Fluency instruction is important because it provides
a bridge between word recognition and comprehension
(Armbruster, 2001). Fluent readers do not have to
concentrate on decoding words, they can focus on
what the text means. This is reason fluency is so
important. Fluent readers make connections among
ideas in the text and between the text and their
background knowledge. By doing so, they recognize
words and comprehend at the same time (Armbruster,
Armbruster, B.B. (2001). Put Reading First: The
Research Building Block for Teaching Children to
Read. Champaign, IL: National Institute for
The following activities
are examples of ways to incorporate fluency
instruction. These activities were sent to me
via a friend and we are unsure of the origin of
Read an entire passage or story to the child with
expression and fluency. Tell him/her to look at
the words and listen carefully.
Reading: The student and the teacher read
the passage or story aloud together
simultaneously. Limit the number of words or pages
Readings: Set a timer for one or two
minutes. Ask the child to read a passage or story
until the timer beeps. Count the number of words
read and write that number down. Set the goal to
read at least 3-5 words faster. Set the timer again
and ask the child to read the same passage or story
until the timer beeps. Count the number of words
the second time and write that number down. It will
be likely that the student will have an increase in
the number of words.
4. When a child miscalls a word while reading a
sentence during an un-timed
activity, follow the correction cues.
A. Ask the child to “try another way.”
B. Say, “Finish the sentence and guess
C. Say, “Break the word down into parts
D. Cover over parts of the word and ask
the child to sound out each part.
E. Say, “What sound does __ make?”
F. If the child analyzes the word
unsuccessfully, provide the student with the
correct word. The student will then reread the
sentence using the correct
*During a timed activity, read the word to
the students only after 3
seconds have passed so that the student can keep
reading. Review the words missed after the timer
5. Partner reading is when a stronger reader is
paired with a weaker reader. They read a passage
aloud together, either at the same time or
sequentially (with the stronger reader going
first). Establish some ground rules about when and
how to help when your partner is struggling.
6. Students can listen to an audio-taped recording
of a story while reading aloud with the text.
Encourage students to use a bookmark while he/she
7. Echo reading: The teacher reads a section of a
passage, accentuating appropriate phrasing and
intonation, followed by the students echoing it as
they read their own copy of the passage. Struggling
readers need to hear what fluent reading sounds like
and then try to imitate it.
8. Use the “Heart Words” activity for teaching
non-phonetic sight words. The teacher conducts
dialogue with the students about which sounds in the
word are spelled as expected and which part is not
spelled as expected; that part is signaled with a
heart placed over the letters. Students see that in
most of these words, there are some predictable
letters. Only part of the word must be memorized by
heart. For example, in the word said, the
s and the d are spelled as expected. It
is the ai that must be memorized by heart.
9. Whole group and paired practice of sight words
using flashcards, a chart of words, or individual
sheets of words. This can also be a timed practice
10. Reader's Theater!
Research has found a more effective
way to get students excited about rereading.
Reader’s Theater! Students rehearse the script over
the period of a week. The script is not to be
memorized, simply read fluently and with
expression. Every student will have a copy of their
script to rehearse at home. Friday, the script will
be performed in front of the class. The performance
aspect gives students authentic motivation to
practice rereading their script. This also gives
other students, the audience, an opportunity to
enjoy one aspect of the arts.
Nonsense Word Fluency
letter/sound correspondences using letter cards with
capital and lowercase letters. Letter cards need to
be large enough to be viewed by students and may
include a picture to associate the sound with the
When introducing a sound, the teacher says
the name of the letter, the sound for the letter,
and explains how the sound is contained in the
key word. For example, “This is the letter
a. The sound for the letter a is
/a/. The word apple begins with the sound /a/.
The teacher reviews all new sounds
introduced by having the students repeat the
sound and the key word -
“/a/ as in apple” - while pointing
to each card in random order. The teacher
presents the next sound, repeating steps 1 and 2.
The teacher places the new cards in a prominent
place so that students can refer to the cards to
remember the sound for the letter.
2. Using a deck of
sound cards that only have the letter or letter
combinations previously taught, ask students to name
the sound as fast as possible. The teacher can set
fluency goals, with the ultimate goal being to name
50 sounds in one minute.
