Racing Readers

Growing Independency & Fluency

Stephanie Broach


In order to be a skillful reader, one must be able to read fluently.  Fluent reading consists of reading smoothly, quickly and with emotion.  A fluent reader does not slowly sound out words or pause awkwardly in the middle of sentences.  In order to improve fluency, teachers can have students do one-minute-reads.  This activity will help students practice reading quickly and smoothly as well as encourage them to use expression because they are asked to read aloud.  This lesson will provide the students with an opportunity to practice in order to improve fluency.



Fluency sheets for each student (see end of lesson)

Race tracks for each pair of students -- (Draw an oval shaped racetrack and divide it into sections with a Velcro piece in each section.  Then have the numbers from 1-100 on small cards with Velcro on the back so that they can be changed as students grow in fluency.)

Poster board cut-outs of runners for each student to move around their racetrack

Pencils for each student

Copy of Pigs Can't Fly! by Ben Cort for each student.

White board and markers


1. Begin by saying, "T-o-d-a-y w-w-e are g-go-going t-t-o be l-lear-learn-learning about how to r-re-read fas-faster and with e-ex-express-expression" very slowly and monotone.  Then ask the students, "What did you notice about the way that I was just talking?"  The students should notice that it was hard to understand you and that it would be very boring to listen to someone speak in this way.  "A lot of times when we first start reading, we sometimes read really slowly and forget to use our expressive voices!"  Explain to the students that they are going to be practicing their reading aloud so that they can begin reading faster and with more emotion.

2. Write this sentence on the board.

-         Was the cat drinking milk?

Read the sentence very quickly and misread a word, "Was the cow drinking milk?"  Explain to the students, "We donāt want to read so fast that we make mistakes like saying 'cow' instead of 'cat' because we will miss out on understanding the meaning of the story!"

Then read the sentence again with the correct words but very slowly (decoding each word) and without expression, "W-a-s the c-a-t d-r-i-n-k-ing mi-lk."  Explain to the students, "This time when I read the sentence what did you notice.  That's right!  It was so slow that you could not understand me!  What else?  Good job!  It didn't sound like a question because I didnāt use expression.  I want you to remember these two examples when you're reading so that you can be sure not to read like I just did! J"

Finally, read the sentence fluently so that the students will have a good example to follow, "Was the cat drinking milk?"  Be sure to use the proper expression as it is a question and read it at a natural pace.

3. Introduce the book Pigs Can't Fly with a book talk: "Pig was tired of being bored.  He decided that he would go visit his friends to see if they had any ideas for him.  First, he went to visit Giraffe and that's when he got an idea.  He decided to turn himself into a giraffe.  Zebra thought Pig was being silly but Pig didn't care!  He couldn't think of anything better than being a giraffe until, he tripped!  What will Pig do next?"  Explain that the students will have some time to read the book before beginning out one-minute-reads. 

4. After five minutes say, "I want everyone to get with your seat partner (these would have been assigned before the lesson).  You are going to take turns reading to your partner.  If you are not reading, you have a very important job; you will be counting your partner's words!  Our goal is to read fluently.  Try to read quickly and with expression.  Remember, don't read so fast that you don't understand the story."

When the students are in partners give them explicit directions on how they are going to complete the exercise.  "Each time you read you will begin at the beginning of the story and read for one minute.  I will keep the time, so I will tell you when to start and stop.  When I say, "Stop," the student reading will put their finger on the word where they stopped and the student who is recording will count the words to the reader's finger and write the number on the fluency sheet.  Then you will trade jobs and the second person will read.  This will continue back and forth until each student has read three times."  Tell the students that each time they read they will move their "racer" to the number of words that they read that time.  For example, if Kim read 79 words in the first minute she would move her racer to the block that has the number 79.  On Jena's first read, she read 93 words.  She moved her racer to the block with the number 93.  Each time that they read, they write down their score and move their racer closer to the finish line.  By the final read, the students should show improvement.

5. "On your sheets where you fill in the number of words read, I also want you to color in the bubbles that tell how your partner read.  This will help me to see if you are getting better the more times that you are reading."

6.  After finishing one minute reads, tell the students that they can now finish the rest of the book by reading it silently to themselves.  As they are reading, the teacher will assess their performance on this lesson by calling them to her table one by one and going over their fluency sheet with them.  She will ask them to tell her about something that they did while they read to make sure that they were fluent.  She will also ask them two or three questions about the story to make sure that they comprehended what they read.  By having these discussions with the students, in addition to their fluency sheets, the teacher will be able to see where each student is as far as fluency.

            Example questions:  Why did Pig try to become all of the other animals?

                                              What lesson did Pig learn at the end?

                                              What happened when Pig tried to fly?

Fluency Checklists:

Name of Reader: ______________________________________ 

Name of Partner: ______________________________________

            Words read first time: __________

Words read second time: __________

Words read third time: __________

            I noticed that my partner· (Color in the circle)

After 2nd    After 3rd

0                      0          Remembered more words

0                              Read Faster

0                      0          Read Smoother

0                     0          Read with expression



Cort, B. Pigs Can't Fly! Barron's Educational Series: Hauppauge, NY. 2002. 

Horton, S. "Zooming Into Fluency."

Reading Genie: