The Race to Fluent Reading!




Growing Independence and Fluency


Sarah Dansak




In order to become independent, successful readers that read automatically for meaning and content, children must develop fluency.  When children are able to read fluently, their effort transfers to comprehension rather than the mechanics of reading.  The task becomes effortless and automatic, and fluent readers read speedily and with expression.  The goal of this lesson is to help children develop fluency, particularly by increasing their reading speed.  They will do this using timed one-minute readings and by reading and rereading a decodable text, which is a proven necessity for fluency development.



-Timer or Stopwatch (for each pair of students)

-Class set of Red Gets Fed (decodable text by Sheila Cushman) for each student

-Dry Erase Board

-Dry Erase Marker

-Assessment Worksheet:  Fluency Checklist (one for each student) -attached




1. Begin the lesson by briefly reviewing the e = /e/ correspondence by showing students a memorable hand gesture and showing them an example word.  Activate student knowledge by allowing them to brainstorm other words using the e = /e/ correspondence.

Say:  We know that when we see the letter "e" it makes the /e/ sound.  It sounds like "ehh..."  (Put finger to chin as if confused.)  Can you do that with me?  Ehhh...very good!

Write the word "bed" on a dry-erase board.

Say:  Who can tell me what this says?  That's right, it says "bed."  This word has the /e/ sound in it.  Can you hear it?   Great!  Can you tell me some more words that have the same sound in them?

Call on students individually and write additional words on the board as they say them.


2. Introduce the lesson and do a Booktalk for Red Gets Fed.

Say:  Today we're going to read a book that may seem very easy for some of you, but we're going to work on reading it like grown-ups do.  This means that we are going to read it fast and with expression to make it exciting!  We're going to read Red Gets Fed, which is about Meg's pet dog named Red.  Do any of you have pets at home?  Red is a good dog, although he is very smart and is sometimes a little sneaky.  While Meg is trying to sleep, Red pesters her to wake her up because he wants some food.  What would you do if you were Meg?  Would you get up and feed your dog, Red?  Do you think Red will get his food or not?  We'll have to read the book together to find out.


3. Go over the concept of Fluency and give a quick example of non-fluent reading

Say:  Today we will learn to read quickly, smoothly, and with expression.  When we read this way, we are able to really understand what we're reading, and it makes it much more exciting than when we read super slowly!  This is called fluent reading.

Write the sentence "I want to drive a fast red car" on the dry erase board.  Show how a non-fluent reader would read the sentence (slowly, with lots of pauses and no expression.)

Say:  ""  See?  This is how a non-fluent reader would read this.  It's not very exciting, is it?  It is harder to remember what you're reading about when you read it slowly and have to stop a lot.


4. Model fluent reading to students and explain it to them after explicit modeling.

Say:  Now I will read this sentence like a fluent reader would.  "I want to drive a fast red car!"  See, didn't that sound better than the first time I read it?  I think so too.  I was being a fluent reader because I read quickly, smoothly, and with expression!

Go over how to crosscheck with students.

Say:  Sometimes, even fluent readers find a hard word to read.  Fluent readers use crosschecking to figure out tricky words, like "drive."  When they crosscheck, they check to make sure that the word makes sense in the sentence.  Crosschecking is very important when you read, because if the sentence does not make sense you need to go back and figure out what word to use!

Allow students to explain the differences they noticed in fluent and non-fluent reading.

Say:  Can anyone tell me how the sentence was different the first and second times I read it?  That's right, the first time was slow, and I paused a lot between the words.  It wasn't smooth sounding.  Do you think it sounded a little boring?  Me too.  That was not fluent reading.  Very good, the second time was more expressive and exciting, and when I read it, it was fast and smooth.  That's how you read fluently!  When you can read this way, you will be able to understand and enjoy everything you read!


5. Divide students into partners (no two struggling readers together) and give directions for partner one-minute readings.  Hand out a copy of Red Gets Fed to each student and a timer or stopwatch to each pair of students. 

Say:  Now we are going to see how fluent all of you are when you read.  Here is the book we're reading together, Red Gets Fed.  Take a minute to read the book silently to yourself so that you can get familiar with it.

While students are reading silently, pass out a Fluency Checklist to each student.

Say:  Here is a worksheet that will help us see how fast your reading is.  To practice fluency, we will see how many words you can read in one minute.  Are you ready?  I think you are.

Model how to correctly use the stopwatch for the class.

Say:  Here is how we do a one-minute reading.  One partner reads aloud, while the other uses the stopwatch.  While you are the one with the stopwatch, be sure to put on your very best listening ears!  Follow along with your reading partner and see if they are reading fast, smoothly, and using expression.  Each of you will read for one minute three times.  After each one-minute reading, record the number of words you read every time on your Fluency Checklist.  Do you have any questions?  Raise your hand if you need me and I will come help you!  Don't forget your listening ears!

During the activity, walk around the room to check that the stopwatches and Fluency Checklists are being used correctly and that everyone is following the directions to correctly complete the timed readings.





Have students turn in their Fluency Checklists, and listen to them read Red Gets Fed individually to assess each child's fluency development.

Say:  Okay everyone; write your names on your Fluency Checklists for me!  You all did a great job.  I'm going to listen to all of you read to me now, and I know all of you will do a super job!  I have been listening to you practice your fluent reading, and you are doing a wonderful job of reading smoothly, fast, and expressively!  I can't wait to listen to each of you read.  While you are waiting, read Red Gets Fed silently to yourself for more practice.

Call on students individually and ask them to read Red Gets Fed out loud.  Look over their Fluency Checklists, and while they read take additional notes on their reading fluency (smooth of choppy, boring or expressive, fast of slow, number of words read correctly and incorrectly.) 

Consult their Fluency Checklist to see if their number of words read increased over the three trials or not, in order to know what steps are necessary to continue each student's development of fluency.




Red Gets Fed.  Decodable reader by Sheila Cushman.  Illustrated by Patti Briles.  Publisher:  Educational Insights.  Carson, C.A., 1990.


Murray, Bruce.  "Developing Reading Fluency."


Harry, Amanda.  Growing Independence and Fluency Lesson Design.  "Racing to Read Fluently."


Godbee, Amanda.  Growing Independence and Fluency Lesson Design.  "Fluency for Fun."





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