LITERACY: 10 Free Technology Tools to Increase Fluency with Audio-Assisted Reading

Explore 10 free Web sites that can be used for increasing reading fluency with audio-assisted technology tools. There is something for everyone from toddlers to teens, plus a practical list of classroom management tips and ideas. FLUENCY is far more than oral reading; it is the bridge that takes students from decoding words to comprehending them. In fact, reading fluency STRONGLY predicts performance on state tests - across grade levels and states! [Educational Research Newsletter] Research consistently demonstrates that reading along with audio accelerates the reading fluency and comprehension of struggling readers, students with learning disabilities, and English Language Learners. [From Fluency to Comprehension, by Teaching Practices That Work]

“When a student reads aloud or silently with an audio text, the audio text serves as a scaffold for the students’ growth in reading with the inflection, voice, tone, and pace of a more skillful reader (Baskin & Harris, 1995).”  

Keep in mind that reading fluency is comprised of three component skills, or fluency indicators:  1) accuracy of word decoding,  2) automaticity of word recognition, and  3)  prosody of oral text reading.   Read more practical tips in this research brief by Marcie Penner-Wilger, a cognitive scientist.
  1. Lit 2 Go:  This extensive resource for texts online lists Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level readability levels for classic books and poems, Grades 1-12.

  2. Flocabulary’s multisensory approach of using music, rhythm, text, and rhyme wildly facilitates recall of grade-specific Tier 2 vocabulary words.  Pick your grade (K-8 plus SAT vocabulary) and rap it out during a FREE 14-day trial period.    NEW
  3. Storyline Online:  The Screen Actors Guild Foundation records well-known actors reading children’s books with graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just a click.  [Toddlers - Primary Grades]

  4. Wired for Books Kids Corner:  You can find audio files for many books here, including Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Alice in Wonderland, The Gift of the Magi, and The Wizard of Oz.

  5. Storynory:  Hundreds of free audio books for kids in many categories, such as Myths and World, Fairy TalesPoems, and Music.

  6. Folger Shakespeare Library:  Highlight the digital text in this library, and then use your computer’s “text to speech function” to listen along.  Look under #10 below for step-by-step directions to use your computer’s text-to-speech function.

  7. PBS Kids:  This is a nice collection of folktales and fables for young children.

  8. Reading Is Fundamental:  Toddlers and preschoolers can listen to a variety of books, rhymes, and songs at the site.  Children can also listen to books read in Spanish. The Literacy Resources section provides teachers and parents with current trends in education, down-to-earth suggestions on reading in the home, and no-nonsense strategies to improve children’s reading.

  9. Inkless Tales:  Select from a small collection of fictional stories for primary students, many of which use words from the DOLCH sight word list.

  10.  This is quite possibly the largest collection of kids' songs and nursery rhymes on the web, with lyrics, music, and videos.

After following these instructions, always remember to FIRST HIGHLIGHT the text that you want the computer to read to you.
After following these instructions, always remember to FIRST HIGHLIGHT the text that you want the computer to read to you.

Classroom Ideas to Consider   NEW

  • See how text-to-speech technology is used to differentiate instruction for three different fifth grade students over a period of eight months, as the teacher focuses on fluency and comprehension.  Also, note the section on “Overcoming Barriers,” page 2.
  • Pair PHONICS practice with FLUENCY practice using ABC Fast Phonics.
  • Create your own recorded versions of text for your students using the “record” feature on your favorite slide presentation program, like Powerpoint or Keynote.  
  • Use slide presentation software to document a student’s fluency growth over the year.  What an audible way to make learning visible!
  • Upper grade students can record books for younger students or fluent readers in the same grades can become reading partners and help to record popular stories, jokes, or silly song lyrics.
  • If a student is not supervised while reading aloud with audio text, the right kind of practice may not occur.  In addition to partnering students with others while reading,  let students track their progress to rate the accuracy, the pace, the phrasing, and the expressiveness of their reading.  “When students track their own progress using graphic displays, there is a 32 percentile gain in achievement.” Read more practical classroom ideas in this article by Robert Marzano, When Students Track Their Progress.
  • Classroom-created recordings can be made as a podcast, a VoiceThread, a slide presentation, an MP3, etc.
  • Take students out for a walk as they listen to text being read to them on any mobile device. 
  • Some teachers set up literacy stations with a timer and logs so that students can rotate through at least three times a week.  Don’t forget about using the “old” technologies like donated tape recorders, CD players, or older MP3 players.
  • Link to ideas for ways kids can help themselves boost fluency, how parents can help at home, and what teachers can do in class at Reading Rockets



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