According to the National Reading Panel, the four components of reading are: comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and alphabetics. As ESOL teachers we know how to teach vocabulary and comprehension, but fluency and alphabetics are terra incognita. So here, I introduce four classics and four more contemporary activities that focus on specific skill development in reading fluency.
Please note: All fluency activities occur after students have read the text silently and demonstrated their comprehension.
1. Read Along with a Teacher or a Recording
What: Students read along silently as they listen to the teacher or a recording of the text.
Why: Models fluency, expressive intonation and phrasing, and accurate pronunciation.
2. Echo reading
What: The teacher reads a phrase or sentence aloud and students repeat, imitating phrasing and intonation. To better hear their own voices, students can plug one ear.
Why: Models accurate phrasing, intonation, and fluency.
3. Choral reading
What: The teacher and students read together in unison.
Why: Provides support for weaker readers AND the whole class benefits from re-reading the text.
4. Paired Reading
What: In pairs, students take turns reading and re-reading the same passage to each other.
Why: Provides fluency practice in a supportive partnership.
Fluency Activities for More Focused Skill Development:
5. Mismatch Read Aloud
What: This approach was developed by reading expert Thomas Stitch. The teacher supplies students with a printed text and reads it aloud, occasionally substituting a different word for a word students see. Students circle the mismatched words. Note: The teacher substitutes words close in meaning, for example: pink for red, or location for place.
Why: Encourages fluency AND accurate decoding.
6. Timed Reading
What: Students read the same text from the beginning in short bursts (1-3 minutes). Students mark how far they get each time. With multiple re-readings, students get further and further along in the text.
Why: Encourages rapid reading, forces repetitive reading, builds automaticity in word recognition, and strengthens students’ confidence.
7. Recorded Reading
What: Students record themselves reading a text. They listen to themselves and record again until they are satisfied with their delivery.
Extension: The teacher listens to the student’s recording and marks errors in the printed text. The teacher records a model of the marked words or phrases so that the student can listen and record again.
Why: Encourages repetitive reading, builds accuracy, and requires students to self-assess.
8. Performance reading
What: In small groups, students prepare a performance of a poem, skit, story, or article. Students divide the text up into sections and practice reading their parts aloud to each other. Then students perform for the class.
Why: Provides a natural motivation for re-reading and lively expression.