Speedy Pen Pals!


Katherine Allsopp

Growing Independence and Fluency


Rationale:  To become fluent readers, children need to learn how to read faster, smoother, and more expressively.  Fluency refers to a student's ability to read words accurately and automatically.  This lesson will help students to read more fluently.  Students will be able to read faster, smoother, and more expressively through repeated readings, timed readings, and one-minute reads.  The more the students practice with text, the more fluent they will become.


Copy of Pen Pals for each student

Teacher copy of Pen Pals

Timer for each student

Pencil for each student

Dry Erase board and marker

Sticky notes

Speedy Reader progress chart for each student:

 Speedy Reader Progress Chart

(one minute timed readings)
First Read:_____(words)

Second Read: _____
Third Read:_____


1.  Explain to the students what they are expected to accomplish in the lesson.  “Today we are going to become more fluent readers.  To be a good reader, you have to be a fluent reader.  That means you can read fast without stopping and trying to sound out each word.  You can automatically look at a word and know what it is.  Once you can read fluently, what you are reading makes more sense.  The way we are going to work on being fluent readers is to read books more than once.  Each time you read, you will get faster, because you will be familiar with the book.”

 2.  Model how to be a fluent reader to the students.  Write the following sentence on the dry erase board for the students to see:  Ben can not get out of the pen to pet Ted.  Struggle to read the sentence to model what fluency isn’t.  “BBBeeenn cccaaannn nnnooottt gggeeettt out of the pppeeennn to pppeeettt TTTeeeddd.  Now I am going to read the sentence with fluency. (Read sentence correctly, but slow.)  Ben can not get out of the pen to pet Ted.  Can you tell the difference in the way I read the sentence?  Now I will read the sentence a third time, and by this time I will be able to read it faster.  (Read sentence correctly and fast.)  Ben can not get out of the pen to pet Ted.  By practicing, I was able to read the sentence fluently on the third time.”

 3.  Explain the activity to the students, and mention cross-checking when they come to a word they do not know.  “We are going to use the book Pen Pals to help us become more fluent readers.  Ben is a baby and he is in his pen.  Ben and Ted, hit cat, are friends.  Ben wants to pet Ted but his pen is in the way!  They yell for Dad but can Dad mend the pen? You’ll have to read to find out!  Don’t forget to cross check at the end of a sentence if you do not know a word.  If the sentence you have read does not make sense, re-read the it and see if you can correct any mistakes. That will help you to become more fluent.  If you come to a word you do not know, use a cover up to help you sound out the word by yourself.  First, cover up every letter but the vowel, then blend the beginning of the word with the vowel, and finally blend the end. Then go back and read the sentence to make sure it makes sense.”  Model how to read Pen Pals with fluency by reading the book aloud to students. 

 4.  Give students time to practice fluency on their own.  “Now that you know how to be a fluent reader, you can practice with your partner.”  Divide students into pairs, and give each student a copy of the book, timer, and sticky notes.  “We are going to take turns being the reader and the timer.  One of you will read the book while the other one times you.  When you are finished, switch jobs.  When you are reading, see how many words you can read in one minute.  The timer will let you know when to stop.  When it does, place a sticky note at the last word you read.  Don’t skip words, cover-up and cross check.  When you finish, count the number of words you read in one minute and write it on your Speedy Reader chart.  You all need to read three times and time your partner three times.”

 5.  Walk around classroom to make sure students are on-task and to assist with any problems.

 6.  Assess students to make sure they have made some improvement in fluency.  Call students to a table and make sure they have made some improvement on their Speedy Reader charts.  Listen to the student read the book one last time and check for smooth, fluent reading to compare to the student’s work with their partner.  Check for comprehension at this time to make sure they the book also makes sense to them.  Ask questions like:


  1. What was Ben in that he could not get out of?
  2. Who is Ted?
  3. Why were Ben and Ted yelling?
  4. Who fixes the pen?



 Cushman, S (1990). Pen pals. Carson, CA: Educational Insights.

 Brown, Mary Cox. Speeding into Fluency. http://www.auburn.edu/%7Emurraba/constr/browngf.html

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