017

​Is Your Grade School Student or Child Struggling with Reading? Don't Miss These 15 Top Ideas for Increasing Reading Fluency Today

Teachers managing classrooms from toddler age to third grade often are focused on making sure their students are reading a grade reading level. That's because, as the U.S. Department of Education has noted two out of three children are failing to achieve proficiency in reading fluency.​

15. Praise Them

Once you've tried all of the reading fluency exercises in this guide, it's good to remember to encourage and praise your child or student. Try to say one positive thing about his work followed by an improvement. As example: "You did an incredible job getting all your words right -- but at times I thought you were reading too quickly. Next time, do everything just as you have -- except slow down just a little. Great job!" By filling your child or student with praise, they will continue to approach reading fluency exercises with gusto and confidence.

14. Pair Below-Grade Level Readers

What happens when you pair below-grade level readers in high school with below-grade level readers in elementary school? You find that both readers become better at reading fluency. You give high school students access to elementary school content in a non-stigmatizing way.

And, you empower them to encourage and help younger students who are struggling. A D.C. non-profit called Reach Incorporated has done this success -- and even has launched a children's book component in which these tutors and students write books that are being used as part of the D.C. public school curriculum.

13. Enlist the Help of Tutor "Buddies"

Reading buddies are an effective tool for helping below-grade level readers improve -- and you can implement this practice in classrooms with readers who are closer to the second and third grade ages. Enlist the help of tutors -- either volunteers or retired teachers -- or above-grade level reading students, and have them read preselected literature or poetry together. By pairing them off and letting them lead each other and learn from one another, they not only build a secure and trusted friendship -- but they help each other improve.

12. Launch a Podcast

Divide students into groups and tell them they have to come up with their own ideas for podcasts. They'll write their scripts, practice reading them, record them and play them for the entire class to hear. You can loop this activity into topics you're teaching in your class, so that you're engaging with more than one subject.

At each step in the process, they'll be working the building blocks of reading fluency. They'll be writing words and practicing them. They'll be experimenting with flow and phrasing. They'll record and listen to their voices, noting where improvements could be made. And, they'll proudly broadcast their projects to the entire class -- further building their self-confidence and energy around the activity.

As the teacher, you can make sure you pop in to different groups to see how they are doing and to correct any mistakes you hear. They'll appreciate the autonomy you give them -- while at the same time knowing you're always there to help.

11. Turn Your Class into a Theater

This is a fun group activity that involves readers of all levels in your class. Begin by giving one student the script of a monologue. Have her read it aloud solo. Then, assign a small group of students to read the script aloud together as an "echo." Finally, ask the entire class to read the script together as the "choir." By doing this, you are engaging several skills already practiced -- modeling good reading behavior, repetitive reading and reading aloud.

10. Try Phrased Readings

Poems are great examples of phrased writing because words are clustered together and help students hear how they flow together. Try a phrased reading in class by writing the lines of the poem on strips of pasteboard. These strips are the cue cards that show students how words flow together in a group. Hold up the cue cards and ask students to read the phrases. This is a great step for more advanced readers -- moving them from reading aloud individual words to combined words that form phrases and influence cadence and flow in their speech.

9. Track Progress to Boost Confidence

At the end of the day, reading can difficult for everyone at some point. But there is a lot of empowerment and confidence that comes when your child can see progress over time. To build on the quiz exercise, have your child chart progress via a handmade chart. A bar graph is a great example of this. You can have your child chart growth daily or weekly -- and reward him or her for making improvements along the way in recognizing and saying correctly the words on the page. Literacy expert Robert Marzano has said: “When students track their own progress using graphic displays, there is a 32 percentile gain in achievement.”

8. Turn Reading into a Game

Once your child or student has gained a little confidence in reading, put them to a fun test. Make two copies of the passage you would like the child to read. Have the child read the passage, and as he does, circle any word he misses, doesn't know or pronounces incorrectly. You can use this quiz to incentivize with prizes.

7. Go Higher

Once you've established a regular routine of reading together and executing guiding practice, it's time to move on to slightly harder books. Select a book that is just above your child or student's reading level and read it aloud as he or she follow along. This practice introduces new words and cadences. Then, try guided practice with the same book. If your child hesitates for more than five seconds when reading a word, go ahead and tell him or her the word and ask the child to repeat it.

6. Read Together on Repeat

Repetition and forming good reading habits is key to raising reading fluency -- so try a repetitive reading exercise to boost your child or student's reading skills. Pick a book and read it aloud as your child follows along. Then, go back and repeat the reading exercise two or three times. You'll need to make sure to pick a favorite book to help your child stay focused and engaged.

5. Guide Your Little Readers

Guided practice is an extremely effective tool for improving reading fluency, and it can be used in concert with the modeling reading behavior tip mentioned earlier in the guide. To execute guided reading, select a popular book from your child's bookcase. Read through the book once with your child. Then, return to the beginning of the book and read the first line. Ask your child to read the line back to you while you point to the words.

This exercise can easily be adapted to a classroom exercise -- or used in one-on-one interactions with your students. You also can make this a group activity, reading the line aloud and then having a different child repeat it back. It turns into a fun activity that everyone is engaged with in the group.

4. Sing Together

An alternative to reading a work meant to be performed is to sing a song. You'll get some of the same reading muscles working simply by hearing the words and singing them with a cadence and flow. Try not to choose a song that is too fast or slow. Mine children's song libraries online and pick a few that you can play in your classroom to get the day started or to play in your car as you and your child trek around town. Listen to your child as she sings the words -- and if she struggles with a word or phrase, turn the music down or pause it and repeat the word or phrase. Ask her to repeat it -- and then start that music back up again.

3. Go Theatrical

Select a favorite poem or monologue and perform it for your child through a live reading. Try to avoid anything that isn't in common English -- so forego those Shakespearean plays or the King James Version of the Bible. You want a script that is easy to understand to modern audience today -- as that is the way we speak and the way your child or student will begin to learn to speak.

Another benefit of reading a poem or monologue is that they were meant to be performed, and by reading them around, you'll give your child a model for how the words are pronounced and expressed. They'll get to see your expressions and hear your tone first hand -- and that will help them understand what it means to be an engaged reader and speaker.

2. Listen to Audiobooks

There isn't always time to read a book together every day. As an effective alternative, have your student or child listen to audiobooks during downtime. Audiobooks feature professional narrators who have practiced the art of speaking and telling a story -- making their words, expression and cadence one to model. The only thing you miss via an audio book is being able to see the facial expressions and mouth movements of the reader.

1. Model Proper Reading

Increasing fluency in your student or child begins with proper modeling. One of the bestFluency practice tips to use at the beginning is to read a favorite book together at least once a day. Sit with your child and read the text with expression and at a natural pace. As you read the words aloud properly, your child or student will adopt your cadence and style.