Break up the mid-winter slump, and bring Fluency Boot Camp into your classroom!
What is a Fluency Boot Camp?
No… you will not be shipping your students off (sorry), nor will students have to march around the room (your choice), but I can guarantee that your students’ brains will be sweating as they participate in the classroom fluency camp you create!
Just like any boot camp, students will build confidence through practice and drills. You can organize it for just one day, or you can set it up to last a full-week or month! Keep in mind, after just one day, students will start melting-away their non-fluent reading habits… and by the end of the week or month, students will be on their way to becoming confident, fluent readers!
Are you sold on the idea yet?
How to Organize Your Fluency Boot Camp
Fluency Boot Camp can be modified and customized for pretty much any grade-level and classroom situation. You can set up your Fluency Boot Camp the way YOU want, in any form or style. Consider including overviews of fluency components, practice “drills,” and reinforcement activities. I will be sharing many resources to help you get started, but you may need to do a little exploring and research to create your program to meet the needs of your students. One boot camp does NOT fit all!
Here’s a Fluency Boot Camp Planning Page to help you get started!
Fluency Boot Camp Materials
- One group of willing soldiers… I mean, students!
- Reading passages
- Readers Theater Scripts
- Word/Phrase Cards
- Fluency Graphs
- Microphone (for audio recording)
NOTE: Digital stopwatches are preferred, however you can use an ordinary wall clock or hour-glass board game timers if necessary. If you’re looking to purchase stop watches, I would highly recommend ones that can count up and down. There are some great kitchen timers that do this! If you have access to a few computers, there are online stop watches too!
Optional (Fun) Materials:
- Whistles (ha!)
- Drill Sergeant Hat/Button (for the teacher, of course!)
- T-Shirts (builds-up community and team play when all students are dressed in the same “uniform”!)
- Survival Packs (including snacks & tissues for their sweating brains!)
What is Fluency?
Let’s start with what fluency is…
Fluency is the ability to read smoothly and automatically, with expression and attention to punctuation!
That’s my simple definition, but I really could expand it to include much more (i.e., prosody, melody, etc.). Do keep in mind, that accuracy plays a huge part in fluency, and students need to ask themselves the big three questions to monitor their reading: “Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?” Often, struggling readers have a hard time with fluency due to their self-monitoring and decoding difficulties (which can be addressed in small group intervention groups, separate from Fluency Boot Camp), and as a result their comprehension is greatly affected. Decoding, comprehension, and fluency all go hand-in-hand, so when one piece of the puzzle is weak, the other pieces may suffer!
Struggling readers are not the only ones who need extra support with fluency though! I have many on and above grade-level readers who have difficulty with fluency too. A few of my best readers have wonderful decoding and comprehension skills but are slow and methodical readers. Some of my other high readers read so fast that they stumble over their words or miscue left and right. Fluency is all about finding the “just right” balance of pace, phrasing, expression, and attention to punctuation (with accuracy to tie it all together!). It is an essential literacy skill to develop, which is why a Fluency Boot Camp is the perfect “intervention” for any classroom.
So are you ready to develop a Fluency Boot Camp that will be beneficial for ALL the students in your classroom?
I would recommend starting the first day with an overview of the major fluency components: Pace, Phrasing, Expression, and Punctuation. Each day (or week!) you can get into the “nitty gritty” of each component, with explicit modeling and opportunities for student practice. I would also send home a letter explaining Fluency Boot Camp with a fluency reference sheet attached so they can provide reinforcement as well. Perhaps you’ll want to tie in the daily homework with the boot camp activities, or perhaps you send home a book-in-a-bag and you’ll want the students to practice fluency with those!
(A great FREE student fluency resource to download from my TpT store!)
Online Tools & Resources:
- Fluency Chant (eledblog)
- Common Questions About Fluency
- Busy Teachers Cafe
- Read Strong
- Balanced Reading
- Reading Rockets
- Increasing Reading Fluency in Beginning Readers (article)
Before you go into the activities, I would create a Fluency Folder for your students to keep all their Fluency Boot Camp materials! The overview reference sheet can be page 1!
NOTE: For an easy-to-make folder, I usually laminate a large piece of construction paper and then fold it in half to create a colorful (cheap) folder that lasts. I punch 3 holes in it and use paper clasps to keep the papers in the folder. All my fluency activity sheets, graphs, reflections are 3-hole punched so the materials can go right into the folder.
