Showing posts with label fluency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fluency. Show all posts

How I use games to increase students' phonics word level fluency

I sat with my grade level team, reviewing this month’s oral reading fluency data and they could not stop asking me how I moved my group. 

In a word – games. 

The team had decided to work on accuracy instead of words correct. (I’m not sure there is a great way to increase reading fluency but okay I’m in.) Sometimes starting small is way better than not starting at all and this group has never ventured into the world of using one's data for anything. 


This year, grade-level teams are working with our Coach to create monthly data-based goals. We just started using Benchmark Advanced, so teams are looking at all the reading data and making a decision on a long and short-term plan. (For most of the teams I work with–this is the 1st time they have really looked at and done anything with their classroom data.)

This one, as much as I’m shaking my head, I can see a place where I can layer in additional fluency work at the word level with their students and not sacrifice fidelity.

Over the years, I have moved the oral reading fluency scores in a variety of ways. I have never found something that works with most of the students I support for reading.  From repeated readings to focusing on specific words, nothing works for all the students in a group. 

All my reading groups this year are OG. I live and breathe OG, which means there is a precise lesson plan and very little room to add “other” things. I’m not sure how many really get this. This year, teachers want me to fix everything. 

I use Yoshimoto. I really love the flexibility it gives me. I dislike the amount of flexibility it gives me but I can lay out each group's scope and sequence and add my “others” as I need to. Mind you within reason. 

Last year, I began working in very specific game days to target word-level fluency. These days tended to be on Fridays (aka Fun Friday).  When a Game Tub in tow, students played Crocodile Dentist and Squeaky Squirrel.

Slowly, the sounding out loud stopped. The confidence in the learning target increased. Slowly, the syllable understanding increased. And then the accuracy scores changed. Then the big daddy of them all, the iReady Phonics scores started to move. 

Now, was this all by adding game time to their practice do this. I have no way of knowing. But what I do know is that if students are engaged and motivated then everything falls into place.

Reflecting on this growth over the summer, led me to add phrases and sentences based on the skill being taught. You can find my game pieces in my store to begin building self-confidence, language skills, and word-level fluency in your students.

My students do have their favorites but I make a point to rotate them about every month. 

The cool thing about all of the game pieces is that it is super easy to differentiate the cards depending on who is in the group and what each student needs to work on. 

Nothing like being able to stack the deck. lol

ROAR–CVC, CCVC, CVCC is built using pictures to support the words from Smarty Symbols but you also get cards with no pictures.

You can play with just CVC or CVCC with and without pictures.


When I have a group working on Five and Six sounds. I pull out Melt. Then students can work on real and nonsense words. You can add easier words to build fluency or a couple of compound words to make it more interesting.


If it’s a Monday after a long weekend, I like to play Crocidle Dentist. You have to set a timer or the whole time is gone before you know it! It’s a great way to build just fluency before he closes his mouth. This game is perfect for a quick push to help students move from sounding words out aloud to a more grade-appropriate strategy.

Click on any picture to check them out for yourself. Your students will love any of them. 

What games do your students like to play?

Chat soon,

How I Increased Reading Fluency Scores

I have to brag, she beat her self-created sight word goal not just once but twice. She has DOUBLED her sight word knowledge since returning from summer break. 

She is a second-grade student who has struggled with her self-confidence when reading and just learning how to read for the last year.

She represents the students I teach reading to every day.

  • No self-confidence 
  • Beginning reader
  • No strategies
  • No sight word knowledge

Oh, but unlike others, they have increased their sight word knowledge by 50% in 15 weeks. They have self-confidence and strategies when approaching an unknown text. And classroom teachers, are seeing these changes when they are in guided reading.

How did I do this?

Most of the students I see during my day are beginning readers. Technically this means students reading Levels A-E. For students to read the book more than twice and NOT have the whole thing memorized, is a whole different problem.  (If you have looked, just like I have, then you know it doesn’t exist.)

Passage Reading with Sight Words to the RESCUE

These passages pick up where guided reading leaves off. My students love the fact they can read 90% of the words so they can focus on their reading fluency.

Each passage starts with a one-minute cold read. Students graph their score.

When you come back the next day, I help them practice the passage as many times they want before timing it again.

Students keep the same passage until reaching mastery. [Chick here to get yours.]


It works because students are placed in reading passages at their independent reading level. This means they are not struggling with every word like they would in most reading fluency passages.

I have written about Repeated Readings in the past as I create interventions--using John Hattie. My students love them and see each reading as a challenge to beat their score from the previous day. Tieing repeated reading with students doing their own data tracking has doubled their sight word scores and their grade level reading fluency scores.

