Fluency Activities

Reading fluency activities can assist in promoting automaticity, prosody and accuracy (Schwanenflugel et al., 2010; Berninger et al., 2010; Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). Fluency activities are a motivating and engaging way to supplement fluency instruction. They present an opportunity for individual and group practice of fluency skills that have been focused on during classroom reading instruction.

The activities listed below work on different types of reading fluency. Some can be used for fluency practice at the word level, others at the phrase level, and some at the sentence level. The type of practice can be found next to each activity title.

Bang (Small Group Activity- Word/Phrase Fluency)

This activity is for two or more students. Materials you will need include a timer and at least 30 word or phrase cards. These can be 3 x 5 cards or cards made from card stock. Sometimes I cut 3 x 5 cards in half for this game. As students learn the original words, continue to add more words to the basket. For every 10 word cards, add an additional “bang” card. Students sit in a circle, next to one another. Both the word cards and “bang” cards are placed upside down in a box or basket. Students take turns choosing and reading word cards from the basket for a set time, usually five minutes. If the card is read correctly, the student holds onto that card. If a student misreads a word, it is put back into the basket. Students who select a “bang” card must place all their cards back into the basket. Once the timer goes off, students count their word cards. The student with the most cards wins. This is a fast moving game that keeps all students engaged and motivated.

Popcorn Game (Small Group Activity-Word/Phrase Fluency)

This is a variation of the bang game. Instead of index cards, words or phrases are placed on popcorn cutouts and “pop” is written on several of the kernels. Students place all of their popcorn cards back in the container when they choose a card containing the word “pop”. I put the popcorn cards in a plastic popcorn container that I bought for $1 at a dollar store.

Pick a Stick (Small Group Activity-Word/Phrase Fluency)

This is yet another variation of Bang. This time, write the words or phrases and “bang” on wide popsicle sticks and place the sticks in a tall container.

How Many Can You Read? (Small Group Activity-Word/Phrase Fluency)

How Many Can You Read? is a noncompetitive variation of Bang. The “bang” cards are removed from the set. Students set the timer and try to read as many words as possible during the allotted time. Each time they play, students try to improve upon the number of cards read correctly. Sometimes I have students work together to discover how many cards they can read collaboratively in a given time period. I have found this to be a great team building activity as well as a fluency activity.

Roll and Read (Small Group Activity-Word Fluency)

This activity is for two or more students. Provide students with a paper containing 12 words. Students take turns rolling two dice, and reading the word that corresponds to the number rolled. You will need two dice and a paper containing twelve numbered words.

Find a Word/Phrase (Small Group Activity-Word/Phrase Fluency)

This is an activity for two or more students. You will need to make two copies each of 20 word or phrase cards. Students use word or phrase cards to play a go fish type game. A student distributes four cards to each player. Students take turns asking each other for specific word cards. If the student asked has the specific card, he/she is given that card and places the two matched cards on the table in front of him/her. The student with the most pairs of cards at the end of the game wins.     

Read Listen and Learn (Individual or Small Group Activity-Word Fluency)

This activity works best with either individual students or pairs of students. A card reader is used for this activity (Figure Six). The only materials needed for Read Listen and Learn are a card reader and blank card reader cards. Both the reader and cards are available through educational supply companies. However, card readers used to be very popular in elementary schools. Check with your reading teacher to see if there is one in a closet somewhere in your school. Write a sight word, or another targeted vocabulary word from your reading series, on individual blank cards and then record your voice saying one word on each card. Small phrases can be written on the cards as well, if that is what your students need to work on.

Students will listen to teacher-selected cards by putting them through the card reader. They will then record themselves reading the same word. Then students listen to themselves reading the word. I have found that students thoroughly enjoy this activity, especially listening to themselves read the words. The repetitive nature of Read Listen and Learn helps students to really learn the words.

Fluency Activities for the Text Level

The next group of activities addresses fluency at the text level. They address accuracy, prosody and automaticity. These activities focus on reading connected text.

Whisper While You Work (Individual or Small Group Activity-Sentence Fluency)

For Whisper While You Work, you will need some type of recording device, a c.d. player, computer, tablet or tape recorder, along with a prerecorded story and a hard copy of the same story for students to read. Students are asked to use their finger to track words as they whisper read with the prerecorded story. Using an audio model can be an effective way to increase fluency (Chard et al., 2002).

Be a Buddy (Small Group of Two Activity-Sentence Fluency)

This is a buddy reading activity designed for two students. You will need a short story or part of a text for each student. Students take turns reading a short text to each other. Pairing a strong reader with a weak reader can be an effective way to help increase reading fluency (Schwanenflugel et al., 2009).

Read and Record (Individual or Small Group Activity-Sentence Fluency)

Read and Record can be used with either individuals or a pair of students.

Materials that are needed for this activity include a recording device (tape recorder, tablet) and a short story or paragraphs from a text. After practicing reading a short text or paragraphs several times, students record themselves reading the text, practicing prosody, and accuracy. They then listen to themselves on the recording. You may want to provide students with a checklist to rate themselves on their accuracy and prosody. In addition, students can be asked to complete a graphic organizer to monitor their reading comprehension.

Poem Power (Individual or Small Group Activity-Sentence Fluency)

This activity is for either individuals or small groups of students. Provide a copy of a poem for each student. Poems can be collected and placed in binders, or commercial books of children’s poetry can be used. Students can practice reading the poem aloud either individually or in a group. Poems are great for practicing prosody and phrasing (Rasinski, 2012).

Sensational Songs (Whole Group Activity-Phrase/Sentence Fluency)

This is a fun whole group activity, but can also be used by individual or small groups of students as well. It is a great way to practice fluency, prosody, and automaticity (Rasinski, 2012). Materials needed are copies of songs for each student. You can collect a packet of songs or an already published book of children’s songs to use for this activity. You will need to create a songbook. It is best to place songs in a binder so that additional songs can be added during the year. Plastic sleeves can be used for durability. A computer, CD player or tape recorder is also needed in order to play the songs. The teacher chooses songs for the class and prints copies of them for students. Sometimes I let students request songs to sing. As the song is played, students track the words of the song as they sing along.