Here are some printable folder labels you can put on the folders before you laminate!
The “Nitty Gritty” Fluency Activities
As I said in the getting started section, I would begin with an overview and then go into a full day (or week!) for each component. You can pick and choose which activities you integrate, so pick ones that will fit the learning styles and needs of your students.For each activity, make sure you model, model, MODEL! Whether it’s an independent activity or a partner one, students need to SEE what the activity looks like and what the expectations are for them. These activities are ones that are more effective with repetition, so be sure to implement them a few times during the camp. You may also want to bring them back later in the year for extra review and reinforcement! We all know students benefit from extra practice!
Pace = the speed in which you read
- The goal is to read at a “just right” pace
- Reading not too fast and not too slow
Speed Drills — Speed drills build fluency because they help students quickly recognize letters, words, word families, common syllables, and spelling patterns in multi-syllabic words (depending on your grade-level). Students love trying to beat their score, especially those who have an extra competitive gene in them! I typically do 1-minute partner drills and have the students graph their progress for each attempt!
Reading Passages (Cold/Hot Reads) — Cold and hot reads are perfect for students to see their progress in their reading pace after practice! A “Cold Read” is when a student reads a passage for the very first time (no practice). A “Hot Read” is when the students are warmed-up and have practiced the passage a few times. Students can time themselves or work with a partner! I have my students set a goal for themselves… typically it’s words per minute (wpm) range for themselves, so they have a number to shoot for! They color this range in or block it off with a highlighter on their graphs.
Download a sample fluency graph here!
(WPM = Total # words in passage multiplied by 60 (seconds), then divided by the total number of seconds the students read)
Online Tools & Resources:
- Word List Generator (Intervention Central)
- Florida Center for Reading Research (Word Parts & Words)
- Scholastic Teaching Resources (sample book pages)
- Getting Up to Speed (Resource Room)
Phrasing = Chunking the words together into meaningful phrases
- Reading in phrases and not reading words one.word.at.a.time.
Phrases are chunks of meaningful text and I usually start this day by introducing the three main types of phrases: Who, Did What, and Where/When/Add-On. I model different phrases and how to put them together in a meaningful sequence to make sentences. Students can then practice creating their own phrases using “Connect-a-Dot Sentences.”
(Here’s a free copy from my TpT store!)
Students can also practice phrasing through speed drills with sight word phrases (use a deck of phrase cards or the slide show below).
First 100 Fry Phrases (slideshow) for a computer speed drill!
Additionally, students can also practice phrasing by using phrase-cued text. Marking the end of phrases with a slash / or the end of lines with //. I also have my students “scoop” their words by underlining or drawing curved scoop lines under the words in each phrase (see student reference sheet above for an example). They then can trace the scoops with their fingers during reading for the first few practice reads. Eventually they should remove the finger scooping so it can become an automatic habit inside their heads!
NOTE: It’s important to make the connection between punctuation and phrasing here. Commas and periods are natural phrase markers and students should use these marks to help them read in meaningful phrases.
Online Tools & Resources:
- Florida Center for Reading Research (Phrases)
- Phrase-Cued Text Generator (Intervention Central)
- Learning About Phrases (Resource Room)
Expression= Reading with feeling in your voice
- Changing your voice to match a character
- Reading like you would speak (and not like a robot!)
- Moving your voice up and down
Readers Theater and Poetry are two great ways for students to practice expression (and tie in the components of fluency as well). For both types of text, students can apply expression and practice putting feeling and emotion into their reading!
Readers Theater is a reading play, of sorts. There is no scenery or intricate costumes involved, just students and reading scripts. I like to use puppets, hats, and props but it is not necessary. Students are assigned parts and can practice their lines independently or with their group. A performance can take place for students to “show-off” their amazing expression!
Poetry reading is a little less involved than Readers Theater activities, but just as effective! During regular instruction, you can integrate all sorts of word work and mini-lessons on poetry elements, but sometimes it’s perfect for just plain ole’ fluency! Students especially love reading silly poems , so this is a time to break out the Shel Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt. As long as students can control their giggles, they’ll love having time during Fluency Boot Camp to explore and read these poems… with fluency, of course!
NOTE: Practice is key with both, and students should read each repeatedly to build up good fluency.