Student’s get tripped up on the sight words and can practice them without having to worry about the remaining text.

The Sight Word Cards are a way to quickly practice 5, 10, or 20 sight words. Each card is just for five days. [grab your here]

Max does his card as soon as he comes in. He started with reviews his personalized sight word deck of 10 cards and then moves right into his Sight Word Fluency Card.

He has struggled with learning his sight words since first grade. He never thought he would learn to read; let alone learn to love it!

I love that students graph their own data. This creates ownership and by-in. It builds self-confidence. It builds a love of reading.

I do all this fluency practice at the end of my lessons because it only takes 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, I get daily progress monitoring of IEP goals, plan reading instruction, and build fluency.

By providing students with daily sight word fluency practice where students track their own data so that their instructional reading levels increase. Hattie's data adds evidence to what has become my go-to addition to their core intervention program.

In my district carry over back to grade level curriculum is HUGE! If it doesn't close gaps or classroom teacher don't see progress--you can forget about holding the course.

For those last ten minutes of group I spend focusing on reading fluency and sight words, I have seen a growth in sight words, self-confidence to attack more difficult text, and growth on grade level reading assessments.

My Classroom teachers are reporting student spending less time in their guided reading text because students are demonstrating solid decoding accuracy that has improved reading comprehension.

Chat Soon,

Appy Hour Tuesday: Reading Fluency

We all have a love-hate relationship with reading fluency. Though all students benefit from fluency work, focused activities like repeated reading (for the millionth time) especially help struggling, word-by-word readers, word callers, and readers who sound fluent but lack comprehension. (Does your need some freshening up like mine?--KEEP READING)

As a whole--struggling readers have spent more instructional time learning decoding skills at the word level than reading connected text. Meaning??? Because of all hard word put into accurate word-by-word reading readers are using all their mental energies during a first reading, struggling readers benefit from activities that require them to do a second, third and even fourth or fifth reading. Hence why repeated reading are so important but get soooo boring for students as they focus on the sound of the language and the meaning. In this way, their reading becomes smoother and they continue to build comprehension skills.

Repeated readings also help word callers--readers who are skilled at decoding but do not focus on reading words in an expressive way to show what the text means. Having them practice the same text, their mindset changes from just getting through the reading to actually making sense of it through presenting it aloud in a meaning way.

What does this have to do technology?

Well?? What it is: 16 cute faces that react to sound, for example by opening their eyes and mouth wider, varying their reaction to correspond to the volume of the sound: The louder the sound, the greater the reaction from the faces. The length of the reaction also corresponds to the sound: The longer the sound, the longer the face is held in reaction mode. This app is free and it works on iPhone, iPad and iPod-touch.  Oh and it's super fun to watch the faces change in response to sound!

Some specific examples (not an exhaustive list):

  1. After going over intelligibility strategies of putting stress on each syllable and exaggerating each sound, practice a word list, starting with some automatic ones like days of the week, with the goal of getting maximum reaction from the app's faces for each syllable (not trailing off). Accuracy can be measured by how many of the words got equally strong reactions from the app's faces for each syllable.
  2. Practice phrases and mark the stressed elements with prolongation and increased volume, as measured by the reaction from this app. The list of phrases could include ones. The emphasis on the word different words should be apparent from the Bla | Bla | Bla app's reaction to volume and duration. 
  3. And repeated reading

Check out the poetry work using Bla Bla Bla by my students this year

Visual indicator of volume and speed can help pace and shape prosody. Affecting these characteristics of speech has been shown to increase fluency (using metronomes and delayed feedback all provide auditory feedback on pacing and affect prosody, but visual feedback, in the form of pointing to a word being read for example, has also been shown to be effective). Therefore using visual feedback such as this app to increase awareness of prosody and pacing to shape fluency is within supported reason, so to speak.

Want more AppyHour to use with your students?? Check out my FREE Email AppSmashing Course.


Until Next Time,

P.S. Did you grab your FREEBIE--it's perfect to use with Bla Bla Bla!!

Wilson and Fluency

I recently made some group changes.This is not the groups first year of Wilson but have not moved beyond book 1. My district expects students in Wilson to move at a pace of about 3 books a year--making this a three commitment. In many cases by the time we get to Books 6 and 7 their needs change and no longer need to be in the program.

Wilson is a balancing act between accuracy and fluency. If you know that the student can read the word without making a mistake then you don't have them tap it but if you have doubts than you have them tap it out. But you also have to make sure they don't become overly reliant on tapping--at some point towards the end of a sub-step you have to have to cut them off. That's where this group is. They have become SO reliant on tapping that even words that they should know they can't read without tapping them. This forces them to spend way more time on a sub-step than they need to because they don't learn to trust themselves while reading.

