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Senior Member
I'm looking for ideas to help my students improve in their oral reading fluency. Currently, we do guided reading groups twice a week so I can work closely with them at their level. I have assigned each student an upper grade tutor who comes in to read with them each day for 20 minutes. They also review their grade level sight words a few times a week. My aide pulls them and uses below level readers with them a few times a week. We just did our second winter fluency and still many are below benchmarks. What else can I do to help them? I encourage reading at home each night, but I know that it is not happening in many of these children's homes. Sadly I can't control that. Thanks in advance for any ideas you can share.


Senior Member
You are right to use below-level books to work on fluency with them. I learned a new activity in my last class that I want to try, and the experts have had a lot of success with it. First, though, the students have to have explicit instruction that reading should sound just like talking. They should have good, fluent reading modeled for them often.

It's called the Four-Color Pen strategy. Kids love to use those pens, so that's part of the motivation. This was used on 4th graders in my lecture, but I'm pretty sure 3rd or 2nd graders could do it too. The child needs a four-color pen, a script to read from that he will mark on, and a tape recorder. The student records himself reading a passage. Then he plays it back and marks any words that he didn't say correctly. Second time, he records himself reading again, and listens again, marking words with the second color of pen. Third time, again, and fourth time, using a different color each time. Students want to "beat" their old "score" and will strive to get more words right. The repeated reading helps with fluency and phrasing and inflection. The students who have done this also love to use markers to make a bar graph of how many errors in the first color, second, third and fourth, and see their progress.

I'm planning to find some time this spring to use it alternately with some kids in my groups. I have them do reading individually anyway, so it wouldn't make any difference to the group if two of them are off in the corners with my two tape recorders doing this. It sounds like something that will be well-accepted and help some.


Full Member
a question about this

Hi, it's me. This sounds like a fun idea but I think I'm missing something here (it's Friday afternoon and it has been a VERY LONG DAY). How will the student know if he/she read a word wrong. Sometimes when they hear themselves they will catch reading a word wrong because it doesn't make sense, but not always. I'm thinking of the students I have; while I'd love to try this, I just don't see it being successful for my students.

Here's what I could see happening with this idea, though. A student records himself reading a passage. Then, with the teacher or assistant, plays it back. As they listen together, they pause the recorder each time the student pauses or takes a breath, marks those words with a highlighter, then turns it back on to listen for the next phrase, then mark it with a different color, alternating back and forth with the two colors.

I think the best way to teach fluency is by modeling, using the words "make it sound like talking", and masking phrases. For younger students you can also write sentences on sentence strips, then cut them apart and have the children put it back together - in phrases.

Hope you can clarify your idea for me!



read plays

Read plays and do readers theater with your students. This allows them to have a purpose to reread something several times! There are lots of great resources out there on readers theater. It is ahuge boast to fluency.

I know it is hard, BUT I would try to do guided reading everyday. They need to have it every single day.

having reading buddies in lower grades is helpful too. have your kids read to kindergarten students once a week. Have them practice the "easy" books all week before they read to their little buddies. Encourage them to use expression and voice. This is great for the older tangled reader too, becuase they do not feel embarassed about reading a lower level text. Again, this gives them a purpose to reread.


Senior Member
Susan, (and others waiting for this answer) on the Four Color Pen strategy, they do catch most of the errors when they are matching what is said to what is written. They will miss some, but the point is that they are motivated to improve each time they re-read. I have noticed when I have a student use a finger to point to the words, and I say the words (incorrectly) as the student had just said them, they catch the errors about 90% of the time. The strategy isn't for a grade or assessment, but an activity for self-improvement. It isn't the only thing to use for fluency, but it can be a fun added activity.