Top Teaching > Danielle Mahoney > Having Fun With Fluency! Part 2 — Strategies Readers Will Enjoy

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Having Fun With Fluency! Part 2 — Strategies Readers Will Enjoy

FluencystrategieschartLast week, we had the opportunity to learn more about the components of fluency instruction in our reading work, as we watched the replay of Teacher Talks Live Webcast Series: Tim Rasinski on Fluency. This week, I'm excited to share a few of my favorite fluency strategies with you. Download printable resources as well as a new bookmark I created, to help keep your students from sounding like robots! We'll build comprehension and teach our students to become fluent readers while we have some fun. 



Have Fun With Fluency!

FluencybookmarkpicHere are my favorite fluency mini-lessons for you to try with your readers. Begin by telling your students that in order for readers to truly understand what is going on in the stories they are reading independently, they have to become fluent. This means that they need to read smoothly and with feeling or expression. You can even admit that you've heard some of them reading like robots, where --every---word--- is-- read-- all-- by-- itself--and--it--sounds--very-choppy. Believe me, none of them want to admit that they sound like a robot! You'll have everybody's attention. =)

Here is my newest creation - a fluency bookmark. Use it to kick off your series of mini-lessons. Give each student two copies; one for their independent reading at school, the other for home. Laminate them or copy them on card stock paper so they last a bit longer. I hope you'll find the bookmark a useful tool in making your strategies stick.



Photo: Regardless of the unit or subject area, I love to build charts with students and leave them up in the classroom as tools for children to refer back to. I'm also a very visual learner, so I add lots of drawings to my charts as well. Title your chart and list the first strategy you intend to teach that day. Add to the chart as you plan to teach the next strategy.

Use a Storyteller's Voice

Narrator As Tim Rasinski suggests, modeling the type of fluency you expect from your students will set up expecations and help them suceed. It gives them a perfect example of what they should sound like. As you read books aloud to your students, stop to point out that you are using a storyteller's voice when the narrator is describing setting, character actions, problem or solution. Make your students aware of something that may be obvious to you (an amazingly fluent reader) but not so obvious to those who are struggling to read smoothly and with feeling. Have them practice sounding like the storyteller in partnerships and small groups. As they listen to each other read, they can give a "thumbs up" if the reader reads with lots of fluency, a "thumbs down" if they need more practice, or (my favorite) a "thumbs in the middle" if they are on their way, but still need a little more practice. They can even evaluate their own fluency. As you listen in on their partnerships or groups, don't be surprised if you hear kids saying, "Hmmm... I think that was a little choppy. I may need to reread that part to sound more like a storyteller." 



Add technology to the mix to make this even more fun. Have students record each other using a Flip video camera or use a kid friendly program on your computer, such as Photo Booth to allow students to record themselves. They can watch and listen for parts that are super fluent and rate themselves and each other, just like movie critics do. Have them rerecord parts to make them sound even better. This will encourage them to reread texts. Remind your students that they should always treat each other with respect. It takes a lot for children to record themselves and watch it back. They should be complimented on being such brave readers!


Put Words Together Like Talking


Javier2 Javier3




Javier practices putting words together by scooping up groups of words with his hands during independent reading.

We need to show children where phrase boundaries are in order to make them visable to our young readers. That doesn't mean that we are going to mark up every piece of text we expect children to read. It simply means that we have to plan for a few lessons that will illustrate how fluent readers actually do this in their minds. We can teach them how to put words together like talking by showing them how to use their hands to scoop up words in phrases. Again, you want to model this first.

In order to find out which students really needed support with increasing fluency in their independent reading, I looked through the running records of the second grade students I work with every day. From these running records, I did a little research and recorded notes on what these readers were really good at as well as areas they needed help in. I mentioned the use of this research form in a previous post on Helping Students Set Their Reading Goals. I find it to be a very useful tool that I use on a consistent basis.



Poppletoninwinter Choose a book to use that is right around the average of your students' independent reading levels. Cynthia Rylant's, Poppleton in Winter was the perfect fit for me to use with this small group of readers.

Set the purpose of the lesson: Readers put words together to sound like talking. Depending on your grade level, you may need to explain the terms "fluency" and "expression". I tell my students that they should try to read smoothly and with feeling. Not choppy. Not like a robot.

Model how YOU put words together like talking. As I worked with this group of students, I read a line of text from my book and then lifted the sentence out of the book and onto chart paper. I read it and used my hands to show my students how I grouped words together, sort of scooping them up in chunks of two’s and three’s. Then, I asked the students to try it with me. After scooping up the words, I used a marker to draw looping lines under the words in the sentence to record how we read it like talking. I repeated the same process, each time letting go of the scaffolding more and more. I asked them to show me how they scooped the words without doing it for them first. Then, I had them come up to the chart to demonstrate how they put words together like talking. Here is what our chart looked like after several opportunities to try out the strategy together.


Your students will need time to try out this strategy on their own. Give them a copy of this reading worksheet, or have them use their reading notebook to record sentences that they think they did a really great job of putting words together. Then, using a crayon, have them show you how they grouped words in phrases.

See how Juan David, Pamela and Daniela try out this strategy on their own. Adding an assessment piece is really easy. Just ask your students to tell you what they tried out in reading today. They should be able to say how that strategy is helping them to become better readers!



Change Your Voice To Match The Mood

This is a fun strategy that can be used with your favorite read aloud, poem, shared reading chart or favorite song. (Yes, song!) Songs have lyrics that can be written down on paper and printed out for kids to read. If you want to really get a sense of how your students can capture the mood of written text, watch the talented students of the PS 22 Chorus in Staten Island as they practice signing Tori Amos' song, 1000 Oceans. (Share this with your students as well. It's guaranteed to give you all the chills.) How did these students get this good? There's no doubt in my mind that it has something to do with their incredible music teacher, Mr.Gregg Breinberg as well as lots and lots of practice. Mr. B's love of music is obviously infectious. Your love of reading will be, too. 


