5 Activities to Improve Reading Fluency in Pre-K–5 ELs

According to Reading Rockets, fluency is composed of three features: accuracy, automaticity,  and prosody. These features of fluency are regularly assessed in schools. It’s my opinion, however, that ELs can’t be held to the same standards as their English-speaking classmates while they are still learning English. Reading ability is not a predictor of reading comprehension in ELs (Lesaux & Crosson, 2010). Accuracy may not be a realistic goal for many ELs because they may have difficulty correctly pronouncing the words in a passage.

However, I think that activities that improve automaticity and prosody are very helpful to ELs, and it is worth providing explicit instruction to them to improve their fluency. It is my experience that activities that help develop reading fluency also improve oral language. Here are some strategies that help build fluency in ELs.

1. Teacher read-alouds. This activity is an effective strategy to help ELs develop fluency and improve reading comprehension. Although listening to a book on tape may be an effective strategy for native speakers of English, it doesn’t engage ELs. I find it is better to find websites with books that are read aloud as the students turn the pages and see the text and pictures. Read my blog 10 Online Resources to Improve EL Literacy.

2. Choral reading. This is a strategy in which a whole class or groups of students read aloud in unison. This is a great strategy for ELs who may be too shy to read in public by themselves. Teachers should choose materials that are on the EL’s reading level and that have short passages. I find that reader’s theater materials, poems, and short plays are great for ELs. Examples of lessons can be found at Improving Fluency through Group Literary Performance.

3. Echo reading is a strategy in which teachers read a short paragraph a word cluster or sentence at a time and the students echo or imitate the teacher’s intonation and expression. This is an excellent strategy for teaching ELs to read fluently and with expression. Here is a YouTube video that demonstrates how to echo read with children.

4. Partner reading  happens when two students work together to read an assigned text. Teachers generally pair emerging readers with good readers. This strategy works with ELs when the teacher pairs them with a partner who is patient and with whom  ELs feel comfortable.

5. Performance reading allows young readers to participate in a book that has memorable phrases that are repeated throughout the book and lends itself to gestures and dramatic voices. This is an excellent strategy for classrooms of young students in Grades pre-K–2.

Reading Fluency Resources for Teachers

Here are some resources for further information about reading fluency.

If you have other strategies that you use to improve your ELs’ fluency in English, please leave a comment in the box below.

About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and is the author and coauthor of eight books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress“ with Debbie Zacarian and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. She was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher" and is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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One Response to 5 Activities to Improve Reading Fluency in Pre-K–5 ELs

  1. Alexis Kiriakos says:

    This is a excellent post filled with useful fluency activities that will benefit our ELs. You pointed out how we need to take in consideration factors that may not be a problem for English speaking students. EL student’s accuracy may be affected by sound differences that may confuse students. For example some sounds in the English language may be absent in an EL student’s native language. This can lead to mispronunciation, like you stated, which can affect students accuracy and rate. The activities you listed have one important aspect in common: modeling of fluent reading. The teacher is either modeling fluent reading or the EL students is partnered with a strong reader whose fluency skills can strength the EL students understanding of what fluency readers should sound like. Through modeling fluent reading and repeated reading, we are helping our EL students become fluent readers.

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