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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Foster Reading Fluency with Songs and Poems

As a classroom teacher, finding creative, new ways to foster reading fluency was always on my mind. Being in the primary classroom meant that so much of our day was centered around reading, so I was dedicated to finding new strategies to help my students succeed. Over the years, I came across one technique that was very effective and highly engaging to students! Ready to hear more? Let's chat about using songs and poems to foster reading fluency in your room! 

Use poems and songs to help your students develop important reading fluency skills in fun ways you can use all year long.

The Connection Between Reading and Rhythm

Before we dive into the strategies, let's talk about the backstory of this discovery. As a classroom teacher, it occurred to me that my students had no trouble remembering song lyrics.  They could quickly pick up new songs and chants and they could sing them over and over again. But yet, they struggled to remember sight words in reading. 

After some thought I developed a hypothesis. . . and it had to do with the connection to the natural rhythms found in songs, chants, and poems.

With fun poems, songs, and activities, along with the I Can Read Fluency Notebook your students will get meaningful reading fluency practice each and every day.If in fact, the use of rhythm helped students remember, then why couldn't we use that to help improve their reading skills? So, I gave it a try.  I started with a few of the songs and chants that we were already doing in our classroom.  Instead of focusing on them solely orally, I typed up the words and sent my students off with a challenge.  

In some cases, I asked students to find and circle specific sight words as they were reading. In other cases, I gave them a challenge based on a phonics skill we were learning.  And what happened next, was nothing short of amazing! 

Using the rhythm of the song, chant, or poem, students started interacting with the written word.  Instead of being intimidated by this page of words, they were excited because it connected to something they already knew.  They were able to use this knowledge to help them interact with the written words in a whole new way.

Use this I Can Read Notebook for each of your students on a daily bases to keep track of all your morning work activities that help build reading fluency.
That was it!  My trial run was so successful that I jumped right in and set up an I Can Read Notebook for each student. 

I decided that with the prior knowledge of the song, chant, or poem, students could work independently on these activities, so I chose to use them as our daily morning work. 

Any guesses on how well this strategy worked? Well, since I'm telling you about them now you can probably guess that it went really well.  I saw improvements in my students' mastery of sight words and phonics skills.  I also noticed that their reading fluency was improving.  

That was all I needed to make I Can Read Notebooks a staple in my classroom year after year. I've even had former students visit me to tell me they still had their "I Can Read Notebook" and remembered this activity vividly. 

Are you ready to hear all about the reading fluency notebooks and how they worked in our classroom? Let's dive in! 

Using "I Can Read" Fluency Notebooks  

After my little experiment, I was ready for students to interact with written words using songs, chants, or poems on a daily basis. I decided that the students would come in every morning and grab a "morning work" page for the day to add to the notebook. 

This I Can Read Fluency notebook includes poems, finger plays, chants, songs, and more.
Each day, their paper consisted of a poem, fingerplay, chant, or song we had previously learned. This is an important key to success. Remember, knowing the tune or rhyme helps kiddos draw from memory and triggers them to recall the words as they see them while reading.  

Since we had multiple songs, chants, poems, or fingerplays we were doing at any given time, it was not a problem to give them a new page each day.  

To start, I would have students read the page independently. Next, they would read again and complete the challenge of the day.  Some days this was to look for a specific sight word or two and circle them. On other days, they would look for words based on a phonics skill we were learning or a spelling pattern.  The idea was to get students working with the words on the page, looking at them, and reading them while connecting the written words with the tune or rhythm. 

They would finish their independent work by drawing a picture to illustrate what they had read.  This was a great way to do a quick check for reading comprehension too.

Working as a Group to Build Reading Fluency

After students worked independently and completed their morning task on their page, we always finished with a group reading of our page. 

Work on poems and song as a group to help build fluency with all of your students.
After our group reading, the students added their pages to their notebooks.  I used a 2-inch or 3-ring binder because it was easy to add pages all year long. You could also have students glue them into a composition book or spiral notebook.  Whatever you choose, just choose something that has enough pages to last the year. 

Teacher tip: Make sure to teach your littles how to open and close the rings if you use a 3-ring binder. Initially, this can be tricky (and painful) if done incorrectly! Plus, your future self will be thanking you for not being the only one in the class with this skill.

Finding Songs, Chants, Poems, and Rhymes to Boost Reading Fluency

It might sound difficult to find a new song, chant, poem, or rhyme for every day of the school year.  I promise - it really isn't.  Start the year off with songs and chants that your students likely already know. Those will be the first pages you want to use.  Then, as you teach new ones in class, you start to weave those into your I Can Notebooks.

Still not convinced? What if I told you there was no hard and fast rule that you had to do a new song every day.  You could use each page for 2 days instead of one.  On the first day, students will read, find target sight words, and draw their pictures.  On the second day, they can focus on a specific phonics skill and finish their picture.

The real goal is to tap into the power of the rhythm and to help your students connect that with written words.

Once you get started it won't take long to start building your collections of favorite songs, chants, and poems.  But. . . I'm also here to help you out. I wrote a post years ago about some of my favorite "sing-along" books that are an excellent source for your daily pages. Some of these books might be hard to find, but if you keep an eye out, you'll likely find similar ones! 

Use books like these which include songs and poems to build reading fluency in your students.
  1. Today is Monday by Eric Carle 
  2. You Are My Sunshine by Steve Metzger
  3. Howdi Do by Woody Guthrie 
  4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams
  5. Ten in the Bed by Jane Cabrera
  6. Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen
  7. Twenty-Four Robbers by Audrey Wood
  8. Way Down South by Rozanne Lanczak Williams 
  9. Down by the Bay by Raffi 
  10. Oh A-Hunting We Will Go by John Langstaff 
  11. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear by Michael Hague 
  12. Alligator in the Elevator by Rick Charette 
These are just some ideas to help you get started.  You can use these or any others that have.  Your school or local library is sure to have lots of options available.  Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to look too. And. . . a quick YouTube search will yield hundreds if not thousands of options. 

In my room, I kept these books in a bin in our library. The bin was labeled "songbooks" to help my students see that these books contained the chants we learned in class. Students LOVED picking them up and finding a familiar song or chant on the pages to read. 

Ready to Get Started?

I've put together everything you need to get started connecting written words and music or rhythm in your classroom. Inside the "I Can Read" Fluency Notebooks is a small collection of poems and songs to help you start this reading activity in your classroom. The pages included in this resource have songs like "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar" and a fun variation on classic songs like B-I-N-G-O. 

The resource includes cover page options for student and teacher notebooks. Use the included pages to begin and then add your own poems, songs, and chants as the year goes on. Just be sure to teach the song, poem, chant, or fingerplay before distributing your pages. This is crucial to success with this strategy! 

If you want to take a closer look at the resource, be sure to pop on over to my TpT Shop to check it out. I hope you and your students have as much fun targeting reading through song as we did!

Use this I Can Read Notebook resource for each of your students on a daily bases to keep track of all your morning work activities that help build reading fluency.

Save This Post 

This post contains information about my favorite technique to foster reading fluency in the classroom. Be sure to pin it on Pinterest to keep track of these ideas!

Use these exciting activities and engaging poems and stories to foster a love of reading in your students and build reading fluency all year long. Grab the I Can Read Notebook for reading fluency practice all year long. #tarynsuniquelearning #readingfluency #increasingreadingfluencywithsongsandpoems

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