Fluency is a vital reading skill to learn in the first grade. Not only should reading fluency be accurate, but it should also require no conscious effort and fundamentally become a pathway to understanding. Fluency can be developed in young children through fun games and activities focused on recognition, practice, repetition and ultimately comprehension.
Word Wall Games
A word wall is a wall displaying a list of words that first grade students use regularly in their writing. It is a useful tool that can be used to introduce new words and improve a child’s fluency through a variety of games. For example, children can play bingo using words from the word wall that are pulled out from a container one by one. Have students play tic-tac-toe by dividing the class into X’s and O’s and writing words in each space on the board for students on each team, taking turns, to read aloud. When a word is read correctly, it is marked with either X or O and the first team to get three in a row wins.
Speed drills are exciting games that help young students build fluency. The idea is that students learn to recognize common syllables and spelling patterns in multisyllabic words quickly, which rapidly develops reading fluency. Compile a list of about 50 words and hand them out to the class. The list should include a range of words that have different syllable spelling patterns, including words with closed and open syllables, words with a silent e, such as complete, and words with two vowels that appear in the same syllable, such as boat. Have the children underline the syllable spelling patterns for each word. Get each student to read the words on the list as fast as they can, helping them to pronounce the syllables correctly.
Choral reading is a fun fluency activity for first grade schoolchildren. Reading aloud together in a group not only helps to improve fluency, but also self-confidence and motivation for class work. It also provides practice and supports those students who lack the confidence to read aloud on their own. Choose a short book or passage that is at the appropriate reading level of most students, repetitive and is not too long. Each child should have a copy of the reading material. Read through the book or passage initially so that students can follow and listen to model fluent reading. The group then rereads the text in unison, following the fluent example they have just heard.
A storyboard helps children recall events and stories in chronological order, assisting them with fluency. It includes six blank boxes for children to fill in with text and illustrations of a short story or event. Get first grade students to draw pictures of the main events in their chosen story. They could even use the storyboard to make up their own stories. Have the children discuss what they have done and tell the story in chronological order, using their storyboards as a guide.