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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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Developing Strong Student Writers In the Primary Classroom

It can seem like a daunting task getting little ones to stay engaged in the writing process and push themselves to grow and improve as writers. If you don’t have a system in place, you'll quickly find yourself scrambling for ways to help your students become better writers. To help you avoid that frustration, I want to share the methods I use to teach writing in my classroom. You can use these ideas in your classroom to keep student writing sustainable throughout the school year so students stay engaged, their writing improves, and they can learn across the curriculum all year long.

Engage little writers by starting with a book

Get kids interested in your writing topic by grabbing their attention with a good story. There are a ton of great ways to do this. You can do a read-aloud related to a prompt. You can read to emphasize parts of a story like characters, plot, setting, etc… You can incorporate new genres of reading and writing that you are learning about. Consider reading informational books on a topic they will be writing about. Non-fiction texts can be fascinating and serve as a great tool for scaffolding your students’ learning.

An alternative idea if you are face-to-face in the classroom is to let kids immerse themselves in a concept. Give them book baskets at their tables or small groups on the carpet, and let them discover different kinds of books that illustrate a concept.

By giving concrete examples of great published writing, your students will start connecting and applying what they love about a good book to their own writing.

Help writers stretch their thinking by brainstorming ideas together

Use an anchor chart, whiteboard, Smartboard, or anything that all students have access to in the classroom. There’s a digital whiteboard option on most virtual platforms as well. You can brainstorm ideas, theme words, and vocabulary words that they might need so they have access to them and can refer to them when writing.

There are a lot of benefits to doing this group exercise as a class. Honoring ideas will not only stretch their thinking in new ways, but it’ll help grow student confidence and encourage participation. Hearing and seeing others thinking out loud will encourage your more shy students to make connections and eventually feel compelled to contribute also.

Brainstorming creates community, and thinking together as a group really helps boost everybody’s performance. Students have ownership of the resources you’ve created together and are much more likely to use them independently when it comes to working on their own writing.

Empower students by writing together as a class

Just like with your brainstorming, have chart paper, a white board, smart board etc. visible to the whole group. Model what great writing looks like using the genre, strategy, or concept you are teaching. For example: If you’re asking them to write a letter, write one together first. Have students give ideas one sentence at a time. While writing, correctly demonstrate things like grammar, spelling, punctuation, editing, revision, and so on. Eventually, students can practice their writing technique independently and demonstrate new ideas to the class as well.

You can use these digital writing templates to have kids practice writing on their own.

Get your students writing!

I usually have one big writing session per week. At that time, my resource teacher is in the room helping me support students. If kids need help spelling a word, I’ll either write it on the board, help them sound it out, or refer to our anchor charts to help them find a strategy. Of course, this all depends on the word they want to write and the writing level that the student is at.

Don’t forget to add in time for students to help edit and revise each other’s drafts. This is a helpful way to incorporate concepts that were taught and for children to get a variety of perspectives on their writing before they are ready to “publish” their final drafts.

Looking for writing ideas? Check out this Writing Prompts for the Year Bundle for Kindergarten- 2nd grade.You can use these prompts to help keep students motivated and grow their writing skills, without spending tons of prep time creating your own!

Celebrate your little writers

Students deserve the chance to be recognized for the hard work and creative ideas they put into their writing. Taking a few minutes for students to read their own writing aloud and compliment each other’s strengths is a great culminating activity. You can do this daily at the end of writing time, at the end of each week to reflect on the concepts learned, and/or at the end of each writing unit to show how the students have grown as writers.

Looking for ways to keep writing fresh and interesting for both you and your students? My Writer’s Workshop Bundle has a variety of seasonal activities that you can switch up throughout the year to practice important concepts, model great strategies, and keep kids engaged with fun and skill-building activities.

I'd love to send you some word wall cards for FREE! Sign up below to get them right in your inbox!