Helping students move to becoming fluent reader at each sub-step means building in a little extra practice for them. Like a fluency games help while doing word cards or while reading sentences. I have found that students need more than just this practice. So, I give then a fluency "ticket out." It is either word card in strips of three or phrases. The set below was designed with this group in mind and focus on reading phrases in Sub-Step 1.3. I also use the Fry Phrases as well with students. It takes then a try or two get all the strips read fluently. I also break apart sub-step sentences into phrases and do the same thing with. 

Have a great week. The countdown has started to the end of the year.

Sight Words and Fluency

A couple of years ago my school created a kindergarten through four grade benchmarking norms for reading sight words. We have a list of five hundred words that we think that all our students should know by the spring of their four grade year.

What we don't have in writing is what does sight word fluency sound like. In the Wilson Reading System, fluent is a no more than 2 seconds a word with the first thing that comes out of your month counting. So, in talking with my special education team, we decided that if a student could read this list of 500 sight words correctly with the first thing out of their month counting taking no more than 5 seconds a word that we would consider that fluent.

To do this, I created a Google presentation that flashes the word for 5 seconds and then moves no to the next one. I did this 1) so I wouldn't have to time the student and 2) so it could be used with fidelity with the same idea being used with all our identified students or students needing their sight word fluency check. We also created benchmark scores for grades Kindergarten through Fourth grade with recommendations for Fifth and Sixth as to where to take students sight word knowledge. Have a great week!


Award and a Freebie

Just a quick note on this long (much needed) relaxing weekend away with my family. I was surprised this past Friday to be awarded with being one of the Top 25 Special Education blogs by Teacher Certification Degrees. To thank my followers and fellow Blog Hoppers, I  have posted my latest High Frequency fluency game here for the next 72 hours for you. Up Against the Wall is a student favorite and great to send home to play with parents. I hope you have an great long weekend and a great first week in September.

Sorry this freebie is no longer available.

Award Time and Something Fun

Fun in First
I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award while on vacation at Monterey Bay, California. (One of my favorite places in the world.) Award first, then something fun.

I am totally flattered by Dana who awarded me this award!  It made my day! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my little blog. I was awarded Versatile Blogger Award from Dana at Fun in 1st grade. 

Here are the seven rules to follow when receiving this award:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.  
2. Include a link to their blog.   check!

3. Include the award image in your post.  check!
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself.   

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.  check!
6. When nominating, include a link to their blog.   
7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.  

Seven random facts about me-
-I grew up in California (love Monterey Bay).
-While in high school, I was an exchange student to Australia.
-While in college, I taught preschool.
-My younger sister is an Aerospace Engineer.
-I have complete 3 half marathons.
 -I’m the only red head in my family.
-I just finished my endorsement in early childhood special education.

And the Award goes too:

Last weekend I was playing at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I love this place for all the things they let you touch. They are such a family, learner friendly place, so worth the drive. Two of my favorite exhibits were the jellyfish and sea horses. Below is a video that I made to share. You will also find a freebie, inspired by jellyfish. Have a wonderful weekend.

Oh, by the way there's a sale on at my store. Stop by and check it out this weekend.


I have a couple of non-readers that have been working in Wilson the last couple of weeks. They have become strong, accurate readers and ready to begin working on reading those words fluently in sentences. These sentences contain the words they have learned plus the sight words they have been taught. The color coding helps them know which words they can't sound out. These sentences allow me to ask questions about what in going on the the sentence--such as "Is the lid hot?" I can ask them "What's hot?" Yes, this level of comprehension is basic but its at a level that they can decode and understand. For them is very cool. As their decoding builds through out the year, I add sentences that match the words they are learning to read, so their comprehension can grow. 
Just Words Unit 1 High Frequency Sentences

Just Words and Wilson Reading System

Both Just Words and Wilson Reading System are great programs from Barbara Wilson. I have seen first hand how these program can take nonreaders to fluent grade level readers. Granted it takes a couple of years. One thing they have always struggled with is applying sound/letter knowledge to reading and spelling nonsense words. Students have to be able to apply their sounds to letters so that they can decode unknown words. One game that I have created that they have been asking for more is a small group version of I have Who has for Halloween. It focuses on reading nonsense words from Just Words Unit 3 and Wilson Reading System Book 2. For more information about both of Barbara's programs check out her website at

I Have Who Has Just Words Unit 3 Nonsense

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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