Reading Fluency Practice for Early Readers

There are so many parts to reading instruction. It can be tricky to keep them all straight if you aren’t well-practiced. Luckily I can break this one down for you! And, of course, I have some great resources to improve fluency instruction in your classroom.

Eventually we want to bring primary reading skills together so kids can apply them naturally without having to think about it. But with our early and struggling readers, we need to break each skill down first. They need more time practicing each skill separately before synthesizing all them together.

What Is Fluency?

Fluency is the reader's ability to read smoothly, accurately, and with expression. It helps students move away from reading like a robot, towards reading with natural expression. Reading fluency is an important building block for reading comprehension. Let’s look at some different strategies you can use to build fluency skills in your classroom.

Why is fluency an important part of reading instruction?

When readers begin automatically recognizing words, they’re beginning to move out of the decoding phase. The oh-so-important fluency stage comes next!

Fluent readers can read a lot of words easily without breaking them down into parts. This step is vital for reading comprehension. Our kids go from knowing words to understanding what they mean in the context of the sentence. That’s a huge and crucial leap for them to make!

These reading intervention pages are perfect for helping kids first practice sounding out a word and then reading it in a sentence. 

How does fluency build better text comprehension?

Once students begin building their fluency skills, they can spend more energy focusing on meaning. Students go from understanding how to say the word correctly to the more complex comprehension strategies. Now they will be able to practice skills like making connections to ideas and applying background knowledge to their reading.


How can we get kids from sounding like robots to sounding like readers?

A great way to support fluency in children is to model fluent reading. When adults model this skill through reading aloud, students learn to recognize what reading should sound like. Parents, teachers, and others should model fluent reading across many genres. It will help show how fluency keeps readers more engaged in the story. Reading aloud also shows how words take on meaning for better comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Three more important skills to improve fluency:

Phonics Sounds

Your primary readers need a strong grasp of how letters connect to word sounds before they can begin to read fluently. For struggling readers, extra practice with phonics will help complement fluency instruction. You'll start to build a bridge between decoding and fluency.

Looking to help your learners in this area? With reading warm-ups, you can transfer learning from only the sound/blend to a whole word. Consider highlighting the sounds in the words so students can find them quickly. As they start to recognize the sounds when reading, remove this strategy and allow them to find the sounds on their own.

Sight Words

Your students can build speed and accuracy when they learn and practice sight words. When we blend the use of sight words into fluency practice passages, we're building all the parts of fluency into our practice.

The fluency phrases activity uses Dolch sight words and builds them into passages. Students can practice these and build fluency during your reading time.

Giving context to these high frequency words will help students apply meaning and build expression. We can help emergent readers make a connection between the sight words they're learning and the meaning of those words. Kids can do this when they read sight words in children's books—or in this case, reading passages.

Repeated Reading

Practicing a passage out loud is a helpful way to build automaticity and confidence in our primary readers. Repeated reading leads to better reading performance because several skills are being practiced together and in succession.

That helps increase accuracy AND speed. Together, they will give the words more meaning than simply reading with accuracy alone. Struggling readers benefit from repeated reading because they can practice strategies over and over.

Remind your kids that it is not about reading as fast as they can but as accurately as they can. The speed will naturally increase as those skills do. Repeated reading increases performance across the board. Whether students are struggling, or already reading fluently, their skills will improve with repeated reading.

Fluency mazes are a great way to encourage kids to read words more than once. Every time that they reach the end of the maze, they color a box and start over!


Looking for more resources to teach fluency to your little readers?

Here is a NO PREP Reading Intervention resource you can use in small groups with your struggling readers.

And if the words NO PREP are making your eyes light up, I have a Fluency Freebie full of printable fluency activities that you can try out.

If you find these resources useful, don’t forget to leave a review on my TPT site. And reach out on social media to let me know how they’re working for you, and what else teachers could use to help strengthen fluency instruction.


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