Faster, Faster!

Growing Independence and Fluency

Stephanie Fleming


Rationale:  In order for students to learn how to read faster, smoother, and more expressively, they must become fluent readers.  Fluency refers to a student’s ability to read words accurately and automatically.  In addition, word recognition must be automatic for students to comprehend what they read.  If word recognition is automatic, reading becomes an enjoyable and meaningful activity for students.  For students to gain automatic word recognition, the reading and re-reading of connected, decodable text is needed.  This lesson focuses on student’s developing the ability to read quickly, smoothly, and expressively.  Therefore, if a student accomplishes these tasks, they have gained fluency.  Fluency is gained through repeated reading, timed reading, and one-minute reads.

Teacher copy of Pen Pals
Copy of Pen Pals for each student
Timer for each student
Pencil for each student
Dry Erase board and marker
Sticky notes
Speedy Reader progress chart for each student: 

Speedy Reader Progress Chart

Name:________________    Date:__________

1st time:____

2nd time:____

3rd time:____


  1. Explain the purpose of this lesson to the class.  “Today we are going to be working on your reading skills and making you more fluent readers.  It is very important to improve your fluency if you want to become a good reader.  Fluency is being able to read smoothly without stopping between words.  Also, fluent readers can read the words with little or no effort.  Once you become a fluent reader, the text you read will make more sense to you because you do not have to keep stopping while you read.  Every time you read the text, you become more familiar with it, so you also read much faster. The way we are going to work on becoming fluent readers is by reading a book more than once, and we will be able to see how much faster we are able to read the book each time we read it!”
  2. Model for the class how to read fluently.  Write the following sentence on the dry-erase board or chalk board for the students to see: The dog ran after the ball.  “I am going to read this sentence without fluency.  The ddddoooggg rrrraaannn aaaafffttteerrr the bbbbaaallllll.  Now I am going to read the sentence again, but this time I will read it as a fluent reader would (read the sentence correctly, but slow).  The dog ran after the ball.  Were you able to tell the difference between reading with fluency and reading without fluency?  Listen once more as I read the sentence a third time, and by this time I will be able to read it faster (read the sentence correctly and fast).  The dog ran after the ball.  Did you notice how I read it fast that time because I had already read it a few times?  Because of that practice, I was able to read it more fluently."
  3. Have children practice reading the sentence: The dog ran after the ball. Have them repeat it until they are able to read it fluently and then move on to reading through the book.
  4. Explain the activity to the students, and don’t forget to remind the students to cross-check when they cannot read a word.  “We are going to use the book Pen Pals to work on our fluency.  Do not forget that cross checking is what fluent readers use to help make sense out of sentences.  If you get stuck on a word that you don’t know, you can use a cover-up tool to figure out the separate parts of the word.  First, cover up every letter but the vowel, then blend the beginning of the word with the vowel, and finally blend the end.  Once you have determined how to sound out the word, you need to re-read the sentence using the word.  This is will make sure that you understand what you just read.  If you are unable to figure it out, raise your hand and I will come and help you.” Give a brief book talk and model a sentence from the book.  “This book, Pen Pals, is about a baby named Ben who is in a pen.  Bed and Ted, his cat, are friends.  Ben wants to pet Ted, but his pen is in the way!  They yell for Dad, but can Dad mend the pen? You’ll have to read to find out!  Now, I’m going to read you a sentence from the book to model fluency, and then I am going to let you read the rest of the book to see how it ends.”
  5. “Now that I have given you an example, I am going to split you into pairs and let you practice with a partner.  One of you will read the book while the other keeps time.  When you are finished you will switch jobs.  When it is your turn to read, I want you to see how many words you can read in one-minute at a smooth, but quick pace.  Do not skip any words.  Make sure, if you are the timer that you stop right at one-minute and tell the reader that time is up so they can stop reading.  At the end of one-minute, place a sticky note where you stopped and go back and count the words that you read.  Then write that number on your Speedy Reader Chart.  You all need to read three times.  While you are reading, I will be walking around listening to your reading and assisting with your progress charts if you need help.”  Divide the students into pairs, and give each student a copy of the book, a timer, and sticky notes.
  6. Assess students to make sure that they have made some improvement in fluency.  Call students up to your desk one at a time with their Speedy Reader Chart to see if they have made improvements and review it with them and see what they need help with.  Then have the child read a page or two of Pen Pals to personally monitor their fluency.  Continue to check weekly for improvements in all students’ fluency.  Also, check for comprehension at this time to make sure they the book also makes sense to them.  Ask questions like: 
    1. What was Ben in that he could not get out of?
    2. Who is Ted?
    3. Why were Ben and Ted yelling?
    4. Who fixes the pen?


Allsopp, Katherine. Speedy Pen Pals.

Cushman, S (1990). Pen pals. Carson, CA: Educational Insights.

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