There are a number of ways to improve reading fluency. Fluency boards are one, and they are a great tool for phonics practice.
Fluency boards are very adaptable. You can use them for targeting high-frequency words, a set of words with the same digraph or long vowel sound, or any other group of words you are focusing on. You can also vary the number of words on the board to meet your needs.
Fluency boards 101: basic use
Here’s how to use fluency boards.
1. Set up the board
First set up your board with the words you want students to practice. Start with a grid and fill in the words. You can vary the size of the board to meet your needs, and you can use all different words or a series of words repeated.
In the example below, the board has space for 20 words. I chose 5 words with the focus on the digraph ‘ck.’ Each line has the same 5 words but in a different order.
2. Practice reading
Read through the words with students first. Then have students read through the board once slowly, looking for accuracy.
3. Time and read
Tell your students they will read the words on the board until the time is up. If they finish reading the whole board, they should start again and read until the time is up. Time your students for 30 seconds while they read the board. See how many words they can read in that time.
Have students track how many words they can read in the allotted time. Every time they use the fluency boards, they should record how many words they read. This will help them see progress.
Variations on making fluency boards
As I said, fluency boards are very flexible. I often print out fluency board grids and laminate them. Then I can use a dry erase marker to create the fluency board I need. This process allows me to adjust fluency boards for certain phonics skills, different level readers, or particular words students need to practice. You could do the same thing with individual white boards.
Another way to create fluency boards is to print out the full fluency board with the words included. There is less flexibility as to what words you use, but you can make a set of fluency boards more quickly (and possibly more neatly).
You could even have students get involved with making a fluency board. Give them a grid and a set of words. Have them cut the words out and glue them onto the board. If students are able to write neatly, and within the confines of the box, they could create their own boards by writing the words as well. In this situation, check that the board is neat and legible enough before using it to practice fluency.
Using fluency boards for homework
Fluency boards are great in the classroom in phonics/literacy stations or for individual check-ins, but they can also be used for homework.
Want to keep it fun? Encourage students to read the words in any voice they want—a whisper, a shout, a silly voice—just remind them they are aiming for speed so their voice shouldn’t get in the way of speed and fluency.
Practice using fluency boards in class before you send them home so that kids know what to do and are familiar with the words. Students can use a watch, phone, or kitchen timer to time themselves, or they can have a parent or somebody else time them.
With your instructions for the fluency board homework, suggest reviewing the board before beginning timing, but let parents or other helpers know they should not interrupt to correct the student during the 30 seconds. They can review any words students stumbled over afterward.
If you are using fluency boards for homework, don’t forget to send a tracking sheet home as well.
Fluency boards and more phonics homework
Fluency boards are one tool in my kit for phonics homework. Mostly I like to mix it up, to keep it interesting for kids. That means lots of activities like:
- Draw and match
- Find the words
- Missing sounds
- Say and trace
- Jumbled sentences
- Roll and read game
- Tap it, map it, zap it
- Write your own sentences
- Word of the week
- Missing punctuation
- Reading & spelling 2/3 syllable words
- Synonyms and antonyms for words
Clear instructions for kids and parents make it more likely that kids will get it done and get something out of it.
I took all of that into account when I created Fun Phonics Homework To Last The Whole Year. This homework bundle includes 100 weeks of homework, ready to print and go. Each week contains
- 6 worksheets and games
- a cover sheet with explicit instructions for parents
- a tracking system for students to tick off the days they practice
Plus the bundle comes with teacher checklists to keep track of which homework packs students have completed.
Phonics homework just got easier. Check out all the skills covered here—and get your copy today!