Building Reading Fluency In Kindergarten

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Building reading fluency in kindergarten is one of the most important skills you work on in kindergarten and first grade. There are so many different aspects that go into fluent reading like sounds, phonics, and decoding that it can be easy to lose sight of the goal – helping students read with automaticity. Today we are going to share with you suggestions for those building blocks as well as some fluency activities (and a free printable too).

Keep reading more to learn about building reading fluency in kindergarten.

Check out these other related articles:

Read all Science of Reading articles here.

This article works well with these Simply Kinder resources:

What is Fluency?

Simply stated, a fluent reader is one who can read with accuracy, speed, expression, and automaticity. Fluent readers have moved from knowing letter sounds to segmenting and blending words and are now more automatic in their ability to read. Students that are reading fluently will read effortlessly, sound smooth, and have expression.

Not all kindergarteners will get to this level and that’s okay but here are some tips to help students move towards the ultimate goal of reading more fluently.

WORKING ON THE BUILDING BLOCKS

Students need to have a strong understanding of sounds, letters, and speech before they can be fluent readers. They also need to be segmenting sounds orally, blending sounds, and decoding with confidence. Think of these as linking the roots to a tree.

Important to note that even fluent readers are still segmenting and decoding words but are able to process them so quickly and automatically that it requires little brain effort.

Explicitly Teach Sounds

More and more research shows that students do better with learning sounds when going from speech to print. Let’s think about this, kindergarteners come to use knowing a ton of language and often not a whole lot of letters or graphemes or even their relationships to one another. So it makes sense to start with hearing and manipulating sounds orally first.

Students need explicit instruction on connecting those sounds they hear to print. They need to engage in rich activities that will help them to remember them. Average readers can take anywhere from 4-10 exposures and struggling readers can take many many more times to make those connections from speech to print sounds.

Using explicit instruction through a sound wall such as the one found in the Phonics and Phonemes Bundle here students will build that foundation for sounds. Read more about sounds wall in kindergarten and first grade here.

Building reading fluency

Building Reading Fluency: Teach Decoding Skills

The next step after sounds is putting those sounds together to decode word parts or even full words.

Going from speech to print, we start with blending or breaking down sounds orally before moving to print. Most likely you will already be practicing these skills during your phonemic awareness time so it will hopefully be a concept your students are already working on.

But now it’s time to add print. We do this by giving students activities using the letters and sounds they know to read (decode) and encode (write). This is an essential step in the progression towards fluent reading. Students need time and instruction to practice blending sounds and decoding words.

One thing you may not have considered is teaching your students the rules of English at this time. Did you know that no English word can end in the letters I, U, V, or J? Knowing this simple rule can help students understand why the word have ends with an e and not the letter v. Thus it makes a short a sound instead of long. (WHOA, right?). And yes, you should be teaching your students to decode sight words.

To get more practice on decoding in context with supporting activities check out the Decodable Readers with Word Work Activities here.

Building Reading Fluency In Kindergarten

Once students can do the above skills with automaticity, they are on their way to becoming more fluent readers. They are spending less brain energy decoding and thus have more energy to spend on reading for accuracy, speed, and comprehension.

But remember phonics instruction does not go away. Keep teaching phonics and English rules so students have a greater knowledge bank of our complex reading and writing system. (I don’t know about you, but I feel like our system is something you can learn about even as an adult).

Read-Alouds

Read-Alouds are an excellent way to build fluency in kindergarten. These are something you do from day one so we wanted to mention that this is an important part of learning to be fluent readers. Going back to that speech before print model, read-alouds are how we model fluency. Students need that explicitly modeling of what fluent reading looks and sounds like from teachers and other adults. (This is also a great time to practice comprehension which is a completely different skill). Incorporating read-aloud into a daily schedule will provide students with exposure to literature and modeling of smooth, expressive reading that they need.

