The Little Children that Can!
Growing independence and fluency
Rachel Williams

Rationale:  Reading fluency is the ability to recognize words accurately, rapidly, and automatically.  When fluency is achieved, the reader hads the ability to recognize words automatically and to comprehend written text much easier than do readers who are not fluent.  It stands to reason that as the effort involved in decoding decreases, the reader can put more effort into comprehension.  Repeated readings allow children to practice with a familiar test until they are successful.  In this lesson, we want to emphasize the increase of reading fluency, accuracy, and expression through the use of timed repeated readings.

MaterialsThe Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, one copy of the book for the teacher, and one per every 2 students, fluency check sheet for each student, pencils, one stopwatch per 2 students.

1. “When we want to learn something, we have to believe that we can do it, and we have to practice so that we can do it well.”  Give examples of learning that comes from practice, such as sports.  “Part of learning to read is learning to read as fast as we speak.  Today we are going to practice reading more quickly, more smoothly, and with expression.”
2. “Listen to me read the same sentence twice.  Pay attention to which time the sentence is read more smoothly.  (Teacher reads a sentence from The Little Engine that Could). Now listen again as I read, and tell me which is read with more expression.  Good!
3. (Put children with a partner.)  I am giving each group a copy of the book.  I want you to listen to me read and follow along in your books.  Listen to the way my voice changes.  This book is about a little train engine that has to do a lot of hard work to get the toys across the mountain to the children.  The little engine truly thinks she can do it.  Do you think she can?  Let’s read and find out!  (Teacher reads aloud until the point in the story when the little engine decides to help.)  Now let’s all read the rest of the story out loud together.
4. Now practice reading with your partner.  (Give each student a fluency check sheet and pencil, and give each group a stopwatch.)  One of you will be the reader, and the other will be the timer.  The reader will read aloud while the timer times one minute.  The reader will then read again 2 more times.  On the last 2 readings, the timer will time again, and see if the reader remembers more words, reads faster, reads more smoothly, or reads with more expression.  The timer will write down their observations on the paper I gave you.  Like the “Little Engine,” I want you to believe you can do it.  The timer’s job is to tell the reader what they are doing right.  After the 3rd reading, switch jobs!  If you have trouble with a word, try the cover-up method.  Let’s review a cover-up.  (Teacher writes the word thing on the board.  Cover the th and nk to model.  Say /i/.  Uncover th.  Say /th/ and blend with /i/ to make thi.  Uncover nk.  Blend thi with nk.  Say think.)  I think you can do it.
5. Assess children by listening to their reading and making notes.  Let students take their fluency check sheets home to share what they have done.

References:  Murray, Dr. Bruce.  The Reading Genie:
Eldredge, Lloyd.  Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1995. p. 125.

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