A Day at the Poetry Theatre!

Fluency Reading Lesson Design

Kari Beth Freeman



To learn to read and spell words, students must not only learn that letters are symbols that stand for phonemes, or vocal gestures, but also use their knowledge of those letter sound relationships to decode and recognize words. However, this is simply the beginning.  In order to read fluently, students have to recognize words effortlessly and automatically.  Because they do not have to concentrate on draining word identification strategies, students will read faster, more accurately, and will comprehend what they read.  This lesson will help students build fluency by concentrating on faster reading. Research shows that faster reading is developed by repeated readings.  Therefore, in this lesson the students will practice fluency by reading and rereading texts with a partner.  They will then assess each other by giving one minute reads.


-Chalkboard/chalk or white board/markers

-Document Camera-or-Poster with Text written on it for modeling.

       -Bud is a sub.

       -Bud the sub is not big.

-stop watches (1 for every pair of students)

-paper for making notes

-Decodable book: Cushman, Sheila. Bud the Sub. (1990). Educational Insights. Carson, California. (text used to model)

-Copies of the Time Sheet-one for every student

Time Sheet


Your Name:

Your Partner’s Name:

First Time:                           Second Time:                                  Third Time:


Fourth Time:                        Fifth Time:

-Poetry books: Shell Silverstein-Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) Harper Collins Publishers

                        My Honey Bear Book of Rhymes (1980) A Division of Unisystems, Inc.

                        The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury by Jack Prelutsky (1999) Random House Children's Books

                        The Random House Book of Poetry by Jack Prelutsky (1983) Random House Children's Books


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining the importance of fluent reading, “Today we are going to practice our reading fluency.  When we read words fluently we are reading them automatically.  Fluent readers do not have to spend a lot of time figuring out the different sounds in each word, they simply recognize it that very instant. Doing this makes reading much faster, and it helps us to remember what we read.  We are going to work on reading faster today by reading poems many times to present in Poetry Theatre.”

2.  Review the strategies good readers use when they come to a word they do not know (ex: cross checking, vowel first body/coda blending, and cover ups.) “Let’s talk a little bit about what makes a good reader.  Some of the things that make a good reader are reading fast, smoothly and with expression.  I believe you all know what reading fast means.  What about reading smoothly?  It means that you can read through without getting stumped on a word or things like that.  All of the words flow.  What about reading with expression?  That means you read with the kind of emotions that the characters are having.  If the characters are mad, you read like you were mad, if the characters are excited, you read as if you were very excited.  We will also discuss some strategies that can make us a good reader.  How would you figure out what a word is if they don't know it? A good way to figure out that word is to cover up part of the word leaving only the vowel. (Model reading the word grunt. Cover up the –gr and the –nt.  Leave only the u and say ‘/u/’.)  Once you know what the vowel says, you can add the first part of the word.  (Model: -gru. Say ‘/g/r/u/’). After you blend the first part with the vowel, you can add on the last part of the word. (Model: uncover the whole word. Say ‘/g/r/u/n/t/.’ If you can’t figure out that tricky word this way, you can try another strategy.  You should read the rest of the sentence to figure out what that word may be.”  Build on suggestions that the students give. 

3.  I will model how to reread a sentence to gain fluency. Using either a document camera or simply a poster with the words written on it, display the text for all of the students to see.  “I am going to read a sentence from this book, Bud the Sub. I want you to play close attention to how I am reading the sentence and tell me what you notice about my reading after I am finished.” The first time I will model reading the sentence slowly by decoding each individual phoneme. “Bbbbuuuddd iiisss a s…s… (model the cover up strategy for the word sub.) I will cover up the s and the b. I know that the letter u in this word says /u/.  I will add back the first part /s/u/. /su/.  Then I will add the last part, /su/ /b/. Oh sub, like a boat that goes underwater! What did you notice about my reading? It was slow. It took a lot of energy to read.  I had to sound out each word. It was choppy.” The second time I will model reading a little faster by chunking the words, but I will not change the tone in my voice. “I am going to read this sentence again, and I will try to speed up my reading. Bud is a sub. What did you notice about my reading this time? It is still choppy.  It could be faster. I could add expression.”  The third time I will model reading fast and with expression by changing my tone. “Bud is a sub (emphasize sub). Who can tell me the difference between the first and last time that I read the sentence?  Which time did I read the most fluently?  Notice that each time I read the sentence, I read a little bit faster and with more expression.  This rereading skill is what you will be practicing today.”

4.  Guided Practice: “I want you to see how your fluency can improve by simply re-reading a text. Turn to the person next to you and take turns reading this sentence three times. ‘Bud the sub is not big.’ Discuss in your pairs the differences you notice from reading the sentence the first time to reading it the third time. Good!”

5. Activity: “You just saw how your reading improved by re-reading the same sentence just three times. Well, now you are going to get a chance to speed up your reading by reading a poem of your choice many times.  Just like you saw a minute ago, I know you will read faster every time you read your poem. I want you to read this poem so many times so that you are able to recite all of the words fast and with expression to keep the audience interested.  After you read our poem lots and lots of times, you are going to recite your poem to the class in what I like to call ‘Poetry Theatre.’ When you present to the class you are going to want to read your words fast and automatically, so re-read your poem as many times as you think you need to make it perfect!”

6. Show the students several poetry books from which to choose their poem.  Have them take a book to their desk and select a poem.  Once they have chosen a poem, they must show the poem to me to ensure it is consistent with their ability level range.  After their poem is approved, they may begin reading individually.  After ten to fifteen minutes, I will have them chose a partner to practice reading their poem.  Have the students take turns timing each other while they read their poems.  They must write the time it took them to read for each practice read they perform with their partner. “I am going to give each pair a stopwatch.  Take turns being the reader and being the timer.  The timer will time how long the reader takes to read his or her poem and write it on their time sheet. Then, take turns.  I want you to do this at least five times for each person.  I would suggest reading your poem more than just five times; I just want you to write down the time for reading at least five times.” Walk around and monitor the pairs as they read to one another. 

7. When the students are finished reading their poems and timing each other in partners, we will start Poetry Theatre.  We will start by calling on children that volunteer to read their poems first and continue until all the students have read.

8. After every student has presented their poem, I will give them a different poem to read repeatedly in order to build speed in their reading.  After sufficient practice, and the student feels comfortable, it will be read individually with the teacher and timed for assessment (described below.)

-I will assess the students’ time sheet and presentation using anecdotal notes I make during the presentation.  I will write suggestions for improvement as well as praise to the students in these notes.
-I will have each student come to the table and perform a one-minute read for me using the poem I gave them.  I will note miscues, but first and foremost I will assess how many words per minute they read.

-Bud the SubEducational Insights.
-Samuels, S. Jay (1979). “The Method of Repeated Readings.” The Reading Teacher.    January. pp.403-408.

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