Five Tips to Improve Third Grade Reading Fluency

During third grade, many students need more practice in reading fluency. Here are tips for teachers (and parents) to help students improve their mastery of reading.

Practice Sight Words

Spend time creating and going over common third grade sight words. The more words a student recognizes, the less time they have to spend sounding out the words.

It isn’t hard to find the sight words to use. All you have to do is go through your third grade curriculum and find the words that are used the most often. Generally your Grammar or English book should provide some of these words for you.

Take each word and write it out on a separate note card. Hold up the card to the class and have them shout out the word as soon as they know it. Do this before each day’s English lesson and soon the students will know the words by heart.

Note – you may find this strategy works best in breakout groups. Otherwise, you may end up with the ‘Star Readers’ consistently drowning out the students who truly need the memorization help.

Audio Books

Use audio books. Have your students read along in a book while they listen to the book being read on a CD, MP3 Player or other audio device. Hearing the way the words are supposed to be pronounced, as well as how they are supposed to be emphasized, will increase their reading fluency. This will also help with recognizing the sound of the word and matching it with the written word as they follow along. This reinforces sight words, by adding the additional element of hearing.

Buddy System

Give each child a time when they can practice reading to another student. This is called the Buddy System and it works!

Children are not as nervous to read in front of their friends as they are in front of the teacher. This exercise gives them the practice they need without the added pressure. The students are paired up in groups of two. Each student is given five to ten minutes to read and then the book is passed to their partner. The partner then reads for five to ten minutes. Do this exercise at least 3 days out of the week.

Note: This works best when you pair the students evenly, based on their reading ability. Before starting the Buddy System, you may want to ensure the class understands the guidelines of an inclusive classroom environment.

Speed Drills

Once the students are more comfortable with sight words, and the buddy system, practice some speed drills. This is when you give your students a list of words, and some time to go over the words and practice them. Then you time them.

Use a stopwatch and have each student see how many correct words they can read in one minute. Fluency is also about speed and accuracy and this drill will help students with both.

It would take too much time to do each child individually so pair your students up again. Have the first set of students read to the second set while you time them. Then have them count up their correct words and switch with their partner. Time them again and get their scores.

Optional – Time 4 Learning

This may not be an option for many families, however, it might be worth sending home a note with some information on the program Time 4 Learning. This is a website that is designed for use by homeschoolers, but can help any child improve in reading as well as math skills. The program uses online games to make reading fun and engaging. The cost is $19.95 per month for the first child, and $14.95 per month for each additional child. Children can then continue to practice their reading skills at home in a manner that they enjoy.

Average Reading Fluency

Third graders should be able to read 135 words per minute. Check to see if your students fall above or below that average and adjust your teaching methods accordingly.

Whether you chose to send information on Time 4 Learning, do keep in contact with the parents of your students and let them know why the students have extra drills and homework. Parents who may not understand the reason for extra work can get defensive and end up working against you instead of with you. Ask the parents for their help, and make sure they understand you really want to work with them to give their child the core foundation and lifelong skill of reading that he or she will need.

What strategies do you employ with your struggling readers? Post a comment and let us know.

Materials List

The above tips utilized the following items:

  1. Markers
  2. Sight Words
  3. Index cards
  4. Cassette, CD or MP3 Player
  5. Audio books
  6. Student ‘buddies’