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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Building Fluency in the Upper Grades

How do you get your upper elementary kids to reread for fluency practice?  Ideas that students love to do from The Research Based Classroom
If your students are like mine, there are a few that need some serious fluency practice.  And they're the ones that don't love to read in their free time and definitely don't want to spend their time rereading.  Then there's the majority of your students who are great readers, but they really lack when they read aloud.  Last there's that student who is trying too hard to put expression into his/her reading and it's so distracting, plus a few who really do have great fluency.  So how do you help all of these students become more fluent readers?  Even more importantly, how do you get them to do repeated readings without hearing all of those complaints?  And what about those students who really do have good fluency, what will benefit them too?

Fluency in the upper elementary classroom is too often neglected. But here is an easy to implement fluency practice that your students will LOVE.

Picture Books

Go to your school library and pick out 30 repetitive and fun picture books.  I'm sure your librarian can help with titles.  I just went down to the basement and looked for the books my own children loved when they were 3 - 6 years old.  I picked out the books I've read so many times that I practically know them by heart even today.  Most of them are short, repetitive, and just fun.  I brought them to school and put them in a tub.  Right away my fifth graders wanted to know why these books were here.  They were so curious, but I waited until the afternoon to tell them about the books.  I figured a little anticipation wouldn't hurt.  

When our guided reading time finally came,  I gathered them around me and explained that I was worried about the students in the younger grades and how they really needed good reading models to help them learn to read.  We talked about how reading out loud is very different from reading to yourself.  I barely got past the fact that you need to slow down so your listener has time to think and my students were already thinking of people who were good at reading out loud and those that weren't.  They were thinking of adults who were good and some who they didn't like to have read to them.  (Ok, I promised, I won't let any substitutes read our read aloud anymore.  I had no idea they hated that!) I let them help start a list of what good reading models would sound like and what they would do.  I explained that we were going to practice to make sure we're good models for the kindergarten and first grade classes. Then I started pulling out the books one by one and giving a quick one sentence summary about each book.  

My students took 5-10 minutes each day for the next four days practicing for our first class.  Each student picked one book.  They read to themselves, they read to partners, some even read to their families.  They graded themselves, graded each other, and worked hard to make their read aloud perfect.  Click on the picture below to grab my grading sheet.

On the fifth day we met up with a kindergarten class.  I had more students, which actually made it easier to move around my fifth grade readers.  Each fifth grader took a kindergartener to a spot in the library.  They sat side-by-side and my fifth graders read their books.  The extra students stood in a line by me.  When a fifth grader finished, they raised their hand and one of the extras ran over and took their place.  Then the fifth grade reader hopped into line and waited to read again.  Most of my fifth graders read their book 3-5 times in the 20 minutes and they loved it.  We did it again with a first grade class the next day.  My fifth graders thought it was all about helping the younger kids and really enjoyed it. 

 Any picture books that aren't too long will work.  I especially liked rhyming or repetitive ones because they were easier for my students to get the flow of the reading. Remember that when the books are a little on the easy side, your students can focus on the fluency.  Here's a list of some of the books I used (clicking on the titles will take you to Amazon):

The Day the Goose Got Loose
Hip, Hip, Hooray for Annie McRae
I Need My Monster
On the Morn of Mayfest
The Seven Silly Eaters
Big Pumpkin
If You Take a Mouse to School
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give...)


  1. I love this and we did it in our Summer School Class only our students read to Community Helpers - Fireman, Policeman, School Nurse, West Point Cadet and Therapy Dog! As a sub I take issue with no subs allowed to read aloud. Let the kids use the rubric on adults! I'm a sub and I am great at read aloud - the kids beg me not to stop.

    1. I need a sub like you!!! I was shocked at how many of my students had complaints, not just about subs either. They included previous teachers and the librarian too. I think it would be great to use the rubric on adults, but would it be too offensive? I can see us using it with student teachers. Thanks for the idea.