"Quickening the Pace with Poetry"


Growing Independence and Fluency Design

 By:  Hannah Paxton

When students are able to read fluently, they are able to recognize words automatically.  This makes students' reading faster, smoother, and more expressive.  When reading becomes fluent, students are able to read silently, which is approximately twice as fast as reading aloud.  The "fluency formula" is stated as:  Read and reread decodable words in connected text.  When students attain fluency, they will enjoy reading more, better comprehend the text, and become more confident in their reading ability. This lesson will teach students to read faster, smoother, and more expressively through repeated readings, timed readings, and one-minute reads.


* Sentence strips (two for each pair):  I like to read poetry every day.

                                                            Poetry is fun to read and write.

* Poems (two for each pair):  "Changing" by Mary Ann Hoberman and "Just Me" by Margaret Hillert [Complete citation in references]                                   

* One stopwatch for each pair of students

* A variety of books from the classroom library for students to practice with

* Attached assessment charts



1.  Explain fluency and its importance to students.   Say:  "Today we will try to improve our reading fluency.  Has anyone heard of fluency before?  What do you think it means?  [Wait for student responses.]  Fluency means to read quickly, but it also means to recognize words automatically and to read with expression.  When you read fluently you will be able to read faster, easier, and you will be able to understand what you read better."

2.  Model a fluent and non-fluent reader.  Say:  "Non-fluent readers read slowly and may struggle with reading some words.  I'm going to read a sentence, please raise your hand and tell me if I am a fluent reader or a non-fluent reader.  'I like to read poetry every day.'  [Wait for student responses.]  Right, that was a fluent reader.  'IIIIIIIIII llllliiiikkkeee to reeeaaad pppooeetrrry eeeveeerrrryy daaaay.' [Wait for student responses].  Exactly, that was a non-fluent reader."

3.  Review strategies to use to decode unfamiliar words.  Say:  "When you're reading and you come across a word you don't know, what are some things you can do?  [Wait for student responses.]  First, we should read to the end of the sentence.  We may be able to figure out a word we don't know from context.  If we still don't recognize the word, we should use a cover-up.  [Get out cover up.]  A cover-up helps break up a word into parts that are easier to read.  [Write blend on the board.]  Remember that when we use cover-ups, we cover up everything except the vowel.  [Cover up everything but the e.]  Then we say the vowel's sound.  Next, cover up the letters after the vowel, and say those letters' sounds.  [Cover up nd.]  Next, cover up the letters after the vowel, and say their sound.  [Cover up ble.]  After you have sounded out all the sounds, put them together.  [Uncover the whole word.]"

4.  Practice with sentence strips.  Say:  "Please get with your reading buddy on your spot on the carpet.  [Wait for students to be seated.]  I'm going to give you and your reading buddy two sentence strips, each with a different sentence.  I want you and your buddy to practice reading these sentences over and over again.  One way to become a fluent reader is to reread text several times.  I'll show you how to begin the activity.  I will read 'I like to read poetry every day' several times, then I will read 'Poetry is fun to read and write' several times.  Then Johnny will read 'I like to read poetry every day.'  He will read both sentences several times each.  Now I would like you to practice reading your sentences with your buddy.  I will walk around the class and observe your work."

5.  Hand out the practice poem, "Changing" by Mary Ann Hoberman, to each pair of students.  Say:  "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in someone else's body? 

What would you feel?  What would you do?  Let's think about this while we read 'Changing.'  Please read the poem with me.  [Entire class should read poem aloud together.]  I'm going to give each pair of reading buddies a stopwatch, and I would like you to get out your cover-up.  After you have read and reread the poem several times, I would like you to practice timing yourselves reading with the stopwatch.  If you come to a word you don't know while reading, remember to use your cover-up.  Let me show you how timed readings will work.  It's my turn to read, so Johnny will hold the stopwatch.  When Johnny says go, he will press the start button on the stopwatch and I will begin to read.  I will read the whole poem and when I finish Johnny will press the stop button on the stopwatch.  I will then record the time it took me to read the entire poem.  Then, it will be Johnny's turn to read, and my turn to be timekeeper.  Please do this with your partner, and keep going until I make it to your group.  Practicing rereading the poem will help you to become more fluent readers.  Please begin."

6.  Give each student a copy of the new poem, "Just Me" by Margaret Hillert, for assessment.  Say:  "Have you ever thought about how different everyone in our class is?  We are all unique in our own way, and 'Just Me' is a poem about how very special each of you are.  Please read and reread this poem."

7.  Allow students to practice reading "Just Me."  Say:  "After each of you has had practice reading the poem several times, you will read as much as the poem as you can in one minute for me.  Each of you will get your own reading chart so you can keep track of your improvement.  After I listen to you read the poem, please get a book from the classroom library to practice your fluent reading." 

8.  For assessment:  The teacher can check the attached assessment sheets to chart student's fluency.  The teacher can repeat this lesson with a more challenging text to assess student's progressing fluency.

                                                            One Minute Reads




Number of Words Read










                       Fluency Assessment Chart



1st Read


2nd Read


















Dr. Bruce Murray: 



Melanie Tew: 



Hoberman, Mary Ann.  "Changing."  Rpt. in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children:  A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child.  Ed. Jack Prelutsky.  New York:  Random House, 1983.  102.


Hillert, Margaret.  "Just Me."  Rpt. in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children:  A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child.  Ed. Jack Prelutsky.  New York:  Random House, 1983.  120.

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