Aiming For Fluency

Fluency Lesson Design

Elizabeth Brinkley

  To become fluent readers, students must recognize words automatically.  The goal of this lesson is to improve the student’s automatic word recognition.  Beginning readers usually do not read fluently and reading is often a word-by word struggle.  With Automatic word recognition, reading becomes faster, smoother, and more expressive, and students can begin to read silently, which is roughly twice as fast as oral reading.  Prior to this lesson, I will have already determined the student’s stage of instructional development.  Because repeated reading works best with readers who are full alphabetic, this lesson will be taught only to students who are in the full alphabetic stage.  It is important for full alphabetic students to begin developing automaticity because students in this stage read slowly and word by word.  By using a direct approach, this lesson will involve modeling and practice with repeated reading under time pressure.  Because graphing is motivating for students, I will use a basketball graph that records the student’s progress.  Because their success is evident, the students will enjoy the one-minute reads during this lesson.


Materials:   “one-minute reading” laminated basketball graph (see example graph below), stop watch, and Pig In A Bag by Geri Murray which can be found at



1.      I will begin by introducing the graph.  I will discuss how the graph works by explaining that it demonstrates how fast he/she can complete a “one-minute read”.

2.      I will model fluent and nonfluent reading.  For example, I will show the difference between smooth and choppy reading.  I will show how expressive readers make their voices go higher and lower, faster and slower, louder and softer.

3.      I will discuss with the student that the goal of this reading is speed, not accuracy.  Overtime, speed with WPM will increase and errors will decrease.  I will also talk with the student about how I am aware that reading is hard right now, but it’s how you learn new words. 

4.      I will introduce Pig In A Bag with a book talk.  I will say, "Ben gives Tim a pet pig for his tenth birthday!  Tim names the pig Slim.  Slim gets in a mess with Lad and Scat!  What will happen to Slim?  You'll have to read to find out."  Pig In A Bag involves text with words that the student can decode using known correspondences.  This whole and engaging texts will be used to sustain the student’s interest. 

5.      I will time the student reading with a stopwatch.  By alerting the reader with a quiet beeping signal, the stop watch will let the reader know when it is time to stop and also help the instructor keep up with the time of each reading.

6.      I will have the student read for one minute, count the number of words read, and graph the result with the basketball graph by moving the basketball closer to the basketball goal.  A scale with an erasable marker will be incorporated on the basketball graph.  Each time the student’s goal is met, the bar will be raised 5 WPM for the next book, which will require a new scale on the basketball graph.

7.      I will ask student to reread each sentence that requires an unusual decoding effort.

8.      After the first “one-minute read,” I will get a baseline reading for the student.

9.      To speed up the word count, I will mark off every 10 words in light pencil so that I can count by tens.  I will then subtract a word for each miscue so accuracy is not totally abandoned. 

10.  I will continue to support the student’s reading by asking questions about the story and making comments about story events after each reading to keep meaning focus.  (example questions:  What did you think about the pig's name?  Have you ever seen a pig?  Would you want a pig for your birthday?  Do you have any pets?)

11.  I will collect miscue notes to analyze for missing correspondences.

12.  For assessment, I will record my baseline reading for the student and study the progress that the student makes during each reading and reread.



International Reading Association.  (March 27, 2006).  Multipurpose Poetry:  Introducing Science Concepts and Increasing Fluency.                          October 26, 2006.


Example of “one-minute reading” laminated basketball graph

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