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Fluency and Goal Setting for Elementary Students

By Dr. Leslie Haas and Dr. Jill Tussey

Fluency can be supported in many ways in and out of the classroom environment. As there are many elements of fluency, it is important for educators to focus on more than rate. The International Literacy Association (2018) states that “most definitions of reading fluency include three observable and measurable components: accuracy, rate, and expression” (para. 3). Supporting students in all three areas of literacy is key for educators to help students become fluent readers. Goal setting can be embedded in fluency instruction to help students focus on continuous improvement.

Reading Fluency and Goal Setting for Elementary Students

Elias (2019) shares that by “having communal, whole-class conversations about goal-setting creates a new mindset in students and fosters cooperation and mutual improvement because students’ goals are not solely their responsibility” (para. 11). By combining goal setting during fluency instruction and activity, student growth can be increased.

While fluency is a valuable element, there are negative views associated with this area of literacy.  Rasinkik (2012) shares “the first problem lies in the way that fluency is generally measured. Reading rate (the number of words a reader can read on grade level text in a minute) has come to be the quintessential measure of reading fluency” (p. 516).  As educators deepen their understanding that fluency is more than rate, the value is increased and fluency practices are more likely to be embedded in classroom literacy instruction.

Fluency Impacts on Comprehension

Fluency is a key component of literacy instruction for many reasons. Nieporent (2012) addresses the importance of fluency as it bridges between word recognition and comprehension.  It allows students time to focus on what the text is saying.  They are able to make connections between what they are reading and their own background knowledge” (para. 1). Students who struggle to read fluently often struggle with comprehension due to the higher energy spent on decoding rather than making connections to the content.

Fluency Practices

Fluency practices that can be added into classroom instruction include teachers model fluent reading, students model fluent reading, teacher read-aloud, student read-aloud, review key vocabulary, class or partner poems, and class Readers Theatres. Positive feedback is also beneficial for supporting readers. Gilfeather (2018) further shares the importance of positive feedback by sharing “reading fluently for some students is hard work, so it is important to offer encouragement and to recognize the effort they are putting forth (Gilfeather, 2018, para. 9). Goal setting can support positive encouragement when the focus is on student growth rather than only reaching a predetermined number or percentage. Educators and students can celebrate together as personal goals are met.

Sample In-School Activities to improve Reading Fluency


  • Students and teachers will collaborate to determine the weekly words per minute goal and record the goal on their chart.
  • Students will complete the  SuperSpeed 100  with their partners and record their numbers on the goal sheet.
  • Students can do the SuperSpeed 100 daily or weekly for progress monitoring.
Reading Fluency activities


  • Students and teachers will collaborate to determine the weekly accuracy rate goal and record the goal on their chart.
  • Students will read Sentence Tree cards and record how many words are correct out of the total words for each card and record on the goal chart.
  • Students can do the Sentence Tree daily or weekly for progress monitoring.


Readers Theater

  • Students can select a Readers Theater to perform.
  • Students will practice the Readers Theater in small groups during the week.
  • Teachers will record students during practice for students to review their expressions and rate before the final performance.
  • Students will perform their Readers Theater to the class or to other invited classes and adults.
  • 5 useful resources:
  1. 12 Fabulously Funny Fairy Tale Plays by Justin Mccory Martin
  2. Act It Out with Readers Theater by Kathryn Wheeler
  3. Ancient History Readers’ Theater by Robert W.
  4. Folk & Fairy Tale Plays for Beginning Readers by Immacula Rhodes
  5. Reader’s Theater: Fantastic Fables Set by Dona Herweck Rice, Kathleen Bradley, and Debra Housel


  • Teachers model fluency by reading the poem to the students as they follow along.
  • Students and teacher choral read the poem.
  • Students partner read the poem and complete a word study activity.
  • Students partner-read the poem to students from another class or other teachers.
  • 4 extra resources:
  1. 25 Fun Phonics Play for Beginning Readers by Pamela Chanko
  2. Green Beans and Other Silly Poems by Nancy Leber
  3. Leveled Poems for Small-Group Reading Lessons by Pamela Chanko
  4. Perfect Poems: With Strategies for Building Fluency by Scholastic Inc.

Sample Out-of-School Activities to Improve Reading Fluency

  • Readers Theater: Families perform a Readers Theater at home after the teacher has supplied the script. During the performance, families can take pictures so the student can share them with classmates.
  • Poems and Word study Activities: Families read poems together and then complete word study activities as a team. Word study activities can focus on rhyming words, synonyms, antonyms, and parts of speech.
  • SuperSpeed 100: Families can have contests to see how many words each partnership can read.
  • Sentence Trees: Families will create their own sentence trees.  After the sentence trees are done, the student will bring them to school and share them with classmates.


As educators focus on literacy instruction and supporting developing readers, fluency should be a continued focus due to its connection with comprehension. There are many activities that can be completed in the classroom to provide a variety of learning experiences for students. Educator resources, poems, and Readers Theaters help support teachers as they work to create a fluency program in their classrooms. Embedding goal setting and providing positive support while practicing fluency are also key components to supporting student growth in the area of fluency.

7 Additional Resources for Educators:

  1. 18 Fantastic Reading Fluency Activities to Build Literacy in Young Readers: Fluency activities for elementary educators to increase active engagement to utilize in the classroom.
  2. Florida Center for Reading Research: Student Center Activities: Several ready-to-use fluency activities for elementary educators to utilize in the classroom as well as share with parents.
  3. Top 10 Resources on Fluency: Links to additional information about fluency as well as fluency practices for the classroom.
  4. Your Complete Guide to Reading Fluency: Fluency videos, strategies, and lessons as well as suggestions for increasing parent involvement.
  5. Whole Brain Teaching: Reading: Letters & Phonics and SuperSpeed 100 to use in the classroom setting.
  6. World Literacy Summit Digital Library: Over +100 meaningful presentations related to the literacy sector 
  7. World Literacy Foundation Digital Library: Collection of eBooks, videos, and podcasts for children.