Speedy Gonzales on the Race Track

Growing Independence and Fluency

By: Margaret Beason




Rationale:  Children first learn to read by decoding words.  Beginning readers are slow to decode words.  Decoding usually requires some effort; beginning readers have to think about each word and its letters.  However, as beginning readers gain practice in decoding words, they can advance to independent fluent readers.  Reading fluency is the ability to recognize words accurately, rapidly, and automatically.  Once children can read effortlessly and fluently, then they can focus more on the meaning of the text.  This lesson is designed to help students increase their fluency by rereading a text and becoming familiar with it.  During this lesson, children will learn what it means to read fluently, and they will have an opportunity to practice reading fluently.  They will also discover that reading fluently helps them gain more meaning from the text and learn to recognize words automatically.  After the lesson, the students will have practice in and an understanding of reading with fluency.  They will be able to use a strategy to increase fluency in their independent reading. 




1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining that in order to become better readers, we must begin to read fluently.  “Fluency or reading fluently, means reading faster, automatically, and effortlessly.  Once we learn how to read fluently, we will be able to understand the text more because we will not have to try so hard to read the words.  One way to become more fluent in reading is to read the same story more than once, reading faster each time because we become more familiar with the book.  Another way of saying this is rereading.  Today we are going to practice reading with fluency by rereading a book.  First, let’s review how we can figure out a word that we may not already know.  The first thing we should do is use the cover-up technique.  Remember when we practiced this?  Write sratch on the board.  If I saw this word I would cover up everything but the a, like so (cover the scr and tch). I know that a=/a/. Now look at what comes before the vowel, scr=/scr/. Blend them together to get /scr/ /a/. Now look at the end of the word- tch=/ch/. Put it all together and you have /scr/ /a/ /ch/.  Whenever you see an unfamiliar word, use the cover up method to try to decode it.”

2.  Demonstrate to the students the difference between reading with fluency and reading without fluency.  Say to students:  “I am going to show you how to read with and without fluency.  Listen to my reading and see if you can tell me the difference.  I am going to write a sentence on the board.  I am going to read it twice, once with fluency and once without.”  (Teacher writes sentence on board -The man has on a red hat.)  Teacher reads sentence through once without fluency, sounding out each word:  “The   m-a-n   h-a-s   on a r-e-d h-a-t.  Notice that I read the sentence slowly.  It is very hard to understand the sentence when I do not recognize the words in it.  I have to spend most of my effort sounding out the words, not understanding them.  Now listen to me read it again with fluency.  The man has on a red hat.  What did you notice about the second reading of the sentence?  Very good!  I read it a little faster because I recognized the words from the first time I read them.  It was also easier for me to understand the sentence because I did not have to spend so much time sounding out the words.  The words flow together.  This is what we will be practicing today.  I want you to be able to read by yourself just like I did.”  

3. “First we will read Sam the Garbage HoundThis story is about a dog named Sam.  Sam lives in a dump.  He eats whatever he can find in the dump, and he sleeps wherever he can find a comfortable place to sleep.  It was fun for a while, but Sam started to get lonely.  One day, a little girl and her mother came to the dump to drop off some trash.  The little girl saw Sam and loved him.  Will she get to take him home with her?  We will have to read to find out.” Since we will be practicing how to increase our reading speed. We will be reading the book several times, so we can increase fluency while also reading faster.” 


4. Teacher passes out a copy of the book to each student.  “Now, I want you to practice reading this book on your own.  I will give you a few minutes to read the book to yourself. If some students finish before others have those students reread the book”.


5. After reading, discuss the story with the class.  Ask questions to check for students understanding of what they read.   What did Sam do for fun at the dump?  Why was Sam lonely?  What happened that changed Sam’s life?  Is he still lonely?” Allow students to reflect and make comments.

6. Now introduce the fluency checklist to the students.  Explain to them how they are to fill out the cards.  “If your partner reads fast check here, stops too many times, check here, etc.” Divide the students into partners.”  Have each person read the story to his/her partner all the way through one time.  Next, have the partners take turns reading to each other while the one listening fills out a fluency checklist on the student reading.  Then they will switch and the other will read. The checklist will include headings such as read fast, read slow, stopped many times, or no stopping during reading, etc...  The students will have to make a check under the headings that apply.

7.  For assessment, have each individual student come up to the teacher’s desk to take a one-minute read.  The students will reread the book they just read while the teacher will be assessing the child’s reading fluency. The teacher should have a stopwatch that beeps so that the students know when to start and stop without the teacher having to yell stop.  The teacher should also have a chart with a racecar going around a race track to give the students a very fun representation of their progress as they continue to practice each time with one minute reads.   There should be a reasonable goal so that the students can work to reach that goal.


Ludlum, Anna. Read Set Read!  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/ludlumgf.html

Manning, Mari. Go, Speed Reader!  Go! http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/manninggf.html

 Simon, Charnan.  Sam the Garbage HoundNew York:  Scholastic.  1996.

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