Mar 31 2009

The Better to Hear You With

Students use portable media players to practice and improve reading fluency.

Fluency, the ability to read text accurately and quickly, is an important skill for first-grade readers because increased fluency can improve word decoding and comprehension.

To help students become cognizant of their own fluency, we have them record themselves while reading, using a portable media player and a microphone attachment. They also use a rubric to score their fluency level.

Lesson Description: This is an ongoing lesson that continues throughout the school year. At the beginning of the year, we discuss reading fluency as a class and how it can help us become better readers. Then we create a grading rubric together.

A student recording station should be set up and should include a portable media player with a microphone attachment, grading rubrics and a reading passage. Students are responsible for recording and grading their fluency on a reading passage at least once per week. The portable media player allows for easy storage of each voice memo.

You might also want to set up portable speakers so the entire class can hear the recordings. We choose a few random recordings to listen to and grade as a class each week. This leads to discussion about how well the student has met each indicator on the grading rubric and allows for reflection by the class as a whole.

Subject Area: This language arts lesson is designed for a first-grade classroom, but it can be adapted to any grade level.

Curriculum Standards:

  • Arizona Technology Standard 3TF2: Use prescribed technology tools for data collection and basic analysis.
  • Arizona Reading Standard S1C5. PO 2: Read aloud with fluency in a manner that sounds like natural speech.


Grading Rubric: The grading rubric is on a full sheet of paper and is available to the students at the recording station. This year, our fluency rubric has these indicators:

  • I read the words quickly as if I were speaking.
  • I read the words accurately.
  • I read the words with feelings.

The rubric is in the form of a table and contains each of these indicators, with corresponding pictures and a section where students can mark if they accomplish each indicator during the reading of the weekly passage.

Teaching Tips:

  • Make sure that students know how to operate the recording equipment before they use it independently. Thorough instruction on using the equipment will take some time, but it’s worth it to get the best result.
  • Walk students through the process the first time they use the portable media players. After a couple of times with assistance, students typically can teach one another how to use the players.
  • Designate a tech assistant in the classroom. This is a student who can help other students troubleshoot technical difficulties, freeing the teacher to continue working as students solve their own problems.
  • Be sure you provide several examples of how fluent reading sounds. Students will benefit from hearing fluent reading on a daily basis.