Building fluency is crucial for children’s developing literacy. By the end of 1st grade, students should read 50-70 words per minute (wpm). Accuracy isn't the only thing that matters. Students need to learn to read with meaning. They should adjust their pace and use proper phrasing and expression to sound natural. This comes with practice!
Apart from reading the same thing over and over, students should do "cold reads," or timed fluency tests. But, don't go overboard! Instead, regularly emphasize the joy of reading through modeling. If your student is struggling or stumbling over words, you may need to choose an easier story or passage.
1. Time and Record Reading
Think Fluency is an app specifically for teachers, but parents can use it as well. It provides an advantage over paper and pencil assessments. The app records, stores, and tracks fluency data over time. You can record errors in real-time, and you can even upload your own passages to practice. The cost is $2.99 a month after a 30-day free trial. If you don't want to use the app, you can download and use their free printable passages.
Learn more: University of Maryland
2. Improve Accuracy with Sight Words
A major hurdle for 1st graders is learning sight words—words you can't sound out. Since students have to memorize these words, practicing them in isolation helps build automaticity. Ideally, when they encounter them in a new text, they will recognize them with ease. Dolch words are found most frequently in printed books. There are a checklist and flashcards of the 41 most high-frequency 1st-grade words. Practice as much as needed.
Learn more: A to Z Teacher Stuff
3. Follow Along with a Favorite Book
Listening to good reading is one of the best ways to build literacy and fluency. Storyline Online has hundreds of picture books read aloud by real actors! 1st graders may recognize a familiar book or face in the list, as there are some classic and well-known titles and actors. As you listen to their dynamic readings, talk to your 1st grader about their tone and expression. What emotions do the readers express? How does it help you understand the story?
Learn more: Storyline Online
4. Author Read Alouds
KidLit has a collection of stories passionately read aloud by children's authors. Hearing spirited and strong readers use vivid and rich vocabulary words improves a student's vocabulary. These stories provide great exposure to vibrant words not commonly used in 1st grade-level texts.
Learn more: KidLit TV
5. Listen and Learn
Unite For Literacy's mission is to promote literacy and reading enjoyment for children. To achieve this, they offer culturally representative and educational titles with real photos and appealing illustrations. Some themes are Family, Feelings and Senses, Healthy Me, and Animals and People. Additionally, the books are highly decodable with an audio recording that is a quality model of reading fluency. Have your 1st grade reader try to imitate the reader's expression using echo reading.
Learn more: Unite for Literacy
6. Skill Focus
Sometimes, it is helpful to target phonics skills with fluency practice passages. Short vowel and long vowel word families are the foundations of word decoding. These fluency practice passages are grouped by word family so students become accustomed to common sound patterns. They also include comprehension questions for comprehension and discussion.
Learn more: K12 Reader
7. Guided Reading Passages
You can use guided reading passages as a daily homework activity to build oral reading fluency. These passages are easily decodable and repetitive, making them perfect for repeated reading and building confidence.
Learn more: Rocketship Schools
8. Fluency Poems
Poetry, particularly poems with rhymes and repeated phrases is perfect for beginning readers. Not only do 1st graders love the clever wordplay, patterns, and rhythm of the verses, they effortlessly practice fluency. These poems are excerpts from kids' poetry books. Read them over and over and let your student get in the flow.
Learn more: Poetry 4 Kids
9. Speedy Phrases
The Florida Center for Reading Research has a selection of fluency activities for 1st graders. One fluency activity breaks down reading passages into common "speedy phrases." This is a good way to build accuracy and fluency on a small scale. Have your students practice reading them with different tones and phrasing as they become more comfortable.
Learn more: Florida Center for Reading Research
10. Reader's Theater
A fluent reader sounds like they're talking to a friend! Reader's Theater provides an opportunity for children to rehearse and become comfortable with their part in a dialogue. You will need a cast of characters (friends) for some scripts, but there are many with 2 parts. As your students get into character, point out how their voice might change to convey a certain emotion or pause for drama. Your child should have fun and let loose, ideally forgetting they're reading!
Learn more: The Best Class