I’m bananas for faster, fluent reading!


Growing Independence and Fluency

Brittany Anne Hanie


Rationale: In order to increase fluency in reading with students, the focus should be on reading faster, smoother, and with more feeling rather than on accuracy.  As a students’ fluency increases, their comprehension grows.  This will help students to enjoy reading more.  One research-based method of improving fluency is through repeated readings (Eldredge, 2005).  This lesson will help students increase their reading fluency through charting one-minute reads.  The lesson also includes a review of an effective decoding strategy students should use when they don’t know a word.

Materials:  Class set of What Will the Seal Eat? By Cushman and Kornblum with marks after every ten words; Class set of laminated banana tree illustrations with words per minute written on them and accompanying Velcro monkey by: Dr. Bruce Murray; one stop watch for every pair of students; paper and pencils.



1.  The teacher will begin by saying, “Who remembers the way to figure out a word you’re having trouble reading?”  Give the students time to think of an answer and then proceed with a review of how to use cover-ups.  “When we use cover-ups, what part of the word do we want to look at first? Yes, the vowel.  And next, we add the beginning sounds, right? And then we’ll have most of the word so we can finish figuring it out by last sounds.”

2.  Talk to students about decoding.  “I’m going to figure out this word as an example of our vowel-first cover-ups (write the word scoop on the chalkboard). First, I’m going to cover everything other than the vowel up. Okay, this vowel says /oo/. Now I’m going to look at the beginning- s and c. S says /s/ and C says /c/. So, lets put the s and the c together to form /sc/.  So far I have /sc/ and /oo/, that’s /scoo/. Now the end—it says p. P  says /p/. So /scoo/ /p/, scoop. Now, students, lets always try to remember to use the vowel-first cover-up method when you need help figuring out a word.”

3. “It is very important to become faster at reading because the faster we can read the more we can understand what we’re reading and we’ll like reading better. Now we’re going to work on reading faster.  Have you ever noticed that the first time you read something it sounds broken up and slow, a little bit like a robot?” (Demonstrate reading the sentence—He likes to jump up and down—very slowly and haltingly. He- likes- to- jump- up- and- down). “If you read that sentence again and a little bit faster then it sounds better.” (Demonstrate reading the same sentence a bit faster. He likes to jump- up and- down). “The more you practice—the faster you get.  Once you can read a little faster, then you can add feeling and different voices.  I will read the sentence one more time and this time with expression.  He likes to jump up and down!”

4.  Introduce the book What Will the Seal Eat? to the students.  After introducing the book tell the students a little bit about the book to get them interested in it.  (Give a book talk).  Show all students the front cover.  Ask the class, “Does anyone know what seals eat?”  It is important to acknowledge all responses, but don’t give away the correct answer.  Go into explaining a little about the book.  “This seal is having a really hard time figuring out what he is supposed to eat.  Let’s see if he ever figures it out.”  It is then important that each child gets a copy of the book and one banana tree chart and monkey.   Each child should then be allowed a few minutes to read the book silently.

5.  Next, have students get with a partner. Pass out a stop-watch to each pair of students.  Explain to the class that students should take turns reading and timing one-minute reads. Show students how to quickly count the words by using the marked spots in the books to count by tens.  Explain that “by moving the Velcro monkey after each timed read we get to see how much better we’re getting at reading!”

6.  Have each student take out paper and pencil to record how many words per minute he/she reads during each timed read. Have each student do four one-minute reads.

7.  Walk around the room as students begin, making sure everyone understands the process. Continue monitoring students as they engage in the fluency activity.

8.  For assessment, have each student write their name on their sheet of paper with their words per minute recordings on it.  Collect each sheet of paper from each child.  Compare the words per minute of the first read to the last read to measure progress.

9.  Encourage students to choose a book from the classroom library to read several times at home.  Ask them to show their family how well they can read.  Mention that the next day you’ll be eager to have a few volunteers read their book to the class.



Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  (2005)  Teach Decoding Why and How.  Pearson Education, Inc.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.  p. 154

Cushman, Shelia and Kornblum, Rona.  What Will the Seal Eat?  Phonics Readers.  Educational Insights, 1990.

Miller, Meg.  Speedy Readers.