Reading Teacher

Fluency Practice Games

Fluency Practice Games

Imagine a robot reading a classic children’s book: perhaps Where the Wild Things Are or The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. The robot’s voice sounds choppy, slow, and expressionless; and oddly enough, it reminds you of the way your first grader reads!


Many early readers are stuck in the “robot stage.” They can recognize and read many words, but their pace is slow and the expression isn’t quite right. In short: they haven’t developed reading fluency.


Today, we’re rescuing you from the robots. We’ll explain reading fluency, outline why it’s important, and offer five reading games that help youngsters practice this essential reading skill.

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What does reading fluency mean?


Reading fluency means the ability to read smoothly and accurately with speed, expression, and confidence. If you compare a kindergartner to a literate adult, you’ll probably notice that the kindergartner reads choppily and slowly.


Why is reading fluency important?


Reading fluency is important because it’s essential for comprehension. If children are slowed down by decoding each word, they have less brain power to focus on the meaning of the words and story.


As they build their vocabulary of sight words, learn to decode, and explore more book genres, young book lovers will blossom into fluent readers.


But how do we get there? The answer is lots of practice, lots of reading, and plenty of games.


Yes, you heard that right. Fun reading games are not only helpful, but 100% necessary when working toward the goal of reading fluency. Here are five reading fluency activities to introduce at-home, in the classroom, or even during the drive to soccer practice.


1.   Speed Read


When it comes to any educational activity, it’s important to remember that accuracy is always more important than speed. To achieve fluency, however, students need to gradually increasing their reading pace. Even as adults, some people read slower than others: the goal is to become a smoother, more confident reader.


For this reading game, you’ll just need a set of flashcards with decodable words. Lay one or a few cards out and have the student(s) read as many words as they can in a minute. This can be done in groups and doesn’t need to be competitive! Simply document the student’s word count each day so they can see their progress over time.

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2.   Echo Reading


Echo… echo! Many youngsters find it challenging to read with the correct expression or emotion. In this reading game, an adult reads a passage aloud with lots of expression; then, the student echoes their reading and tries to match the expression used.


3.   Poetry Party


Poems are a sneaky way to incorporate creativity and reading fluency practice into a standard lesson. Rhyming poems are perfect for building fluency: they help students see and hear the relationships between words in a sentence.


Similar to echo reading, have students read poems aloud after a teacher recites them; and in older classrooms, they can write and read their own!


4.   Look Ahead


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a WORD! Teach students to “look ahead” or preview the next word in the sentence with this simple reading game. To gamify this concept, you can create a silly worksheet or have kids draw arrows to the words they’ll need to preview. See below for an example!

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Image source

5.   Read Like You Speak


This is a simple strategy to avoid robot reading. Encourage kids to read like they are talking to a friend or loved one. To create the right “atmosphere” for reading, they can practice in a familiar space at home in front of a parent, sibling, or even stuffed animals. As an audience member, encourage the student to speak in phrases and stop for breaths - just like they would in an everyday conversation.


With these five reading games at your disposal, you can help your students increase their reading fluency - and bid goodbye to robot reading.

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  • Reading fluency is the ability to read with expression, speed, and accuracy. Fluency is essential for reading comprehension, and both are building blocks for lifelong literacy.
  • There are a variety of reading games to help kids stretch their reading muscles and improve reading fluency, including:
    • Speed Reading
    • Echo Reading (to practice emotion)
    • Poetry Party (to practice rhyming!)
    • Looking Ahead (at the next word)
    • Read Like You Speak

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

New Year, Same Science: 3 Goals for Improved Literacy Instruction in 2022

New Year, Same Science: 3 Goals for Improved Literacy Instruction in 2022

We’ve conquered more than one month of 2022: a remarkable feat for any teacher or caregiver working alongside a child in their early reading journey. With a pandemic, teacher shortages, and districtwide shifts in curricula, the age-old simplicity of cozying up with a book is more complicated than ever. To simplify the headlines, we outline 3 national goals for literacy instruction based on the science of reading, with timely insights from researchers and educational leaders in the field.

Literacy Instruction in 2022

1. Improve teacher training in the science of reading - for real

New programs in North Carolina, Missouri, Alaska, and other states are retraining entire elementary schools in explicit and systematic phonics instruction, phonemic awareness, and the science of the literate brain. Yet these efforts will be insufficient, writes reading researcher Molly Ness, if teacher training programs neglect the latest research on the science of reading. According to a 2020 review of elementary teacher training programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality, only 53 percent of those programs provided sufficient coverage of essential early reading components. Retraining teachers is a time-consuming and costly endeavor, which is why it’s crucial for higher education programs to train future teachers effectively the first time around. In addition to systematic phonics, science-driven teacher training should cover the linguistic structure of English and the evaluation of foundational literacy skills through various measures.


2. Adopt instructional materials that align with the science of reading.

New teachers trained in the science of reading often enter schools using outdated instructional materials, such as the Units of Study from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The resulting disconnect between teachers’ training and the materials they’re given is both disorienting and frustrating. Particularly for students learning English and/or students with learning disabilities, these older curricula fall short in the science of reading and may not provide sufficient text complexity in students’ first languages.

As high-impact individuals with the power to change curricula, district leaders can introduce research-supported reading curricula in their schools: among them, the Simple View of Reading. The Simple View of Reading states that students need to be able to decode, or read each word accurately and fluently, and comprehend the meaning of texts being read before progressing to higher-level reading skills.

Goals for Improved Literacy Instruction in 2022

3. Understand literacy as a social justice issue.

To best support each reader in a classroom, we must treat literacy as a social justice issue with the urgency it deserves. Poor reading skills are associated with increased risk for school dropout, mental health challenges, and barriers to employment and higher education, among other outcomes. Unfortunately, major reading gaps are visible in national data: the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Performance (NAEP) indicated that only 35% of all fourth-grade students performed at or above proficiency levels in reading; students of color, students with dyslexia, and other socioeconomic challenges are projected to perform at even lower percentages, especially since the onset of COVID-19. It’s critical to remember that students are not simply data points, just as reading is not a one-size-fits-all formula: there are humans behind these numbers, with complicated personal histories that intertwine with their reading journeys. Researchers maintain the importance of teaching students to decode words before moving onto more complex skills. When students crack that code, they’re more likely to continue reading and encountering more words, more places, and more narratives that both affirm and challenge their own.

Improved Literacy Instruction in 2022


  • Popular coverage of U.S. students’ national reading scores and associated challenges bring the science of reading into mainstream discussion, particularly as we navigate the educational challenges of 2022.
  • Insights from reading researchers illuminate 3 main goals to improve literacy instruction in 2022 and beyond:
    1. Improve teacher training.
    2. Adopt reading curricula that align with the science of reading.
    3. Frame literacy as a social justice issue with the urgency and care it deserves.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.