Thursday, October 17, 2013

Teaching Fluency with Fluency Folders

Teaching fluency is so important for reading teachers, but in recent years, DIBELS and AIMSweb have put such a heavy focus that it sometimes confuses students.

We’ve all seen that kid who sits down to a fluency diagnostic and speeds through way too fast, getting a high score on the assessment but not showing good reading skills in the slightest! I’m sure we can all agree…


I think all these assessments are giving fluency a bad rap. It really IS important for our kids to be able to read fluently, and fluency diagnostics are used so often because, honestly, most kids who can read fluently (truly fluently, not just fast) really are better readers.

We just have to make sure that fluency in our classrooms means more than JUST a fast pace! I like to teach it as the right “PASE” instead. I like to break fluency into four parts: Pausing, Accuracy, Speed, and Expression! YES, speed is part of it- but no, it’s not everything!

The description of fluent reading that resonates the most with my students is “not reading like a robot,” but reading the same way we talk. I think modeling great fluency is the best thing we can do to teach it, but I also think we need to point out to our students what we are modeling. I teach each element of fluency as one “star” and teach it individually, using an anchor chart and giving the students their own bookmark. (Interested in a free copy of these? Read on!)


One of my favorite things about teaching fluency, though, is doing Cold/ Hot reads. You’re probably thinking that I’m crazy—after all, hot and cold reads emphasize speed. But hot and cold reads also emphasize how practicing reading helps you improve at reading, and when students see themselves improving (especially the struggling readers I teach as a reading specialist), it builds confidence in such a vital way and encourages them to read more outside of school.

With struggling kids, as long as their data is showing growth, I think it’s so important to show them the data! I am constantly looking for ways to show my students their growth (through data, recording their reading to let them listen, encouraging parents to share what they notice, etc.) because it shows them that they are making progress. I’m seeing some kids who have been coming for extra help in reading for 2, 3, or 4 years. They see themselves as bad readers and hate reading, but when they see that they are growing… well, it means reading isn’t just something to give up on anymore.

Plus, I can make sure that the instruction I’m doing for these kids is actually working! I like to track my student data in this folder. (LOVING Washi tape!)

IMG_0968       IMG_0988

So—hot and cold reads are great for showing improvement, but I feel the trick is to make them about more than just speed. My students set a weekly goal for their fluency in one of the four “stars” of fluency and focus on improving towards their goal- whether it’s speed, or something else! (You can see the top of the weekly Tracking Sheet with goals below!)

Then, after some reading time (free reading or a book sent home by me- because authentic reading is the most important thing!), they practice their passage once each night at home and, with the help of a parent, rate their reading fluency.  It’s quick—5 minutes at most!


I’ve also gotten great feedback from the parents on the materials that explain to them what fluency is and what activities they can do to work on it.

By Friday, the students get to be involved in tracking their own progress. (What kid doesn’t love coloring in a graph?)


This year, I’m using my Reach for the Stars fluency folders with my second grade group, but honestly, I could see even my fifth graders benefitting from it if our time wasn’t already booked! The folders purposely don’t include passages, because I wanted teachers to be able to choose the passages that work for their students and differentiate as needed, and the rate graphs have five different options to work for any kids you teach!


I know I am completely biased because I made these, but I love that these folders give students a focus on well-rounded fluency, while still only spending a few minutes daily on it.  The only thing that takes longer is the hot/cold reads on Monday and Friday, but in the past I’ve had parent volunteers help or had the students time each other in partners (so my pack includes clear directions for adults or kids!).


These fluency folders are brand new to my store, but I’ve been using most of the elements for 5 or 6 weeks now, and they are such a great solution for fitting fluency instruction into my students’ day! They include everything you need for setting up homework folders (which could also be used in the classroom with partners), everything you need to record your students’ progress, and materials and lesson ideas for teaching what fluency is.

If you liked the Four Star Fluency bookmarks, you can grab them in black and white AND in color for FREE just by downloading the file preview here:


This product is on sale until tomorrow (Thursday, 10/17/13) at midnight—so I hope you’ll check it out if you think it might work for your kids! :)


  1. This looks fantastic! You are so right, I had a first grader that was reading 90 something words a minute last year, but he didn't remember anything he had read. Being a good reader takes so much more than speed.
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  2. I love those bookmarks. I'm a huge fan of repeated readings to improve fluency. I have a little guy that I tutor after school doing something similar to what you have going on and he LOVES to see his graph grow :)

    Teach on a Limb

  3. What an incredible, thoughtful post and product! It's caring, intelligent educators like you that inspire me to improve! Thank you :)

    Mindful Rambles

  4. I do reader's theater. They get their script on Monday....and they reread all week as practice. (it it our morning work) They perform on Friday...we focus on all the same elements you do. Just another way to do it!

  5. Looks very cute but when I clicked on the preview it took me to the whole packet for $6 instead. Bummer.

    1. Hi Shannon! When you are at that page, there is a Download Preview button- I think it's under the picture. Click that to find the free bookmarks :)

  6. What a fantastic resource! Thanks for sharing about it.


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