Growing Independence and Fluency

Moving from I Think I Can to I Can Read!
By Jacque Mills


Rationale:  Reading fluency is the ability to recognize words accurately, rapidly, and automatically.  When fluency is achieved, the reader has the ability to recognize words automatically and to comprehend written text much easier than do readers who are not fluent.  It stands to reason that as the effort involved in decoding decreases, the reader can put more effort into comprehension.  Repeated readings allow children to practice with a familiar text until they are successful.  The goal of this lesson is to increase reading fluency, accuracy, and expression through use of repeated, timed readings.

Materials:  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper: one copy for the teacher and one per 2 students, one fluency check sheet per student (an example of a fluency check sheet can be found at, one pencil per student, a classroom clock with a second hand or one stopwatch per 2 students

1. Introduce the lesson by saying that when we want to learn to do something, we have to believe that we can do it and we have to practice so that we can do it well.  Give examples of learning to play a musical instrument or learning to play a sport.  Part of learning to be a good reader is learning to read as fast as we talk.  Today we’re going to practice reading faster, more smoothly, and with expression.
2. Listen to me read the same sentence 2 times. Then tell me which time was choppy and which was smooth.  (Teacher chooses a sentence to read from The Little Engine That Could).  Now listen again and tell me which time was read with expression and which was read in a monotone voice with no expression.  Good!
3. (Place children in pairs and give each pair a copy of the book.)  First, I want you to listen to me read and follow along in your books.  Listen to the way my voice gets higher and lower or louder and softer.  This book is about a little train engine that needs to do the work of a big engine so that she can get the toys across the mountain to the children!  The little engine has a positive attitude.  That means, she thinks she can do it!  Do you think she can?  Let’s find out! (Teacher reads until the point in the story when the little engine decides to help.) Now I want you to read the rest of the story out loud with me.  (Finish story.)
4. Now you’re going to work in pairs and practice reading.  (Give each student a fluency check sheet and a pencil.) One of you will be the reader and the other will be the timer.  First, the reader will read out loud for one minute.  Then the reader will read the same passage 2 more times.  The timer will watch the second hand on the clock and time each reading.  On the second and third reading, the timer will time the reading and listen to see if the reader remembers more words, reads faster, reads smoother, or reads with more expression.  You’ll record your observations on the little sheets of paper that I gave you.  Like The Little Engine That Could, I want you all to have good attitudes about your own reading and about your partner’s reading.  The timer’s job is to tell the reader what they’re doing right!  Does everyone understand?  Guess what happens after the 3rd reading.  That’s right!  You’ll switch!  I’ll give you a hint about timing: it’s easier if you start when the second hand is on the 12!  If you have trouble pronouncing a word, use your cover-ups!  What do we do when we use cover-ups? (Teacher writes the word think on the board and models how to decode the word using the cover-up method.  Cover th and nk. Say /i/.  Uncover th.  Say /th/ and blend with /i/ to make thi.  Uncover nk.  Blend thi with nk.  Say think.)  Do you understand what we’re doing?  Do you think you can do it?  I think you can!
5. Assess by listening to students read and making notes of problems and improvement.  Let students take the fluency checklist sheets home so they can share their progress!

References:  Murray, Bruce.  The Reading Genie: Developing Reading Fluency.
                      Eldredge, J. Lloyd. Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms.  Upper
                      Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1995. p 125.

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