Top Teaching > Danielle Mahoney > Having Fun With Fluency! Part I — A Bridge to Comprehension

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Having Fun With Fluency! Part I — A Bridge to Comprehension

If you missed out on watching Tim Rasinski's webcast on fluency this month, I strongly urge you to go back and watch the replay and visit the new Fluency page for strategies and teaching ideas that will get your students on the road to a deeper understanding of the stories they read with smooth and expressive reading.





Tim Rasinski On Fluency


However difficult it may be, we have to remember that it is important for us to make time for professional development. The timing may not be right for me to take part in viewing live broadcasts so I'm grateful to have the option to watch a replay when it works for me. This weekend, I sat down in front of my laptop with a bowl of cereal and a large coffee, taking notes as I watched the replay of, Teacher Talks Live Webcast Series: Tim Rasinski On Fluency. Even if you consider yourself well trained on reading instruction, it's nice to sort of refresh your brain on the topic of fluency from an expert in the field. Take 34 minutes out of your busy schedule to watch the replay of the webcast in the comfort of your own home. Or, get a few teacher friends together at school and make it a "lunch and learn". Until then, here's a taste of what you will learn about the teaching of fluency as you watch the replay of the webcast.

What is Fluency?

  • It is NOT just reading quickly.
  • It IS being able to master the surface level of reading (in order to dive deeper into reading).
  • It IS comprehension or the bridge to it.

The fact is, many students who have problems with comprehension are having difficulty with fluency.

Components of Fluency

Word Accuracy 

What do readers have to do with the print? They need strategies to figure out tricky words. This falls under word accuracy.

  • Students need to know how to decode.
  • Students need to understand vocabulary.
  • Word study is important. 

Need a great resource for word study in the classroom? Check out, Essential Strategies for Word Study: Effective Methods for Improving Decoding, Spelling, and Vocabulary by Dr. Jerry Zutell.


  • To do something effortlessly or with little thought.
  • If readers are reading slowly, letter by letter, sound by sound, then all of their efforts are in that area and they lose comprehension. Good readers are automatic. 
  • How do we teach it? Through practice.  

Prosody or Expressive Reading

  • Use your voice to make meaning.
  • Readers get loud, fast, soft or slow, depending on what is happening in the text. But the reader needs to understand what is happening in the story to do this. 
  • This is the bridge to comprenhsion.
  • Meaning changes with the way you say a word- RIGHT? Right! Right.
  • No robot reading!  
  • Little expression usually means little comprehension.

When we teach oral fluency, silent comprehension improves. A student will read in their mind, hear their voice and make meaning.

Seven Basic Principles of Good Fluency Instruction

Note: Each of the chapters in, The Fluent Reader is devoted to these principles.

1. Word Accuracy - You need a word study component in your reading instruction. Use resources such as word ladders and word games.

2. Modeling - Fluency is not just reading fast! Model making meaning. Use read alouds. Show students how you make meaning with your voice.

Check out, Tim Rasinski’s Favorite Books for an annotated book list that is sure to help support reading and writing instruction in your classroom. He has a few of my favorite authors on there as well. Want a few more resources to pull from for your read alouds with accountable talk?  Read through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project's Suggested Read Aloud Titles – Grades K-8 for a list of books that will engage students in accountable talk. This is a priceless resource. It includes book summaries and levels of texts as well as a description of the type of book listed across genres and grade levels. 

3.Supported Reading- We need to help kids as they begin to become fluent (like giving them training wheels on a bicycle). Have a struggling student read with someone else. They can hear the fluent reader's voice while they try their best.

4.Repeated Reading - Readers need practice! Rereading texts is ok!! Get good at reading and understanding a book before you move on to the next book or next piece of text. Use poetry, songs, and reader’s theater to practice repeated reading. Have fun with it!

5.Phrased Reading - Good readers do not read word by word. They read in phrases. They "chunk" text in a meaningful way.

High frequency words shouldn't just live on your word wall or be taught in isolation.Try putting high frequency words in phrases for practice. Examples: "the old man," "my little sister," "your older brother," "in the woods," "by the car." I LOVE this idea and can't wait to use it.

6.Text Difficulty - Make sure that students are reading books at an appropriate level. Model higher leveled texts and have children take part in repeated readings. Give students time to practice texts that are a little above their indepenedent level. The new Common Core Standards are expecting our students to read higher leveled texts across grades. Give students the right support and they can do it.

7.Synergy - Now put it all together. We need to create lessons that combine all of these components.

Where can you fit fluency instruction in your classroom?

  • Opening activity - Practice a daily text: a poem or section of text
  • Poetry - Have students pick a poem or reader’s theater script on a Monday and rehearse it throughout the week so that they can perform it on Friday. Then, start with new material the next week!

Lessons can be tailored by grade. From nursery rhymes and poetry to longer poems with more difficult vocabulary, fluency instruction is essential. Strategies may stay the same, but the content changes.

What can we do to help students who are fluent but can’t comprehend? Work on making connections. Get these readers engaged with comprehension instruction.



This Teacher Talk was filled with great ideas and resources that I look forward to exploring further and sharing with my colleagues. Put some of this theory into practice at your school. Shop at The Teacher Store at and save 25% on Tim Rasinski's teacher resources. I'm putting in an order for myself today!

Be sure to revisit Top Teaching next Tuesday as I will be sharing some of my favorite fluency lessons for you to use in your classroom right away. There will be plenty of downloadable resources and a brand new bookmark that is sure to keep your students focused on fluency during their independent reading. Until then, sit back, relax and take some time to watch the webcast!


  • #1 Danielle Mahoney

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Hi Jen!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about these GREAT activities! I'm going to use both of them with the classes I work with this week. And of course, I will be sharing them with others. ;)

    There is no doubt that you have found a meaningful way of making fluency fun for your students. Wonderful! (Tim Rasinski would be proud!)


  • #2 Danielle Mahoney

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    Hi Monica,
    If you can't find the time to watch the webcast at home with your little ones running around, we can make time for it during lunch. It's really short, so there will be enough time in one sitting.

    Thank YOU for opening your classroom to me! I had fun working with your students on fluency last week. They really showed a love for reading (and worked hard during independent reading time). Expect me back in your room very, very soon! The fluency lesson we worked on will be part of the second half of this post! Revisit the site next Tuesday to check it out.


  • #3 Jen

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 01:51 AM

    I watched the recorded webinar as well and have 2 really quick methods to share for anyone reading:

    For expression, write feeling words on cards or dice (happy, sad, angry, nervous, excited, scared, bored, annoyed, worried, disappointed). Give students a simple phrase ("What is that?") and have them read it with the expression they chose. Other students can try to guess what expression they picked, so they can get some feedback on how to change their voice.

    The other method is to teach students how to read punctuation appropriately. Students often read right past punctuation, which can make for a confusing story and change the meaning (lots of activities that show this--I like to read the book Twenty Odd-Ducks to show this). So, put about 10 random single digit numbers up, with punctuation (commas, periods, exclamation points, etc.) in between numbers (for instance: 3, 4 5! 2 4? 5 2 6.) Students take turns reading the "sentence" using the punctuation. It takes a few times, but they eventually get it and LOVE to do it.

  • #4 MonIca Fernandez

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 09:23 PM

    I am looking forward to that webinar. I tried to remember to watch but is greatful for the replay available. Can't wait to learn about new stategies to follow up the lesson connecting mood to how we read and fluency. Thank you again for coming in and exposing my readers to another way of becoming stronger readers.

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