How do I improve reading fluency?
An experienced ESL teacher asked me this question: ‘I am preparing a lesson on accurately reading words, sentences and phrases out loud. My pupils are 14 years old. What activities can you recommend for this Shelley?’
This question isn’t only about reading fluency, it is also about speaking fluency since this teacher would like students to be able to read well out loud. I would recommend reading the passage many times until it becomes fluent. After all, practise makes perfect. For variety try having the kids read it out in a high pitched voice, boys and girls. Then someone else reads it in a very low voice, someone else with sadness, another in a panic. It’s a bit of fun and is an excuse to review the same passage over and over without getting bored.
Students could also work in pairs and repeat the passage to different rhythms. This is quite challenging and takes some practise, but it’s brilliant for fluency. Check the game CHANTS in the Teen/Adult games book for a full description of that idea.
Have everyone read out the text with a fixed rhythm in the background. Use a metronome or have the class or a partner clapping rhythmically as the beat. Students are free to fit the text into the beat as best they can. Some students who are musical will do this well naturally and for others, it will be much harder. If you try this yourself first, you will see that it is excellent for encouraging fluency, as one is often obliged to run many words together quickly to fit into a beat.
Be sure to do a clear demonstration first using a slow beat and a then a faster one.
The pace of the beat should not be too fast. One beat per second is quite slow, and you could use this for beginners. Here are some examples. The syllable in bold indicates where the beat falls, which is when the other students clap.
This is one syllable per beat. You don’t want this, as it is dreary and too slow.
This is much better, and students have to say the word ‘dialogues’ quite quickly to fit it into the beat.
This is far more musical – the student has started on the upbeat with ‘give’.
Remember repetition is the mother of skill, and this game makes repetition a fun challenge.
Thanks for reading!
All the best
Shelley Ann Vernon