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Teaching Your Primary Students All About Plants

It might not feel like it yet, but believe it or not, Spring is just around the corner! One of my favorite ways to usher in the new season is by teaching my students all about plants.

I love teaching this non-fiction unit because there are so many fun and engaging activities to do with the kiddos. We learn about the full life cycle of a plant, how to plant seeds, and what a plant needs to grow. We even get our hands dirty (literally!) with our own little seedlings.

Today I’d like to share how I structure this unit in my classroom, including several resources for you to try out.

Brighten Your Classroom With Plant-Themed Visuals

One of the best things about the plant unit is that it’s a great excuse to brighten up your classroom with all things green and flowery! I love to kick off our plant unit by creating a collective visual masterpiece. The students and I work together to create a plant-themed bulletin board. Highlight different parts of a plant’s life cycle by including soil, seeds, roots, and of course the pretty greenery and flowers that sprout up!

In addition to a bright and informative bulletin board, I also like to create a plant-themed word wall. This will help students learn new vocabulary like seedling, bud, stem, sprout, petals, and more. You can reference the word wall as you encounter the vocabulary in your reading and writing activities throughout the unit.

Reading All About Plants

Early in the unit, we develop our base knowledge about plants by reading a variety of non-fiction texts and watching some short videos. I like to use mini readers and targeted close reading activities to introduce important concepts like the plant life cycle. Of course, there are plenty of fun and informative books about plants, so be sure to throw some longer texts in there during story time.

As students practice reading using our mini books, I work with them to fill in information on graphic organizers and in their interactive notebooks. Our word wall really comes in handy here as students get used to new words like germination and fertilizer. For many students, these are brand new words to learn!

PS: Grab my free interactive notebook pages over in my TpT store.

Writing Activities For Your Plant Unit

Once my kiddos have had some exposure to our new vocabulary and concepts, we start writing! They take what they’ve practiced with our close reading activities, our graphic organizers, and our interactive notebooks and start to get creative!

We move from sentence writing as we describe what plants need to grow to sequence writing to describe the plant life cycle. Depending on the time we have available, I may choose from a variety of other styles of writing, including:
  • Opinion writing—Would you rather plant flowers or vegetables, and why? What flower do you think is the prettiest?
  • Narrative writing—My beautiful garden; If I was a botanist.
  • Poetry—Acrostic poems based on plant-themed vocabulary.
  • Observational writing—Describe a garden or particular plants using all five senses

Play Interactive Plant-Themed Games

A unit wouldn’t be complete without some fun games to play with your students! I developed a no-print interactive game that’s perfect for distance learning. You can try the free version here! It’s an interactive PDF with a mix of true/false and multiple choice questions to introduce or reinforce plant vocabulary and concepts learned in the unit. If you like what you see in the freebie, you can grab the full version which includes 4 different games and 40 total questions.

Of course, you can use word cards to play classic interactive games like Quiz-Quiz-Trade or Scoot. We all know kids need to get up and moving throughout the day, and these games are perfect for getting some wiggles out!

Get Your Hands Dirty By Experimenting With Plants

There are SO many science experiments you can do with plants, it can be hard to choose which ones to do! There are a couple of classroom favorites that I always try to fit in.

  • Germinate your own seeds—using a plastic baggie, a few dried beans, and a wet paper towel, your students can see the germination process up close. We hang our baggies in the window where they’re sure to get lots of natural light and then watch as the seeds germinate and begin to sprout over the course of a few days.
  • Discover how plants absorb water—all you need for this experiment is some celery stalks, food coloring, and a vase of water. Trim the bottom of the celery stalk before placing in the colored water, and then watch as the dye travels up to the leaves. Tip: use the lighter-colored interior stalks rather than the darker green stalks on the outside of the bunch. The color shows up better that way!