Check out the list of read-aloud by celebrities and authors here

Choose Appropriate Text

Students should have the opportunity to independently practice text (books, passages, stories, etc) that address the skills they are working on. If you are working on CVC words, then your text should contain lots of CVC words to practice. Or maybe you are working on a specific CVC pattern? If so your passage should contain several words with that pattern and not a whole lot of other skills at the same time. These CVC passages should not contain digraphs or long vowels because those have not been taught yet. No matter what skill you are working on (digraphs, long vowels, etc), your passage should follow the above criteria.

Having a focus skill within fluency passages helps students notice these patterns and help themselves decode the text easier. That is how the Simply Kinder Fluency Passages with activities are structured. Learn more here.

It’s hard in kindergarten because many phonics patterns have not been taught yet. Have you ever opened a “decodable” book and it has words you know your students don’t know or have the skills to tackle yet? The goal is to practice reading words that students have been explicitly taught and don’t need to guess or use other clues (like pictures) to figure out.

Interactive Practice

Another great way for students to practice reading fluently is to record themselves reading and listen to it! When students listen to themselves read they are not only practicing reading but they are given the opportunity to listen back and hear if they sound fluent and that is a very powerful thing.

One way to do this is through our Seesaw activities preloaded in the Fluency Passages with Activities bundle here.

The fluency passages which are organized by phonics skills include voice directions for students to record themselves reading. This is great for students and teachers to listen to for fluent readers. Students can even discuss goals on ways they can improve their reading.

To see the Seesaw activities in action check out the video here:

Building Reading Fluency: Review, Review, Review!

Text review is a great thing! Rereading text, even if accuracy has been mastered, is still important when strengthening fluency. If students have worked through the text multiple times they are then able to read it more accurately, lots smoother, and with expression. This is a great time to increase their confidence in reading and increase their overall understanding of a given text.

Let’s Talk About Comprehension with Fluency

According to the Simple View of Reading the ultimate goal is to understand or comprehend text. At this point, students are reading more fluently, with more automaticity and that requires less brain energy. This frees up that energy to comprehend text. Now is a great time to talk about comprehension and start those activities with your students.

Building Reading Fluency: Simple View of Reading

To support comprehension skills, it is important to have verbal discussions and written activities following reading a text. If the text is not a good fit, you will hear it through their conversations and most likely see it in their written responses. And it is possible that if they are not comprehending what they are reading, they are not quite ready for that text. Maybe they are spending all their brain energy keeping up with the decoding? Just a thought.

Endless Fluency Passages and Activities

Fluency Activities for Kindergarten Comprehensive Package Bundle

If you’re ready to help your students grow their fluency skills, we have the perfect resource for you. Simply Kinder has a comprehensive fluency passages bundle that includes the following:

  • Short A/E/I/O/U (6 passages each)
  • Long CVCe A/I/O/U (6 passages each)
  • Recently added (ee, sh, th passages)
  • MORE TO COME!

In the bundle you will find the ultimate fluency activities for kindergarten: the passage, word cards, accompanying activities, fluency word tracking, take-home practice reading sheets, reading comprehension questions just to name a few! This file contains these printable options and you can also use it with your students on Google slides and Seesaw!

This comprehensive bundle has other sound patterns coming soon too! In addition, you will always have access to new resources added to it in the future. Check out this amazing bundle here!

Fluency Activities in Kindergarten Free Printable

Are you interested in our fluency passages bundle? Do you want to see if these would be a good fit for your students first? Well, you’re in luck! We have a free fluency passage set that you can grab right now. This is a great way for your student to practice their fluency skills both in the classroom and at home. 

Grab your free complete printable & digital set for short A: Bad Cat! Just enter your information and the Simply Kinder freebie fairy will fly that over to your inbox! Already a member? Great! Unlock your freebie here too!

This post was written by Lindsey Ward. Lindsey is a certified teacher with several years of teaching experience and a great love for all things Kindergarten and First Grade.

At Simply Kinder we work together to bring you ready-to-use resources to partner with great teaching for any curriculum, a Facebook community where teachers talk all things Kindergarten, and low-prep learning ideas that your students will love. Be sure to stay up to date with all things kindergarten on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and through email. Simply Kinder: where teaching Kinder is definitely better together!
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