Galloping to Fluency


Leah Impastato



Students are more likely to enjoy and comprehend stories if they are fluent readers. A child is considered to be a fluent reader when they read accurately, consistently and with appropriate expression. To improve fluency children should read a variety of texts and reread text multiple times. This lesson focuses on increasing fluency through rereading a text multiple times, using a fluency checklist, modeling reading fluency, and familiarizing students with setting reading speed goals.



-Practice sentences work sheets

            Partner A Worksheet:

1)      Kate is a cowgirl who has a horse as a best friend.

2)      She likes to spend her days outside.

3)      Cocoa snorts and nays.

4)      He does not want a pair of horseshoes.

Partner B Worksheet:

1)      Kate wears red cowboy boots.

2)      They live on a ranch with a barn.

3)      Cocoa is brown with a blonde mane.

4)      The man has come to give Cocoa a new set of horseshoes.

-Book- Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman

-Laminated class set of charts with a picture of an equestrian course with 4 hurdles, a start and a finish line. Next to each hurdle and the finish line there should be a line to write the number of words the child reads in one minute.

-One horse cut out for each student (small enough to fit on the chart)


-Class set of Vis-��-vis erasable markers

-Timers (enough for every 2 students)

-Class set of fluency checklists:



1. Start the lesson by telling students that excellent readers can read words quickly and make the words flow, rather than sounding like robots. Ask students which of the following sentences sounds best. Model robotic speech in sentence one saying "��� nnnooot���.felllling���weeelll" (very slowly and not well blended). Then read the sentence quickly and with expression in sentence two "I am not feeling well" (using expression in the words not feeling well as if sick, reading smoothly and quickly). "So, which sentence sounded better number one or two?" "That is right sentence two sounds better because the sentence is read as if someone was talking and because it is quicker and smoother". "Today, we are going to focus on our speed, expression and smoothness reading". Explain to students that expression is adding feeling to reading and model using the sentence "I won the lottery!". First read it quickly and with a robotic voice, then with enthusiasm and speed. Next explain what speed is telling students that speed is reading words quickly but with expression and at a pace which people can understand. Model what speed is, reading the sentence "I rode my bike to school today". First read the sentence slowly, then read it at a good pace emphasizing to students that reading should sound as if talking. Lastly, model smoothness. Tell students that smoothness is reading a steady steam of words one after the next at the same pace. Model smoothness to students by reading the sentence "The swan smoothly glided across the lake." Having a not stopping at the end of each word but leading one to the next.


2. Assign each student a partner to read with and distribute the practice sentences worksheet giving one partner Worksheet A and the other partner Worksheet B. Inform students saying "I am passing out papers that have four different sentences on them. I want you and your partner to take turns reading one sentence each turn. Make sure that you are reading quickly, smoothly and with expression. Remember while you want to read quickly, your partner still needs to understand you." Walk around and make notes of anything that stands out about individual students. As students are finishing up say "Now I want you to tell your partner one thing that they did very well at and one thing that they could work on to improve their reading."


3. "Nice practice, now that we know what we need to work on, let's move onto reading a book called Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa". This is a book about a girl named Kate and her horse friend Cocoa. Cocoa is usually easy to please but in chapter one he will not let the man put new horseshoes on him. He wants cowboy boots just like Kate and the other workers on the ranch. How will Kate solve this problem? Will jealousy hurt their friendship?


4. After the book talk, pass out a copy of the book, a fluency chart, and a horse to each student. "Now I want you to take your horse and write your name on it. We are going to start doing timed readings for a whole minute. You will read to your partner, and they will time you and follow along to make sure you are reading all of the words correctly. When a minute is up, count the words that you have read and write that number on the line next to the starting line with your Vis-��-vis marker. Tape your horse at the starting line. This is your starting point. Next you will add ten to that number and write it next to the first hurdle, and then continue adding ten until all of the hurdles and the finish line have a number written next to them. (Model beginning with the number 58) We are going to continue doing these timed readings every day and when you reach the goal written on the hurdles you can jump them and tape your horse on the hurdle you have jumped."


5. To begin, read students the first three pages of Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa modeling fluency, and expression. Point out sentences that have question marks and exclamation marks and show students how they should be read. "Now you and your partner may begin reading. After one person is done reading and writing their goals repeat the steps for the other partner."


6. Give students time to read to each other, write their numbers, and tape their horse.


7. After students have read once and written down their times, pass out fluency checklists to each student. Tell students "Now we are going to reread the same passage you read for your first timed reading. For the second and third readings your partner is going to time you and make notes of your progress by using this checklist. Take a moment to look at the checklist and see what your partner is looking for. If you reach any of your hurdle goals during the second and third readings you can move your horse. Make sure to talk about what your partner checks on your checklist and ask him/her for any suggestions."


Continue doing this every day for different passages and changing partners so students receive different feedback. When students meet their goal at the finish line you can reward them with a reading related prizes such as a bookmark, one on one reading time with an older student, or special library trip including help choosing a book from the librarian.



1) Collect individual reading checklists each day and make note of student gains based on their charts.

2) Pick two pairs each day to monitor and make notes about individual students in the following areas: Smoothness, Speed, Expression, and Progress.


Ex: Alex is having a hard time blending words longer than four letters. He is reading a little below average at 45 words per minute. He is using very well emphasizing the right words. He is reading more smoothly than he was last week but needs to blend words more quickly.



Susanna Pate, Leaping into Reading

Book: Silverman, Erica. Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa. Illus. Betsy Lewin.  Orlando: Harcourt, Inc. �2006.


For more information visit:

Malissa Lopez, Leaping with Expression

Sarah Daughtry, Super Snazzy Summaries


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