Conduct a Class Survey

A fun way to tie several skills together is to have students create and conduct a class survey. Ask pairs or small groups to come up with a list of a few questions they can poll their classmates on. Some ideas include:
  • Do you have a garden at home?
  • Do you prefer to plant flowers or vegetables?
  • Does your family have potted plants inside your house? Do you help water them?
Students can practice their communication skills as they ask classmates for responses. Then, they can practice math skills by tallying up and sharing the results! Who knew a class survey could be such a well-rounded activity?!

Get the Resources You Need to Teach All About Plants!

I hope you found these ideas helpful as you start to plan out your Spring lesson plans. If you’d like a full unit plan that’s ready to go, check out my full Non-Fiction Plants Unit. It includes everything I’ve talked about here, plus lots more!

Looking for more? Read THIS other blog post on my plant unit.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more fun resources and teaching tips!

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How to Celebrate Friendship in Your Primary Classroom

February brings us lots of reasons to celebrate: it’s Black History Month, Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and we’re only a month or so away from Spring! In my classroom, February is all about Friendship!

On today’s blog, I want to share my favorite tips for celebrating friendship in your primary classroom. I weave the theme of friendship throughout so many of my lessons in February. From friendship-themed literacy and math centers to sweet arts and crafts, the only downside is that February is the shortest month of the year!

Tip #1: Read a Valentine’s Story for Emergent Readers

Get your little learners excited to spread love and friendship this month with this cute printable Valentine’s Day book, written especially for emergent readers. Your students can add color to the images as you discuss things they love. Cupcakes, flowers, candy, and books: there’s a lot to love about this little book. The last page is blank so each child can add his or her own favorite person or thing that they love. 

The repetition of high-frequency words makes this book perfect for emergent readers.

I love cupcakes. What do you love?
I love hearts. What do you love?

With each page, you’ll see their confidence rise! Oh, and did I mention it’s a FREE download
You’re welcome :)

Tip #2: Write a Friendly Letter

A great way to introduce this lesson is to read a book about letter writing. One of my favorites is Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk. After you model what friendly letter writing looks like, it’s time for your students to start composing letters of their own!

Children can write to a family member, classmate, teacher, or even a favorite author. Have fun brainstorming possible letter recipients together! We talk about how nice it feels to receive a letter or card in the mail. The students get so excited about sending something that will brighten another person’s day.

We review the five main parts of a friendly letter and list out our brainstorm ideas for words or topics to use:
  • Heading - We review how to write out dates properly.
  • Greeting - We brainstorm different greetings and talk about when Dear Mr/Mrs is appropriate vs. Hey, what’s happening!
  • Body - We talk about how to write in a friendly tone and brainstorm interesting details to include.
  • Closing - We list out possible closing words, such as sincerely, see you later!, and love, again talking about when each is appropriate to use.
  • Signature - We make sure to include our names!
After completing their letters, we seal them in envelopes, add a stamp, and place them in the mail! 

Tip #3: All About My Friend

Another way to celebrate friendship is to practice describing what makes our friends so wonderful! For this All About My Friend activity, we focus on using descriptive words to paint a picture of a favorite friend. 

You know I love using anchor texts, and it’s no different this time around! Before we begin our work, we read some picture books about friendship. I ask students to look for characteristics that make a good friend. We brainstorm different ways we can describe someone:
  • Appearance - what do they look like?
  • Likes & dislikes - what are their favorite and least favorite foods, games, animals, etc.?
  • Personality - are they funny, quiet, playful, sweet, etc.?
  • Fun facts - how did you meet, what do you play together?
Once we have done a lot of brainstorming, my students work on writing a description of their friend. In the end, I invite students to share their work out loud. They are so proud to share about favorite friends! 

Tip #4: Create a Friend Flip Book

The “All About My Friend” activity can easily be turned into a friend flipbook. After working on their final drafts celebrating a favorite friend, you can transition into arts and crafts time as students design and decorate their own books! 

GOOD NEWS!! I grouped the three resources mentioned above into one download. Leave me your email below and I'll send them right to your inbox! :) 


What activities do you have in store to make February fun and filled with friendship?

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