Sailing to Success


Growing Independence and Fluency

Anna Lancaster


Rationale: When children first learn to read, they read words slowly, causing them to read without expression and the necessary punctuated pauses. As children's reading ability develops, they have to read and reread decodable words in connected text and this will yield fluency. Being fluent allows more opportunity for reading comprehension because less time and effort is spent figuring out the words in the sentences. Most often, the students who can read fluently not only become successful readers, but also become lifelong readers because reading is natural and pleasant for them. 

Materials: Cover-up stick (1 for each student), marker board, dry erase markers, 1 book of Bud the Sub by Sheila Cushman for each pair of students, stopwatch for each pair, progress chart-Sailboat sailing across the sea to an island, one minute read chart (1 per student), fluency rubric (1 per student), **Partner Check Sheet for students to assess their partner's fluency:

As I listened to my partner read, he/she:

                                                                              After 2nd          After 3rd

                        1. Remembered more words         _______          _______

                        2. Read faster                                _______          _______

                        3. Read smoother                          _______          _______

                        4. Read with expression                _______          _______


*Speed Reading Record:

       Name:_________________________            Date:___________


                        - After 1st read            _______

                        - After 2nd read           _______

                        - After 3rd read            __  ____



1. Say: "Today, we are going to work on developing our fluency when we read. In order to be successful readers, we have to learn how to read fluently. When we read fluently, we recognize words automatically which helps with comprehending a story because you do not have to sound out each word."

2. Give each student a cover-up stick. Write the word "stock" on the board. Model how to read the word using the cover-up stick. "First, we look at the vowel. It says /o/. Now look at the s. /s/ Add the t sound. /st/. Put the /o/ and /st/ together to get /sto/. Now we add the /ck/ sound. We get st-o-ck."

3. Write the word "floor" on the board and sound it out together as a class.

4. Model for the students how to read with fluency. Write on the dry erase board the following sentence: The dog ran up the hill.  Tell students, "First, I am going to read the sentence without fluency.  The dddoooggg rrraaann uuuppp the hhhiiilll.  Now I am going to read the sentence as a fluent reader would.  The dog ran up the hill.  Did you hear the difference between reading with fluency and reading without fluency?  Listen as I read the sentence once again.  The dog ran up the hill.  This time I read the sentence faster because it was not the first time I had read these words. The first two times I read the sentence gave me practice and helped me read the sentence fluently the third time."

5. Say: "Another way to help us with understanding a sentence is by crosschecking. For example, if I read a sentence 'Dad rap across the street.' I would go back and check the word 'rap' because Dad can't rap across the street. After crosschecking, I see that the sentence is 'Dad ran across the street."

6. Pair students up into groups of two. Pass out the book Bud the Sub and a stopwatch to each group. Each student also gets a one minute read chart and a fluency chart. Give book talk: "Bud is a submarine. He and his driver save broken boats. They go to help a tug boat that hit something. Will they make it in time? Will they be able to pull him to safety?" Read story aloud to the class with them following along.

7. Divide the students into pairs. Hand each student a partner check sheet. In each pair, one student will be the reader and the other will be the timer and completes a check sheet for the reader. Explain: "We are going to work on developing our fluency by rereading during timed reads. You are going to see how much you can read in one minute. The timer will start the stopwatch as the reader begins to read. At one minute, the timer tells the reader to stop. You can't skip any words. At the end of the minute, count the number of words that you got correct, and mark it on your sailboat fluency chart. Swap jobs with your partner. Repeat until each has read three times." Be sure to model how to use a stopwatch and fill out the rubrics.


To see how they are doing, I will call up each student to my desk one at a time and have them do a one-minute read with me from Bud the Sub. I will make miscue notes and count the number of words they read correctly and mark it on their fluency chart. I will also ask some comprehension questions to see if they understand the story:

Who is Bud's boss?

What does Bud rescue?

Is Bud successful?



Liles, Sarah Frances. "Red is Ready to Read".

Cushman, Sheila. Bud the Sub. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.


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