Fluency Strategies: Phrase Cards
When you first learn to read, you really focus a lot on individual words and try to figure out what they say. But you can’t stop there. Reading only becomes interesting when you group the words together into phrases that mean something. Fast, smart readers don’t think about one word at a time. Instead they group words into phrases that mean something.
Take this sentence as an example: “I do not like green eggs and ham.” When you look at it, you see a sentence with 8 words. You will learn to break sentences down into phrases. The 8 words in this sentence can be broken into two phrases: “I do not like” and “green eggs and ham”. This helps you in two main ways. First, it helps you focus. Instead of worrying about 8 little words that don’t mean much on their own, you only have to worry about 2 phrases where the words are working together to mean something. In our example, the first phrase tells you what I’m doing: I’m not liking something. And the second phrase tells you what I’m not liking: funny-colored ham and eggs. The second way phrasing helps you is that it helps you read more quickly and more smoothly. Instead of having to move from each word to the next word you just move from one phrase to the next. In our example with 8 words, you go from having to move from word to word 7 times to having to move from phrase to phrase just once! Reading the sentence in phrases helps you focus better and read more quickly and smoothly.
Watch these videos of phrases being read to get an idea of what it sounds like to read a whole phrase at once rather than just one word:
Once you’ve got the idea of phrasing, you will start making your own collection of phrase cards. After each passage you read, pick 3 to 5 phrases to make phrase cards out of. Don’t pick the phrases with hard words in them. This practice isn’t about individual words. It’s about grouping words together to make phrases. Write the phrases down on index cards. Practice reading them as quickly and a smoothly as you can. Do this at the beginning and the end of each study session. Keep building up your pile of cards until you have about 25. Then you can start retiring the phrases that you’re reading confidently.
To get your certificate for this strategy, you have to show at least 25 phrase cards to a coach and explain where the phrases come from and why you picked them. If you are reading them comfortably as phrases and not as individual words, you can earn a certificate. If you want a special challenge, try to read all 25 phrases in under a minute.