Reading fluency bridges the gap between sight words and comprehension

Reading fluency is what bridges the gap between Dolch sight words and reading comprehension. Teaching reading fluency with various fluency activities leads to the ability to read for meaning. Spending the time to improve in this area is time well spent as it is a solid investment in the development of comprehension skills.

Once children have acquired a sight vocabulary through the use of sight word games and word walls it is time to begin reading the words in sentences. Many teachers are unaware of the importance of this activity and do not spend enough time helping children make this transition. Others know of its importance but are unsure of what to do. Once again, as your veteran teacher and mentor, I am pleased to be able to share what has worked for me and my children.

Word Walls to the Rescue - Again!

Remember that it is important to begin with something students already know. In this case, thanks to all the practice you have provided and the games you have played together, they know two or maybe three lists of Dolch sight words. They are also familiar with word walls so this is an excellent place to begin working on reading fluency because these tools are now in their context. (There's that word again.)


To make the leap from reading individual Dolch words to reading them fluently in sentences, focus first on action words. Verbs are the heart and soul of every sentence and studies of sentences should always begin with them. Teaching children about action words builds the foundation for reading comprehension because knowledge of subjects and predicates is vital in order for children to understand what they are reading.

Ask children to help you build a word wall of action words, things they can do. Go through Dolch lists they have learned and let them help you pick out the action words from that list to make a word wall of just action words.

These are fun walls because you can have children act out words for the others to guess. My students never get tired of this game, and there is a lot of laughing so good learning chemicals are being released and learning is linked with emotion which is a win-win combination.


When students have some experience reading and acting out words from the "Action Word" word wall, tell them that in sentences, somebody has to be doing the actions. This is a good time to tell them that reading is never boring because somebody is always doing something!

Allow students to help you build a subject word wall, beginning with their names. This again places that wall into their context so they are actively engaged from the start.

Point to a subject word, then a predicate (action) word to form simple (and sometimes silly) combinations. Having a card with "s" on one side and "es" on the other solves the problems of agreement. (I folded an index card and put it on the end of a ruler so I could hold it up to the verbs.)

Second graders love it, and they are on their way to becoming fluent (smooth) readers by learning to read sight words in the context of sentences as well as learning the basics of subjects and predicates which are key to comprehension.


When students have experience with simple subject/verb combinations, Dolch word phrases may be added to the subject and predicate word walls.

Dolch provided a list of the 150 most frequently used phrases which you should write on sentences strips and separate into categories: subject phrases, predicate phrases, and modifying phrases.

Assess and take down words from the subject and predicate (action words) word walls and replace with subject and predicate Dolch phrases. Now when students make silly sentences, they can choose a modifying phrase to add color to their sentences.

It works really well to have pastels for subject and predicate phrases and more vibrant colors for modifying phrases to provided visual cues that phrases add more color to sentences.

Practice makes fluent, and children love taking turns with the various "cool" pointers while all the while building reading fluency.



Children love to take words off the word walls which is why it is important that most of them are within reach and accessible. Allow them to build their own sentences for fluency practice in the following game.

  1. Send students off to find a verb and bring it to you.
  2. Verify that each word is, in fact, an action word.
  3. Send them back to get a noun to do the action.
  4. Allow them to finish the sentences with other wall words.

I provide a "word bank" also to which students can come for an additional word that is not on the wall. The, a, and an are "free" words and they may get those from the bank as well.

Sentences made with words from word walls to develop fluency

Sentences made with words from word walls

Word walls to introduce subjects and predicates for comprehension help

A great way to introduce subjects and predicates

Creating sentences from word wall words

More sentences from word wall words - the sillier, the better!

Once students have practice in reading sentences fluently, they are ready to go on to Reader's Theater and other Reading Fluency Activities along with strategies including the use of a red dot for helping children read smoothly across the midline.

Go to Reading Comprehension Activities from Reading Fluency

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Oral Reading Fluency Percent of Increase, 2010-2011

Reading Fluency Strategies
Reading fluency strategies should include fluency activities related to practicing words on walls. Once children have mastered most of the Dolch sight words, it becomes all about practice, practice, and more practice to build fluency.

Reading Fluency Activities
Reading fluency activities build reading fluency which leads to improved comprehension skills. Choral reading of poetry and partner reading are two effective strategies for improving reading fluency.

Teaching Strategies for Reading Fluency: Using a Red Dot
One of the most effective teaching strategies for reading fluency is the use of a simple red dot. Of all the fluency activities and strategies I have used in teaching reading fluency, it is one of the most successful.

Readers Theater
Readers Theater is one of the most effective reading fluency activities. Readers Theater scripts are readily available, making teaching reading fluency easy and affordable.

Children Writing Stories
Children writing stories to read themselves is one of the most powerful reading fluency strategies. If they write it, they will read it so teaching the writing process is important to reading.

Strategies for Teaching Writing
The most reluctant readers will read their own stories and poems as well as those written by their friends. Holding a school wide celebration of writing is fun and helps give children the practice they need to build fluency.


Practical Management Strategy

When unacceptable behavior occurs, ask students to "rewind" and to handle the situation more appropriately. Children need to know how to work out problems as a family, and giving them a "do-over" is actually instructive as well as constructive.