Reading Fluency with Nonfiction Texts

When you think about fluency in reading, do you think dialogue, mood, and characters’ feelings?  I certainly do, but what about when students are reading informational texts?  Oral Reading fluency definitely looks different here.  One of the biggest differences I share with my students is that you rely on your own feelings and reactions instead of the characters in your book.  When reading fiction, you have clues like dialogue tags that make it easier for your expression match the mood and feeling of the story.  However, in nonfiction, your reactions to the reading play a more important role in reading fluency.  Maybe the fact is surprising, gross, or exciting.  When students read accordingly, their fluency improves, and it is very fun to listen to them read!  Let’s take a look and some teaching strategies and great mentor texts to help make this happen.

Improving reading fluency with nonfiction texts

Anchor Chart

This anchor chart provides students with guidance on what to look for when reading nonfiction.  One fun way to practice reading nonfiction reading fluency is to write a fact on the board.  Have different students read it like they are amazed, sad, or grossed out.  Students love practicing like this, and it’s always fun to hear the (often exaggerated) voices.  When you get to the bottom of this post you will find a free download for a fun set of voice cards that will help you easily integrate this activity with small groups or your entire class

Anchor Chart for reading nonfiction

Using Mentor Texts

You can use almost any nonfiction book as a mentor text for teaching reading fluency.  I picked a few of my favorites to share some great examples.

Books that follow a question and answer format make great fluency practice, and A Chicken Followed Me Home! is no exception.  The questions cue the reader to change the intonation of their voice.  The short snippets that follow make oral reading fluency practice quick and easy.  In general, question and answer books include some surprising facts that help students practice expression based on their personal reactions.

An awesome mentor text for fluency passages for elementary school
The question & answer format and amazing facts make this book an excellent choice for fluency practice.
Punctuation clues and surprising facts make this book perfect for fluency practice!
A great example of a surprising fact
Beautiful photograph enhance this book's ability to provide excellent fluency practice.
This book includes lots of facts that evoke feelings.

There are so many reasons why I love the book, Butterflies and Moths, but I will focus on fluency in reading.  Each page includes a sentence that is written in a different colored text.  This alerts students that they will likely change their tone in some ways.  Beyond the highlighted sentences, many of the facts in this book (as well as all of Nic Bishop’s books) evoke feelings which make it easier for the reader to add expression to their oral reading.

The text on this page is full of clues to help enhance oral reading fluency.
Phrases like "watch out for" and "leap away" are excellent fluency clues.

Keep Practicing

The most important thing students can do to improve their fluency in reading is to practice.  After reading silently, I like to have students share a passage with their reading partner.  The partners compliment each other.  As the year progresses, we work on making the compliments more specific.  I love hearing students go from, “You read with good expression.” to “I love how you made your voice sound scary when you were reading about predators.”

In addition to having reading partners check each other’s fluency, I also believe in self-assessment.  You can read about how on this post.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned some free voice cards.  All you have to do to grab these is complete the form below.  I will will be happy to email them to you.  Let me know which cards are your students’ favorites!

These voice cards are wonderful for oral reading fluency practice!
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