by Helen Beyne
Are you looking for activities to boost your K–4 students’ reading fluency or ways to extend and enhance your classroom reading centers? Do you want to plan a special event to celebrate your students’ developing reading skills? Use the online resources and technology ideas below to help students build fluency skills and get excited about reading.
Expand students’ opportunities to listen to fluent readers.
Record yourself reading a variety of texts, put audio books on iPods, download ebooks, or invite parent volunteers or older students to record themselves reading class favorites. (Fluency expert Dr. Timothy Rasinski has put together a great list of titles, “Fabulously Famous Books for Building Fluency.”)
In addition, create classroom listening centers where students can listen to examples of fluent reading online. Two excellent sites—both free—that feature celebrities and authors reading classic picture books are Storyline Online and Online Storytime. Encourage students to notice how readers vary their voices and pace to read expressively and portray different characters. Help them understand that reading fluently is more than just reading fast.
Have students read along with online text.
Set up an independent or partner read-aloud center where students can see online text as they hear it read. In addition to downloading ebooks and reading apps, give students access to free online resources such as those at PBS Kids, Starfall, Reading Is Fundamental, and Scholastic’s Listen and Read. The sites include a wide variety of genres, engaging music and visuals, and easy ways to pause or hear a word or sentence repeated multiple times. Students can do repeated assisted or independent readings, timed or untimed, until they can read accurately, expressively, and easily.
Have students record themselves reading.
Hearing themselves read aloud can be a great motivator for many young readers. After students practice reading a poem or brief passage several times, invite them to a recording center to record themselves. You can choose from a wide variety of recording options. For some classrooms, an inexpensive tape recorder with a microphone makes the most sense. Other teachers and students might use apps, software, or web platforms like Audio Memos, GarageBand (see Using Garage Band to Work on Fluency video), Audacity, Audioboo, or Evernote (see Increase Fluency with Evernote video).
Have students—alone or in pairs—listen to their recordings, evaluate their fluency, set new goals, practice some more, and then re-record. When students are happy with their reading, you might upload the recordings and feature these podcasts on a class or school website, store them on class MP3 players for classmates to enjoy, or email them to parents.
Plan a special reading performance.
Showcase your students’ increasing fluency by having them read orally for an audience. Knowing that they will be reading aloud might be just the thing to keep your young readers motivated to practice reading. Below are several ideas for class-only, grade-level, or all-school events. And don’t forget—all these performances could be recorded and transformed into podcasts or become part of students’ digital portfolios.
- Reader’s Theater: With a focus on expressive reading, gestures, and facial expression, these dramatic presentations provide wonderful opportunities for students to develop fluency. Choose a script that fits your students’ interests and talents—from the budding actor or actress who enjoys the spotlight to a shy or struggling reader who would prefer being part of a chorus. Find reader’s theater resources and free scripts at PBS Kids, Reader’s Theater Scripts and Plays, and Aaron Shepard’s RT Page.
- Book Talk: Students share their ideas about a favorite book—what it’s about, why they like it, and so forth. Have students read aloud a brief passage that illustrates a key event or illustrates the author’s writing style.
- Poetry Read: The short lines and interesting sounds and rhythms of poetry make it a great read-aloud choice. Two helpful online resources for using poetry to develop reading fluency are the Shell Education Podcast The Poet and the Professor: Poems for Building Reading Skills and Kathy Norris’s Performing Poetry: A Study Guide for Teachers at PoetryTeachers.com.
Helen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.