Reading Fluency Strategies in Upper Elementary and Middle School

When you hear the word fluency, most of us immediately think about primary grades and DIBELS.

But did you know that fluency is a critical comprehension component in upper elementary, intermediate, and middle school? Students that struggle with their fluency, will automatically struggle with their comprehension abilities.

Let’s take a quick trip down Fluency Lane as I share my favorite ways to practice and review reading fluency strategies in upper elementary and middle school classrooms.

What is Reading Fluency?

Reading fluency is the ability for a student to read at the proper rate (according to time of year and grade level), the students’ ability to read with accuracy, and the students’ ability to read with prosody.

What are the 3 Components of Reading Fluency?

Rate: Rate refers to the proper speed: not too fast and not too slow. Students shouldn’t read like a robot, and they shouldn’t sound like the Micromachine Man from the 1990’s commercial, either. (Please tell me you know who I’m referring to.) The rate, or speed, at which a student reads relates to the grade level they are in and whether it’s the beginning, middle, or end of the school year.

Accuracy: Accuracy means students can correctly read the words on a page, with the fewest amount of errors at their grade level.

Prosody: Prosody means students are able to use correct tone, expression, and inflection in their voice to convey feelings and emotions of the text as they read it aloud. Students can correctly use the “stop signs” of punctuation to signal the prosody of their voice.

How to Improve Fluency in 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade and Middle School

Most of your students will fall somewhere between the 75th and 90th percentile in reading fluency at any given time during the school year. To help boost your classroom’s fluency and comprehension skills, here are 4 of my favorite reading fluency strategies for my students to practice that have proven to improve their reading fluency and comprehension skills in my upper elementary and middle school classroom.

1. Read Aloud Each Day

I know this sounds almost ridiculous to even type out and for you to read, but reading aloud to your students even 5-10 minutes each day is an excellent way to model fluent reading. Even better, show the students your book using a projector or YouTube video so they can read aloud with you. This way, they are seeing the words and punctuation. It exposes your students to new vocabulary and schema, not to mention kids just love to be read aloud to. Choose a chapter book or even picture books are perfect! I have a FREE list of picture book read alouds for 3rd-6th graders you can download that kids (and teachers) love!

2. Students Record Themselves Reading

One of my favorite assignments for my students is to record themselves reading their writing. First, this is excellent way for them to revise their writing. Secondly, their peers review their writing as well. Students give very specific feedback when reviewing their writing. They are to give 2 praises, and 1 way to improve the writing. The students write their 2 praises and 1 improvement, take a snapshot of the writing, upload it to SeeSaw and add an audio recording to the assignment of them reading their response. Again, this helps them practice their fluency as well. Then, they play it back and listen to themselves.

Also, another assignment I give to my students often is to record themselves reading a portion of chapter of excerpt of a passage that uses a lot of dramatic punctuation. This allows students to practice proper prosody. They record it visually and submit it through SeeSaw as well. Students give 2 positive comments on each recording, commenting on the students’ fluency. The students listen to their recordings, and can re-record as many times as necessary. Then, there is always a short comprehension question that goes along with what they have read, and typically, they have read it aloud 5 or 6 times, so they are able to use text clues to find the answer quickly.

3. Opportunity for Repetition and Repeated Reading

Exposure to grade level and academic vocabulary again and again will improve student fluency in the biggest way. Students shouldn’t just read an article or passage once; they should delve in, break it down, analyze it, and read it multiple times.

Daily re-reading of passages with longer sentences is important for students to build their fluency and comprehension. When students get ready to read a 3rd grade or 4th grade text, the sentences are more complex with bigger vocabulary and lots of punctuation. Not only should students be able to read the words with accuracy, but with prosody and an appropriate speed. They shouldn’t spend most of their time breaking down the words, sounding out the words, or trying to figure out what the words mean.

Exposure to prefixes and suffixes will build students depth of knowledge of words and their reading rate will increase as well as their accuracy. In turn, their prosody will improve because they will be able to comprehend what the author is conveying through the use of vocabulary in the text.

The best way to practice weekly repeated reading in your upper elementary classroom is through NF Article of the Week and Fiction Passage of the Week. I have created 2 different sets of passages that are perfect for building fluency, comprehension skills, and practicing finding text based evidence. The model for my Article of the Week and Passage of the Week is simple: Re-read the passage each day, modeling the reading of the text, focusing on the words in the text, using context clues, and morphology of the words. Here’s what it looks like:

I promise you you will love using these in your classroom. You’ll notice your students will become more confident in their reading abilities and they will grow in their fluency rate in no time.

4. Review the Fluency Expectations Often

Just because you have “big kids” doesn’t mean they are pros at anything yet, much less fluency as a 5th grader.

Look – just like you and I need reminders often of the speed limit *ahem*, our babies need reminders of the “Road Map” to being a fluent reader. No. Not every child. But most of them need weekly, if not daily, reminders.

Therefore, I’m sharing my simple print-and-go FLUENCY anchor chart FREEBIE with you!

This freebie includes: Anchor Chart printables, whole page printable, 1/2 page printables for student notebooks and 1/4 page printables for student notebooks

Simply print, cut, copy, and leave this anchor chart hanging for your students all year long to reference.

Reading Fluency Strategy Anchor Chart

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