The Power of Sight Word Fluency

I know, I know. ANOTHER post about fluency instruction. But you guys – it’s just that amazing and important. I am all about setting up a fluency station in your classroom so you can work on increasing vocabulary, math skills, life skills, and of course – literacy! Working on the accuracy and speed that your student can read words will improve reading fluency and as we have been talking about all week – will also improve comprehension. BONUS! #efficiencyforlife

Fluency is accuracy plus speed. We want our learners to have skills that can be produced quickly and correctly. A fluency program looks at the rate of performance – how many responses can the student produce within a specific amount of time. With a sight word fluency, we are looking at how many words a student can read or identify in a specific amount of time.

Expressive Sight Word Fluency

This is what we think of when we think about sight word flashcards. Students will read the words on the cards as the teacher flips through each flashcard. Set a specific time interval, start the timer, flip through the cards, put corrects on one side and incorrect on the other, and when the timer goes off end the interval. Provide practice and feedback on errors at the end. Easy peasy.

Some notes and tips:

  • Are you Dolch or Fry person? Or you have no idea what I’m talking about but now suddenly want some french fries… There are two main sets of sight words that people use. I have no particular strong feelings towards either set. I like that the Fry go higher in age but I have used both over the years.
  • Start at the lowest level of either list (pick one) when starting with a new student. Conduct a baseline assessment. If they get over 90% correct move on to the next level. Once you find a level where they get below 90% correct (and each correct word with read within 3 seconds), use that set for fluency instruction.
  • Set a aim for when to move to the next level. This is tricky to set. I try doing the fluency myself or with an age level peer. Or I look for a specific percentage of growth from when the student started. Ie. if the student started out with 10 correct words in 30 seconds – maybe I want 50% growth so to get to 15 correct words in 30 seconds.

Receptive Sight Word Fluency

No before you can even think about stopping reading this blog post because you are thinking, “my student/child” is nonverbal and can’t do this” WAIT. Because they can do this and they SHOULD work on this. You can work on receptive sight word identification by laying out the sight words like a grid (always use the same amount ie. always 8 cards or 10 cards). As the adult says the word, the student points to the word, and this continues until the timer goes off.

Some notes and tips:

  • Follow the same process I listed above for selecting the correct sight word sight and setting a mastery criteria.
  • Use a click counter (shown below) to track corrects and incorrects.

Increasing the speed and accuracy your students read sight words through regular practice within fluency instruction will have such a major impact on your students reading. And it only takes about a minute a day!


  1. Hi! What program do you use to create your beautiful visuals (ie. title pages of posts, lessons, etc)?

    Thanks Sasha

  2. I usually powerpoint, keynote, or photoshop!


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