4 Fabulous Tips to Build Reading Fluency in 4th – 6th Grade

Looking for some awesome tips to increase your students’ reading fluency? It seems that so many tips and strategies on improving fluency are geared towards early elementary grades, but I’d love to share with you some strategies that work really well in grades four through six.

Reading fluency is often thought of as the ability to read fast. However, it’s important to keep in mind that accuracy and expression are also equal components. Fluent readers sound natural, as if they are speaking. When students read fluently they do not have to concentrate on decoding the words. They can focus their attention on the meaning of the text. They begin make connections as they read. Basically, they are able to recognize words and comprehend at the same time. Building a student’s reading fluency is important otherwise they will be left with little understanding of the actual meaning of text. Reading fluently provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension, so how can we help students build it?

1. The Partner Read

Pair up students and have them take turns reading a text. The students can also read the text together/chorally.  You can pair your students by listing your class in order from highest to lowest according to reading ability.  One way to do this is to divide your class list in half.  Pair the most advanced reader on the first list with the most advanced reader on the second list. Continue pairing them up until all students have been matched with a partner. (If I have a student who is severely struggling, I have their partner read to them and occasionally stop at smaller words for the struggling reader to add in.) It’s also important to note that each pair should be reading a text that they do not find so difficult that it is frustrating or one that is entirely too simple. In my room we call it finding a “Goldie Locks Book”, or one that is just right.

2. Motivation & Progress Monitoring


Graphing fluency progress can be super motivating! I complied a resource to help monitor reading fluency progress and motivate students. With this system, it’s easy to strategically monitor and set goals using “reading fluency thermometers”. One of the best parts of this resource is that you can use it with ANY fluency practice passages. I like Read Naturally passages because they are numbered for words per minute at the end of each line, leveled, nonfiction, and provide a few comprehension questions. My 5th & 6th grade classes practiced fluency daily and recorded their progress on individual graphs in their binders. We would update our data wall thermometers each week or two.

If you decide to turn it into a class competition, a friendly one of course, prizes can be awarded to ‘most improved’ rather than the ‘best’ or ‘fastest’ reader. Here’s the resource I use to provide several different ways of monitoring their progress as they improve their reading fluency!

3. A trip to the theater – Reader’s Theater that is!


Kids love reader’s theater plays.  With fluency as the goal, all of this reading aloud is sure to make a difference in their reading progress. Practicing reader’s theater scripts is a fun way to build reading fluency in the upper grades. When the scripts play out famous Greek Myths this practice becomes interdisciplinary combining reading fluency, vocabulary, public speaking, and social studies!

4. Poetry Performance



Another way to disguise fluency practice is by holding a “poetry slam”. Limericks, rhyming, and even non-rhyming poems contain assonance and alliteration that make poetry a perfect medium for fluency practice. You can offer your class a variety poems to choose from. Books such as “Where the Sidewalk Ends” offers many of the kid classics they’re bound to enjoy. You could also have them write their own (another great way to throw in that interdisciplinary element). Reading fluency is built through practice, so allow them plenty of rehearsal time before they are asked to preform before the class or a small group.  Click on the picture to see a poetry unit I put together that helped my class understand and compose different types of poetry.

What are some other ways that you improve reading fluency in your fourth, fifth, and sixth graders? I’d love it if you share them in the comments below.  Thanks for stopping by!

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