Blast Off With Reading Speed!
Growing Independence and Fluency
Jara Walden

Rationale:  Children often spend much of their reading time trying to decode words.  Often comprehension is lost in the decoding process.  In order for children to gain the ability to comprehend the texts they read, they need to become fluent readers.  The key to becoming more fluent is to read and re-read texts.  This allows children to read more words per minute.  Fluency is also increased when texts use decodable words.  In this lesson children will work with partners reading familiar books.  They will practice reading their favorite page and then read it again while their partner times them with a stop watch.  For each reading, their time should be faster.

 -Pencils to record reading time
 -One stop watch per two children
 -A list of three sentences to practice reading slow and fast--one list per child (example sentences: He fed the dog a
   sticky snack.  The boy can snag a fish.  She has made a mess!)
 -Class set of the book Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle
 -One space shuttle reading chart per child--chart will have three levels (the ground, the        sky, and outer space) The
   space shuttle is movable.  For each reading that the children receive a faster time, the space shuttle moves up.  There
   should also be a space for the children to record their time beside each level.  The goal is to get a faster time for each
   reading and reach outer space.  If the time is not faster, the child has to go back one level so that it takes more practice to
   get to outer space.

1. Begin by reviewing cross-checking with the students.  Remind them that "when we read we have to make sure the sentence makes sense so that we can understand the story."  Model reading a sentence, using the wrong word.  "She ate some mean for dinner." Ask the children, "Did that sentence make sense?" (no) Re-read the sentence using the correct word. "Oh, she ate some meat for dinner." "Remember when you are reading the book to make sure that everything makes sense before you keep reading the story."

2. Remind the children that the point of this activity is not to skip words or read words incorrectly just to see how fast we can read.  We are learning how to be "grown-up" readers who read fluently and accurately.  Model reading a sentence slowly while decoding words.  Then model reading the same sentence more fluently and faster.

3. Have the children get into groups of two.  Give the children a piece of paper with three sentences written on it.  Have the children practice in their groups reading one sentence at a time slowly while decoding words and then faster and fluently.

4. Pass out a copy of Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle to each group of children.  Read the story together using shared reading.

5.   Allow the children to pick out their favorite two consecutive pages in the book.

6. Give each child a space shuttle reading chart and give each group a stop watch.

7. Explain to the children that one child will read their favorite two pages while the other times them on the stop watch.  They will record their first time on the space shuttle chart where the shuttle is on the ground.  Then they will switch and allow the other child to read their favorite pages.  For the second reading, they can move their space shuttle into the sky only if their reading time is faster.  If it is not, they must stay on the ground.  They continue reading the two pages until they reach outer space.  The only way to reach outer space is to read faster and more fluently each time.

8. After the children have reached outer space they can read the whole book quietly to themselves.

For assessment, the teacher should walk around the room during the space shuttle activity to hear children gaining fluency while reading.  The decreasing times recorded on the space shuttle charts should be evidence that the children were able to read more fluently with each repeated reading.  If the teacher is unsure of whether a student is gaining reading fluency, he/she can assess the child by giving them a sentence to read and re-read and timing the child his/her self.

Eldredge, Lloyd J. Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1995. Pgs. 122-145.
Dr. Bruce Murray's Reading Genie website:

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