Friday, August 14, 2015

Building Fluency in the iPad Classroom

There are fewer tasks more important and less daunting than building fluency in young readers. Once a student has mastered the fine art of decoding and word attack skills, they are ready to move toward developing the fluency and stamina needed to tackle higher level reading comprehension.

It’s no secret that the key to becoming a more fluent reader is practice, practice, practice.  When I moved to first grade after teaching four years of third grade, I was suddenly finding myself at a loss for meaningful fluency activities.  I had felt for years that the activities I had completed with students were beneficial for my understanding of student growth, but had failed to provide the learner with activities that both enhanced their understanding of their learning while being engaging. 

I need to preface the following with this statement.  “Techy” that I am, I don’t believe in using tech for the sake of using tech.  Rather, I believe that we should always evaluate our practices for the BEST possible way to enrich our students’ learning.  I started to investigate and play with a few fluency activities that utilized our 1:1 student iPads. The following tips, tricks, activities, and thoughts will hopefully help YOU implement a successful, tech-fueled fluency program in your classroom! Enjoy. :)

The Power of the Camera

Students LOVE to hear and see themselves do just about anything, and teachers love to make assessment and grading as efficient as possible.  When you harness the power of the camera on the iPad, you can combine both of those desires into something pretty great!  Ask a student to read aloud to a teacher or classroom assistant and you will receive a mix of results.  Some students clam up and get nervous while others give an empathetic performance simply to “get it done.”  When you introduce the camera as their audience, things begin to change.  Students see a fluency reading as a chance to have power over their own assessment, and teachers are able to listen (and listen again if necessary) to their students’ reading whenever and wherever convenient.  The ability to listen, listen, and listen again to a fluency recording can hold tremendous advantage for both student and teacher.  Teaching students to listen for inaccuracies, automaticity, and prosody helps them become reflective and ultimately more fluent readers.  

Activity Suggestions  

Cold, Warm, Hot Reads:  Students record themselves on Monday reading a passage they have never seen, heard, or read before.  We suggest including the reading passage as well as recording chart within a digital interactive notebook using Book Creator (view a detailed post here or perhaps a digital fluency notebook.  Students can then read the passage and record an audio clip right in their digital notebook.  Students can also simply record their audio or video and send it to you however they share files in your situation (GoogleDrive, LMS, etc.)  They should repeat a reading mid-week (warm read), and a final read on Friday (hot read).  Students should analyze their growth alongside the teacher. 

Trio Readings:  Students form trios to read a shared passage be it a song, poem, fresh read, etc.  Two students read the passage together while the third member records.  Students should listen to their recording and share advice on how to improve their fluency (automacity, prosody, and accuracy).  The trio will then shift jobs and read/record again.  I witnessed students having meaningful conversations with one another about their reading when participating in trio readings.  Just having the ability to HEAR themselves read is invaluable.

Short Reads/Excerpts:  In this activity, provide students with short fluency phrases or excerpts.  Basically any fluency passage/poem/song under 30 seconds will do.  Using apps like ChatterKids, students add audio clips to fun images of their choosing.  For example, during Dr. Seuss week we read one particular book that was full of tongue twisters (great for fluency practice).  Students chose a tongue twister from the book, selected an image from KidRex (safe search site for kids) of the main character, and recorded an audio clip of the passage.  ChatterKids allows the user to draw a “mouth” over the image which will move to the rhythm of the recorded audio clip.  Kids adore ChatterKids and will flip for any fluency activity that utilizes it! This is a FREE app that can be quite powerful for a variety of activities in the classroom.  Check it out! 

For Struggling Readers:  Something that became quite amazing for students engaged in intervention exercises was the ability to individualize and tailor activities that target their weaknesses.  On Mondays, I would call students to my round table and work through our list of first grade sight words and common phrases.  Those phrases and words they struggled with went into a separate pile.  Together, the student and I created a personalized video reading and discussing their struggle-point words and phrases.  For the rest of the week, the students listened and whispered through the video first thing during intervention block.  On Friday, we would recheck for growth in word/phrase fluency.  I found this activity particularly powerful for ESL students who struggle with proper phrasing. 

It’s my hope that you have gleaned an idea or two that will help guide your fluency instruction in your iPad classroom.  I encourage you to utilize the resources and materials you already have and make them work for your students.  I always find that once my mind has been opened to a new avenue, the possibilities become seemingly endless.  

Happy Reading!



  1. I was pointed such type of topic since long but lastly nowadays my search is over and special thanks to you.

    1. Aww! That's great! Let us know if we can help you in the future! Happy fluency building!