3. Fill in the
missing letter in simple words by selecting a letter
from three or four possible letters. This activity
can be done using letter cards or using Elkonin
boxes. For older students, a worksheet can be
provided with a list of simple words and a word part
missing. The teacher can dictate the word that the
student must finish spelling.
4. The teacher
spells a real or nonsense word with a movable
alphabet. The student touches each letter and
simultaneously says the sound. The student then
blends the sounds into a word, moving his/her hand
across the word from left to right. Magnetic tiles
or sound cards work well for this activity.
5. Students read
real and nonsense words that the teacher has written
on index cards. The words should stress the
letter-sound combinations being taught, and also
should include words with all the letter-sounds that
have been introduced to date. Optional: Real words
can be one color while the nonsense words can be
another color. Review the words orally together and
their meanings. Next, using a timer, guide students
to say the words on the cards within a time limit.
(No more than 3 seconds per card.)
6. The teacher
writes real and nonsense words on index cards, using
the same color for both types of words. The
students read the words and sort them into real and
nonsense word categories. This can be done as a
whole group or individually. If done individually,
give each child a set of index card words to read
silently and to sort into the two groups. When
children are finished sorting, the teacher asks each
one to read the words and the rest of the group
verifies that the sort is correct.
7. The students read
three columns of words; the list in each column has
the same words arranged in a different order and
includes about 50% high frequency words in addition
to real and nonsense words. The goal is to read the
words accurately while improving time from the
second to the third reading. (No more than 3
seconds per word.)
8. Prepare a set of
letter cards, sorted into three decks - two
consonant piles and one vowel pile in the center
faced down. (Each pile of cards should have a
different number of cards in them.) The teacher will
flip a card over from each deck to reveal a real or
nonsense word. The student reads the word. The
teacher places the revealed cards at the bottom of
the deck and repeats the process.
9. Using Elkonin
boxes, students begin learning to spell simple two
or three- letter words in boxes or on lines. This
can be done with plastic letters, letter tiles, or
wipe-off markers. If Elkonin boxes are not
available, teachers can create a mat with boxes to
laminate so that it can be re-used. Use real and
nonsense word samples for this activity.
can use individual pocket charts and letter cards
for spelling simple words. Limit the number of
letters that students use. For example, these six
letters i, p, n, s, t, and d can spell sip, tip,
sit, dip, nid, tis, dit, and nip.
11. Word chains can
be created using letter cards on individual pocket
charts or marker boards with wipe-off markers.
Dictate a 3-phoneme word for the students to spell.
Check the spelling. Dictate another word that only
changes one of the letters of the previous word.
(Therefore, the student gets rid of one letter and
replaces it with another.) Keep repeating the
process. For more advanced word chains, increase
the number of letters. Add more complex
letter-sounds, including consonant digraphs and
consonant blends. Expand from short to long vowels,
including vowel blends and r-controlled vowels.
12. Say and
Write: The teacher gives the student a word to
spell. The student segments the word into sounds.
As he/she identifies each sound, he finds the
movable alphabet piece that spells the sound and
puts it in front of him. Next, the student writes
each letter, saying the sound as he/she writes the
letters. When he/she finishes writing the word, he
reads the word and spells it with letter names.
students to spell real or nonsense words (closed
syllables) on sticky notes. For example, mar, ket,
bas, car, pet, can, ter, cat, and nip. Students
must pair sticky notes together to make real words.
The words will be written in a list and shared with
the class. (market, basket, carpet, canter, and
catnip) Next, guide the students to make nonsense
words. Read aloud and share.
Optional: Guide students to use open
syllables and closed syllable combinations. For
examples: ro, bot, ra, don, mu, sic, bi, son,
or, bit, un, der, up, and set.
(robot, radon, music, bison, orbit, under, and
14. Create a
chart of nonsense words. This can be a group chart
or an individual chart for each student. As a group
activity, set the timer for one minute and read the
words aloud as a group. Students can also be paired
to read the chart of words to each other as a timed
activity. No more than three seconds per word.