Aren't they amazing?! I can watch this video over and over again. Their version of Coldplay's, Viva La Vida is pretty awesome, too.

Ok, back to the books.

RoughfacegirlRafe Martin's, The Rough Face Girl is one of my favorite touchstone texts. I use it again and again for many purposes in the classroom. The beautiful, dark, mysterious drawings makes it hard to believe that it was illustrated by David Shannon- the talented author and illustrator of,No, David!

Read a bit of the text aloud and model how you match your voice to the mood. Model how you can give evidence from the text to show why you think you found just the right mood for that part. Give students a chance to try this strategy with you, as you read the next chunk of text aloud. I created this Match Your Voice To The Mood Worksheet to help my students track the moods in their leveled books, as well as their evidence. Model the use of this chart with, The Rough Face Girl. You don't have to read the entire book right now. Send the students off to independent reading with the promise that you will finish the book at a later time. And please, keep your promise! 

Here's how Mrs. Fernandez's students matched their voices to the moods in their independent books. 







Independent reading time gives you the opportunity to conference with your students one-on-one or work in small groups. Here I am, listening in on Dyance's reading to get a sense of what she's doing well as a reader and what she needs help with. I record my research during the conference on a special strategy lesson planning sheet.


Notice Punctuation and Match Your Voice To It

Punctuation When I hear students reading straight past the punctuation in their books, I feel like giving them some sort of reading ticket! These readers are far from fluent. Many students need to be reminded that when you get to the period at the end of a sentence, you need to stop. When you see a comma, you pause or slow down. When there's an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, read it with excitement. They need to notice how most of the time your voice goes up at the end of a sentence that has a question mark.


Using your white board or chart paper, write a short paragraph that includes a few periods, exclamation points, question marks and commas. Have students read it to themselves and notice what their voices do when they reach each type of puncuation in the text. Then, have them reread the text and place a tally mark on the chart under the type of punctuation they noticed. Just taking note of the punctuation in a simple task like this, will get them to become more aware of the punctuation and less likley to run straight past it!

Now, send them off to independent reading. Mrs. Bayer's class had fun with this activity. We were working on this strategy on Friday afternoon before dismissal, and the kids were upset that we ran out of time and had to stop! I look forward to revisiting the class to continue to work on fluency. 

Ivan and Kristen work hard during independent reading!



Download your own Punctuation Chart to give your students a place to record their tally marks and reflect on what they've learned. 

Kaitlyn Baybhin







Change Your Voice To Sound Like The Characters

QuotesYou might notice that your readers may start to point out other types of punctuation now that you've made them aware of it. Great! Work on quotation marks next, and ask students to change their voice to sound like the characters. Linking this lesson back to tracking the moods in the story may be helpful. Just switch out moods with character traits and evidence. You may also want to draw attention to certain words in the text that describe the way in which the characters speak.Create a chart as your students find new words that help them change their voices as they read. It may end up looking something like this. . .


. . .and of course, this type of work will fit in nicely with your writing mini-lessons as well.


I hope that you set aside some time to watch the webcast and felt inspired to plan for fluency instruction with your students. There seems to be a whole lot here, but it's just a taste of what you can do to teach fluency in your classroom. What lessons or resources have worked best for your students? We had a two great lesson ideas posted in the comments in last week's post, Having Fun With Fluency! Part I- A Bridge To Comprehension. (Thank you, Jen from Juneau, Alaska!) Please take a moment to share your ideas and helpful tips with us.

Here's to reading with fluency! Remember, robots may be cute, but we don't want our students sounding like them. ;)



  • #1 Danielle Mahoney

    Monday, February 07, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    Hi Kelly!

    You're welcome! Planning for reading work based on the needs of your students is the way to go. Good for you!

    As for strategy groups based on the Common Core Standards- the answer is no... not yet. I am involved with creating Common Core Curriculum Maps for writing at the moment, but I can tell you that it has been a slow and steady process. It's a learning experience for all of us. It's nice to know that you are looking ahead for work that aligns to the new standards.

    Since there isn't anything out there as of yet, maybe you'll be inspired to create a few templates of your own!?

    Best of luck!

  • #2 Danielle Mahoney

    Monday, February 07, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    Hi Irene!
    I'm really glad to see that you are keeping up with the shared reading work and just right books. It makes me happy to know that your students have time to practice strategies in texts other than the basal reading program. I'm looking forward to working with your students this week!

  • #3 Danielle Mahoney

    Monday, February 07, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    Hi Christina!
    I remember how hard you worked on building fluency with your 5th grade inquiry group last year. It will be interesting to see what you can do with the first graders this year! Keep me posted and let me know how the bookmark works out.


  • #4 Kelly

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011 at 02:20 PM

    Thank you for the post. It comes at a perfect time mid-year when I am using recently completed DRA assessments to determine the needs of my readers. Of course, fluency is at the top of list as well as comprehension.

    I plan to incorporate more strategy groups this month. Do you have a template that lists teaching points for strategy groups based on the Common Core Standards? I am wondering if anyone has one completed. Thanks again for some great ideas!

  • #5 irene zajac

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011 at 08:45 PM

    This is right up my alley. We've been working on fluency in our shared reading notebooks. Now I can branch out to our JRB's. Thanks for the tips and bookmark of course.

  • #6 Christina

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011 at 07:35 PM

    I will be giving the bookmark to my reading groups!!! It is something that we work on almost everyday, especially the punctuation. Thanks for these suggestions. I will also be using the chart for words other than "said." Thanks for sharing!!!

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