3, 2, 1…. READ!!!

Growing Independency and Fluency

by: Bailey DeBardeleben

Rationale: In order to increase fluency in reading, students’ focus should be on reading faster, smoother, and with more feeling rather than on accuracy.  As students’ fluency increases, their comprehension grows—helping them to enjoy reading more.  It has been proven that practice makes perfect and that the more you practice reading, the faster the students can read.  Helping students read faster is a key component to increase comprehension understanding as well.  This lesson will help students increase their reading fluency through charting one-minute reads.  The lesson also includes a review of an effective decoding strategy students should use when they don’t know a word.


1.      Class set of What Will the Seal Eat? By Cushman and Kornblum with marks after every ten words

2.      Class set of laminated banana tree illustrations with words per minute written on them and accompanying Velcro monkey

3.      One stop watch for every pair of students

4.     Paper and pencils




1. Say, “Before we begin our new lesson, who remembers the way to figure out a word you’re having trouble reading? … Good job, we use cover-ups.  And what part of the word do we want to look at first? … right, the vowel.  After we find the vowel, we add in the beginning sounds and then the end sounds to form our word.” 

2. Say, “I’m going to figure out this word as an example of our vowel-first cover-ups (write the word dog on the chalkboard). First, I’m going to cover everything other than the vowel up. Okay, this vowel says /o/. Now I’m going to look at the beginning- d. D says /d/. So far I have /d/ /o/, that’s /do/. Now the end—it says g. G says /g/. So /do/ /g/, dog. We must remember to use the vowel-first cover-up method when you need help figuring out a word.” 

3. Say, “It is important to become faster at our reading because the faster we can read the more we can understand what we’re reading and we’ll like reading better. Now we’re going to work on reading faster.  Have you ever noticed that the first time you read something it sounds broken up and slow? It kind of sounds like a robot?” Demonstrate reading the sentence—“He jumps on the bed”—very slowly and haltingly. “He- jumps- on- the- bed.” Then say, if you read that sentence again it sounds better. Demonstrate reading the same sentence a bit faster. “He jumps- on the-bed.” Say, the more you practice—the faster you get, and you can add feeling and different voices. Read the sentence one more time, this time with more expression. “He jumps on the bed!” 

4. For the book talk hold up the book What Will the Seal Eat? so that everyone can see the front cover. Ask, does anyone know what seals eat? Acknowledge all responses, but don’t give away the correct answer. Say, well, this seal is having a really hard time figuring out what he is supposed to eat! Let’s see if he ever figures it out. Pass out one copy of the book and one banana tree chart and monkey to each student and allow a few minutes for students to read the book silently. 

5. Next, have students get with a partner. Pass out a stopwatch to each pair of students. Explain that students should take turns reading and timing one-minute reads. Show students how to quickly count the words by using the marked spots in the books to count by tens. Say, by moving the Velcro monkey after each timed read we get to see how much better we’re getting at reading! 

6. Have each student take out paper and pencil to record how many words per minute he/she reads during each timed read. Have each student do four one-minute reads. 

7. Walk around the room as students begin, making sure everyone understands the process. Continue monitoring students as they engage in the fluency activity. 

8. For assessment, have each student write their name on the paper with their words per minute recordings on it and take them up.  Compare the words per minute of the first read to the last read to measure progress. 

9. Encourage students to choose a book from the classroom library to read several times at home, and then show their family how well they can read.  Mention that the next day you’ll be eager to have a few volunteers read their book to the class. 


Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  (2005)  Teach Decoding Why and How.  Pearson Education, Inc.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.  p. 154

Cushman, Shelia and Kornblum, Rona.  What Will the Seal Eat?  Phonics Readers.  Educational Insights, 1990.

Johnson, Leighton, Speedy Monkeys


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