Online Tools & Resources:
Readers Theater Scripts:
- PBS Kids
- Timeless Teacher Stuff
- Scholastic Readers Theater Props (free printable hats, glasses, and props!)
- Fluency A-Z (membership required)
NOTE: A great poetry book for your classroom is Partner Poems for Building Fluency Comprehension. It is listed for grades 4-6, but I’ve used some of them with my 2nd and 3rd graders as well. You can download sample pages here! A younger version can be found here, but I’ve haven’t check it out yet! **Check out some of my own partner poems here!**
Punctuation = Reading with attention to punctuation
- stopping at periods . . .
- taking breaths at commas , , ,
- making your voice go up for question marks ? ? ?
- showing excitement for exclamation points ! ! !
- using “quotations” to change voice for characters
Writing with punctuation is often a chore for students, but reading with punctuation can be fun! Tying right in with expression, students can practice using the different kinds of punctuation when they read. First I model what reading sounds like without punctuation. By the end I’m panting for breath and ready to pass out, since I didn’t pause once. Students get a kick out of this but it definitely proves a point. Sometimes I’ll give them a punctuation-less passage to try on their own. They can even “fix it up” after to make it sound right, putting in the periods, commas, quotations marks, etc.
I also love giving students a sentence like, “I love french fries” and having them read it three different ways:
I love french fries.
I love french fries?
I love french fries!
Students can practice making and reading their own sentences three different ways with a partner or small group.
Another activity to try, is to have punctuation cards for students to hold up while a partner reads a short poem or a passage. As students HEAR punctuation, they hold up the appropriate card to show they know which one was used. Students have to be careful readers when they read the poem/passage, and careful listeners when it’s their turn to hold the cards!
Online Tools & Resources:
- Fluency with Punctuation (Reading Resource)
- Looking at Punctuation (Utah Education Network)
- National Punctuation Day
- Reading Punctuation is Essential for Fluency (Smekens Education Solutions)
Podcasting — Students record “podcasts” or audio files of themselves reading. Students can record their before and after reading to observe the difference. After, they can reflect and set goals for themselves for the next time they read! (This is VERY powerful for students to listen to their own reading!)
Online Tools & Resources:
- Audacity(free audio recorder)
- Podcasting: Tips for Teachers
- RAZ-Kids (membership required)
Other Great Resources…
- HELPS (FREE comprehensive fluency program with many great resource links!)
- The Fluent Reader: Oral Reading Strategies for Building Word Recognition, Fluency, and Comprehension, by Tim Rasinski
- Fluency Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices, by Tim Rasinski
- Readers Theater for Building Fluency, by Worthy Jo
- Building Fluency: Lessons and Strategies for Reading Success, by Wiley Blevins
Here is a packet I shared with the teachers in my building that includes a list of these books and websites, along with additional ideas for Oral Reading Fluency Activities.
Don’t forget to celebrate student success (and survival!). Download these stickers for students to wear, and a printable certificate for students to take home! (Note: You can print it as a full sheet or two to a page under print options!)
You can even have an awards ceremony to hand out the certificates. Perhaps the students can vote on the students in the class who exemplified “Most Improved” or “Best Pace,” etc. Just be sure to make it fair and include all students somehow! We don’t want any tears in this kind of boot camp!
Also, a great follow-up to Fluency Boot Camp would be for students to reflect on their success and can even complete an “I can…” strategy/skill reflection sheet for fluency! Students can keep these in their Fluency Folders for future reference and reminders.
Hope you’ve found these resources helpful! Now it’s time to “Fall in Line!” and find the program that works best for you! I would love to see pictures or hear stories “from the trenches” about how Fluency Boot Camp worked out in your classroom. Please email me at email@example.com or share a comment below!
(NOTE: The resources on this blog are ones that I have used with my students grades 2-5. Many of the activities can be modified for younger students but not all may be appropriate. The ideas shared are just a starting point and not an exhaustive list. With that in mind, I would be happy to explore some options for your unique setting if you just email me or leave a comment below!)
If you are interested in bringing a Fluency Boot Camp into your classroom and would like additional materials and activities, consider checking out my “Fluency Boot Camp” classroom resource! This product has 70- pages of extra posters, activities, forms, and student materials
An additional product, with 50 pages of supplemental Word Lists and Speed Drill Materials, can be found here!
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