Fluency is Key!

Growing Independence and Fluency

By: Lauren Keasal


Fluent readers are able to decode words rapidly and automatically. It is important when reading that the reader is able comprehend the text instead of having to focus on individual words and letters. "Being a good reader requires being able to decode and being able to decode automatically—that is, with little overt attention…being a good reader also involves knowing the meaning of lots of words and dealing with the ideas in a text" (Beck, 2006, pp.79-80). Overall, to learn to read fluently, students need practice through reading appropriate texts.


Copy of The Deep Sea for each student (Sims, Matt. The Deep Sea. High Noon Books. 1999. pp. 1-22.)

Stopwatch for each pair of students

Pencil and a few sticky notes for each student

Sentence strip: "Dave and Bill like to sail."( Copy of The Deep Sea for each student- Sims, Matt. The Deep Sea. High Noon Books. 1999. pp. 1.)

List of Comprehension Questions based on each of the six chapters

Checklist for teacher- Includes the following three questions for the teacher to fill out for each child: "Can the student identify which sentence is read with fluency?", "Can the student read the story to the teacher smoothly and quickly?" and "Can the student comprehend the text and answer the questions for comprehension?"

Teacher Checklist

1. Can the student identify a sentence read with fluency?

2. Can the student read the story smoothly and quickly?

3. Can the student comprehend the text and answer the comprehension questions?


Fluency Sheet- There will be a place for both the reader and the timer’s names. There will then be three lines for recording the number of words the first, second and third times they read the text in a minute. Next there will be four lines where each partner with rate each other by either placing a checkmark in the circle or leaving it blank on a basis of if they: remembered more words, read faster, read smoother, and read with expression. (Ellis, Alicia. Crabs Can't Nap But You Can Read. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/sightings/ellisgf.html)

Fluency Sheet

   Name of Reader:                                 

   Name of Partner:                                

        Words read 1st time:                          

        Words read 2nd time:                         

        Words read 3rd time:                          

I noticed that my partner:

        2nd time         3rd time

           O                     O        Remembered more words

           O                     O        Read faster

           O                     O        Read smoother

           O                     O        Read with expression


1. First I will explain to the student the purpose of our lesson, which is to read fluently. Today we will work on improving our fluency. Fluency is our ability to read a book rapidly, without having to sound out each of the words.  Once you become fluent readers the books you read will make more sense and you will be able to read all kinds of books. We will work together on becoming more fluent by reading a book more than once. Each time you read the book you will understand the text better and you will slowly be able to read faster and faster. So, today we will practice our fluency by reading the text more than once and see how much better you can get!

2. During each of the readings make sure that the students crosscheck themselves if they do not recognize the word they are reading automatically. Don’t forget to crosscheck while reading if you don’t recognize a word automatically, use the cover up critter to make it easier to sound out the word. Once you know the word re-read the sentence that the word was in and continue with the story. If the word still does not make sense, don’t give up, try to crosscheck again. Finally, if you still need help raise your hand and I will come help you out.

3. Model for the students how to read with fluency.  Display a sentence strip with the following sentence:  "Dave and Bill like to sail".  First, I am going to show you what it sounds like to read without fluency. " D-a-a-v-v-v…D-A-v-e and B-i-i-i-l-l-l l-i-i-k… to s-a-a-i-i-l-l…". After I had trouble with the tricky words, I crosschecked so that I could read the words correctly. “Dave and Bill like to sail”. Now tell the students, Now I am going to read the sentence like a fluent reader.  "Dave and Bill like to sail". Could you hear the difference between the first reading and the second? The second time I did not have to spend time sounding out any of the words. That's what it sounds like to read fluently, which makes reading faster. When you are a fluent reader you also read with expression. This means that you read the sentence with an emotion like: sad, angry, frustrated, happy, excited and many more. I'll read another sentence and you tell me if I sound like a beginning reader or a fluent reader. "Bill has a little boat." Yep! A fluent reader, great job!

4. We are going to be reading the book The Deep Sea to practice improving our fluency. The book is divided up into 6 Chapters: The Rip Tide, The Seal, The Log, Save the Boat, The Little Boat and Gull Rock. The lesson will take multiple days or extended time for the students to read through the whole book. They should begin in Chapter 1 and be tested on fluency for that chapter. As they grow in fluency they will move through each of the chapters until they are able to read the entire book themselves, fluently.

5. Give the following book talk for The Deep Sea: Dave and Bill are friends that like to sail on their boat. The like to travel to see a place called Gull Rock. One day they are out at sea when they hit a log. Their boat begins to sink, what will they do? You will have to read the book to find out what happens!

 6. Next break the students into groups of two and give each student a copy of the book The Deep Sea. The teacher should also supply a stopwatch for each pair of students. One student will be the reader and one will be the time keeper and they will switch after the reader is done reading the first chapter of the book. "When it is your turn to read, I want you to read as many words as you can in a minute smoothly and fast. Do not skip any words! When the timer goes off place the sticky note where you left off reading which is where you can stop counting. Count each of the words after the time goes off and record the number on your fluency sheet. Read the chapter three times. When you have finished reading a chapter three times and have recorded all the information you can bring your sheets to me and I will let each of you read individually to me. After you work with me you can move onto the next chapter. Now you can start!

7. While the students are reading, the teacher should walk around the classroom listening to their reading. The teacher should also be prepared to help the students with their reading and any other assistance they made need with the lesson if needed.


To assess each of the students, the teacher should have the students turn in their own fluency sheet and the teacher should have one of their own. Each child should be called up to the desk one by one.  Then the students will read the chapter they read with their partner . As the student reads the teacher should time a minute and make notes. At the very end she should add up the words and record the data. Such data will include whether they are reading fast and fluent or stumbling over their words, along with any miscues. Finally, when they are done reading, the teacher will assess their comprehension of the text with the following questions.

Chapter 1 Questions:

1. What is The Rip Tide?

2. What were the two boy’s names that were friends?

3. Where were they headed?

Chapter 2 Questions:

1. What did animal did Dave and Bill see in the ocean?

2. What did they do when they saw the seal?

3. What happened to the seal?

Chapter 3 Questions:

1. What did the boat run over in the water?

2. What did they think the log looked like in the water?

3. What happened to the boat?

Chapter 4 Questions:

1. How did they try to save the boat?

2. What happened to the rag in the whole?

3. What did they do when the water would not stop coming into the boat?

Chapter 5 Questions:

1. Where did they go in the small boat?

2. What happened to Dave in the boat?

3. What did Bill throw to Dave to save him?

Chapter 6 Questions:

1. How did they know it was Gull Rock?

2. How did they get back?

3. What did Dave say he had to get a new one of?

For further assessment, I will allow the students to take the book home and practice their fluency individually or with their parents. They will also be able to record their results on their own fluency sheet. I will then let them read the book to me as a whole to see how much they have improved.


Beck, I. Making Sense of Phonics: The Hows and Whys. New York, NY. The Guilford Press. 2006. pp. 79-80.

Sims, Matt. The Deep Sea. High Noon Books. 1999. pp. 1-22.

Ellis, Alicia. Crabs Can’t Nap But You Can Read.

Kim Holzapfel. The Buzzing Bumble Bee.

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