How to Begin a Fact Fluency Program in your Classroom... in 4 steps!

Setting up a fact fluency program in a classroom can be daunting- where do I store it all?  How do I keep track?  How do I determine if students are successful?  What do I do if they aren't making progress?

I have set up and run a fact fluency program in my classroom for a few years now, and while I was overwhelmed at first, I found that it's not as hard as you think to help students become fluent in math!  It just takes 4 simple steps to get your fact fluency program up and running.

Get Organized:

I find that everything goes so much more smoothly if I am organized before I begin anything, and that's especially important when running a fact fluency program.  Having assessments ready, keeping track of student data... it can be really overwhelming.  I personally use a two part system for keeping myself organized, and I find that it really works.

First, I printed out all of the testing originals for both addition and subtraction.  I like having the originals all in one place because then I don't have to find the file on my computer, print out the page I need, run down to the copy room to make copies... I just grab my binder when I need more copies and take it to the copy room, make all the copies I need, and put the originals back in the sleeve when I'm finished!  I hate trying to find things on my slow computer, so this works for me.

I used to keep the student assessments in the binder as well, but I found that having all those extra pages in there was a little less organized than I would like it to be.  So I decided to use hanging file folders in a crate to organize assessments.  And since I really love it when things are color coded, particularly in color order, I created tabs that matched the color of each level.  Inside the files for each level are the different assessments, the flash cards for that level, and copies of the reward certificate ready to go.  When a student passes a level, I can easily grab the next set of flash cards and the reward certificate, staple them to their completed assessment, and send it home!  It is also really easy to see how many more copies I may need of a particular assessment, and it's easy to slide them down in there once I've copied them.

It is also important for you to determine what fluency looks like in your classroom.  How long do they have to complete the assessment?  Do they need to get them all correct?  How many problems do they need to do- 25 or 15?  3 seconds per problem is considered "fluency" based on what I've heard.  I give my students the 25 problem sheet.  If a student does not complete 2-3 problems but gets the rest correct, I usually consider that "fluent" since it's above 80% mastery and let them move on.  However, if the student is making computation mistakes, I don't.  Of course, you will have to choose what works in your classroom!

Practice, practice, practice!

An important part of fact fluency is giving your students time to practice!  I always begin our program with a letter to parents letting them know that we are going to be using the program this year.  Attached to the letter is a copy of the 0s facts for them to practice with their child.  I usually give them a few days or so to practice their facts at home and in the classroom before we do the first assessment.  In the classroom, I like to integrate our fact fluency practice into our Fast Finisher activities, as well as math centers when appropriate.  Several of our Fast Finisher activities involve some sort of fact practice.

Flash cards: We began with the option of flash cards first- they are easy and since mine are color coded, the kids could just grab the color that matches the level they are working on.

Fact Fluency Flip Books: A second option for my students are Fact Fluency Flip books.  These are little books that students can grab and work on.  Each book contains 8 pages with 11 different activities for practicing facts.  For example, there is a page of number bonds, a page of number lines, etc... These are probably best for saving to use after you've taught addition strategies.  I have 4 different books for each level, so students can grab a different book each time they use one.

Games: I use lots of addition and subtraction games with my students that help to build fluency.  Most of these games are simple as well!  Games like Bump or Roll and Cover give students fluency practice while making it fun.  War is another fun game, where students choose two cards, add the numbers together, and decide who has the higher sum.  Other games where students are practicing adding together or subtracting two numbers are perfect for increasing fluency and providing students with practice!

Boom Cards: My students LOVE Boom Cards, and if you haven't checked them out, you should!  There are a ton of both free and paid options available both on the Boom website and Teachers Pay Teachers.

Hot Dots: Hot Dots are something my students love to use.  Power Pens are another similar option and the pens can be used interchangeably with the different card sets.  I got mine through Donors Choose, so if this is something your school allows, it's definitely an engaging option to check out!  There are addition and subtraction and Power Pens addition and subtraction sets that you can purchase.  There are also Power Pen stickers that you can purchase to create your own.

I find that having lots of choices increases student engagement and keeps them from getting bored using just one method to practice their facts.  If they're tired of Boom Cards, they can use Hot Dots that day.

Track Progress

Of course, tracking your students progress is important to continuing to increase fluency!  There are so many ways to track student progress.  You can do a whole class board where students move their name to the level they are on, or write their name on each level once they've passed it.  Or you can choose to make it a bit more private.  Or you can choose not to track at all!  In my Growing Fact Fluency pack, I've included tracking sheets for the teacher to use, as well as fun tracking sheets that the students can use to track their own progress.  I also have included sticker charts, reward tags, and certificates to both track and celebrate student progress!

Tracking also helps alert you to any difficulties a student may be having.  When I realized that two of my students were really struggling with making it past their 1s facts, I knew that I needed to work with them and give them more opportunities to increase their fluency.  I downloaded Boom Card games that just practiced adding one.  One student was not actually adding one and did not understand the concept, so I taught a small group lesson on how adding one is just counting up one more.  I have also included options for differentiating, so struggling students can be given the page with only 15 problems while everybody else has 25.  By keeping track of their progress, I was able to identify those difficulties and work on those particular skills.

Reap the Rewards

I am not usually one for extrinsic rewards, and generally my Fact Fluency program operates in that same manner.  For most students, knowing they've passed that level and are moving on to the next level is enough for them to be motivated.  That being said, I do think it's very important to acknowledge their progress.  I send home a certificate with the students once they've passed a level.  If possible, I send it home that day.  Attached to that certificate is the next set of fluency flashcards to begin working on.  I also move their clip to the next level on our bulletin board so they can see their progress.  They also get to move to the next set of Fact Fluency Flip Books, which they seem to find exciting.

You can choose to do any sort of rewards you want to do with this program, and that's one thing I love about it.  I've used this program different ways with different classes.  I have options for different ways to track and reward, including sticker charts and reward tags, along with the certificates.

Also, you can take the pressure off your students and not worry about levels, or tracking, or time, and just have fun with learning facts!  Play the games, randomly use the fact fluency assessments for fun, or don't.  All that matters is that your students become more fluent with their math facts and use them to become better and faster at math in general.  How you choose to approach that is up to you and what works best for your students.


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