The Race is On!

Growing Independence and Fluency



Lindsay Phillips

Rationale:  A primary goal of reading instruction is to teach students to read fluently.  Reading fluently means reading quickly and accurately with smoothness and expression.  To learn to read fluently, students must practice reading and rereading decodable words in connected text.  When students do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus on the meaning of the text, which will increase comprehension.  The goal of this lesson is to help students improve reading fluency and comprehension by first reading a decodable text independently and then rereading the same text during three timed readings with a fluency partner. 


Sentence strip with the sentence "Will you bake a cake for me, Mom?

The Race for Cake by Geri Murray (copy for each student)

Fluency Partner Timed Reading Chart (one for each student)

The Race is On! timed reading graph (one for each student)
Stop watch (one for each set of two students/ fluency partners)
Cover-up buddy- popsicle sticks with googly eyes on them (one for each student)


Fluency Partner Timed Reading Chart


Name of Reader:                                ________________   

Name of Partner:                                ________________


 Words read 1st time (in 1 minute):                        

Words read 2nd time: (in 1 minute)                       

Words read 3rd time: (in 1 minute)                        

During the second and third timed readings, did my partner:

After 2nd Reading

After 3rd Reading




Remember More Words



Read Faster



Read Smoother



Read with Expression



The Race is On!




Directions:  Fill in the bar graph each time you read to see how much faster you're reading!

Words Correct Per Minute


















































































1st Reading



3rd Reading


One-Minute Timed Readings



1.  Begin the lesson by setting a purpose.   Say, "Can anyone tell me something you have to practice to be good at?"  (Anticipate responses such as sports activities or playing a musical instrument.)  "That's right.  You have to practice to get better at all of those things.  Did you know that you also have to practice reading in order to become a fluent reader?  A fluent reader is a reader who can read quickly and smoothly and with expression.  When you read fluently, you can understand the story better because you don't have to stop and sound out each word.  Instead, you can focus on what the story is about.  Then, you can enjoy the story more, and people listening to you enjoy it more too! The best way to become a fluent reader is by rereading stories over and over.  Today we're going to pair up to read a story to see how much better we can become with practice!

2.  Display a sentence strip with the sentence, "Will you bake a cake for me, Mom?"  Model reading fluently and non-fluently for students to demonstrate the difference between the two.  Say, "Look at this sentence strip.  If I could not read fluently, I might read the sentence like this, 'Wiiiiill you bak -- no baaaak  -- a caaak for me, Mmoom?'  The word bake was a little tricky for me.  I first thought it was back, but I figured it out by crosschecking to make sure it made sense in the sentence.  When you get to a word you don't know or aren't sure about, remember to crosscheck by first reading to the end of the sentence and then rereading the sentence again to see if the word makes sense.  Now, listen to how much better the sentence sounds when I read it fluently, 'Will you bake a cake for me, Mom?' Which way do you think the sentence sounded better, when I read it the first way or the second way? You're right. The second way was much smoother and easier to understand because I read it fluently.  Did you notice how I was able to put expression into my voice when I read the sentence the second time? Good!  When you read fluently, you can read quickly, smoothly, and with expression.  You can tell I've been practicing, can't you? That's how you're going to read after you get lots of practice!"

3.  Write the word chick on the board and show students the cover-up critter they've used for other reading lessons.  Say, "If you get to a tricky word, you can still use your cover-up critter to help you sound it out. Remember how to use them? If I come to a word I don't automatically know, I use my finger and my critter to cover up everything but the vowel."  (Demonstrate.)  "I see the i, and I know a vowel by itself without an e on the end of the word usually has the short vowel sound, so I know it says /i/. "  Take finger off of the first two letters. "I know that the letters ch together are partner letters that make the /ch/ sound."  Now uncover the ck on the end of the word. " When I see the letters ck together, I know that they make one sound, and that is the /k/ sound.  When I blend all of those sounds together, I can read the word chick.  You read the word for me.  I'll practice with you beginning with the vowel and then uncovering one sound at a time." Model using the critter while students read the sounds and then the word.  "Great job!  Remember to always look at the vowel first.

4.  Today we're going to read The Race for Cake."  Jess and Ben are swimming when they smell something delicious.  They know their mom is baking a cake.  Yum!  They race to the house, but they don't know their dog Lad is coming with them.  Let's see what happens when Lad joins the race for the cake!

5.  (Divide students into groups of two. Provide each student with The Race for Cake, a clipboard with timed reading chart and timed reading graph on it, and a pencil; provide each partner group with a stopwatch.)  Say, "I have put you with a friend that will be your fluency partner.  That means you're going to help each other become fluent readers.  I want you to listen to the directions, and then I'm going to let you and your partner find a quiet spot inside the classroom to read and listen to one another.  The first thing I want you to do when you go to your quiet spot is read the story to yourself silently to become familiar with it.  When you and your partner have finished that, you will begin timing one another.  The way you will do this is one partner will read while the other partner times the reading.  The person who is reading will begin on the first page and read until the timer goes off.  The person who is timing will set the timer on one minute like this."   (Demonstrate how to set the timer for one minute.)  "When the timer goes off, the reader will count the number of words he read up until the timer went off and record them on his chart.  Then, you will switch jobs.  Remember when you're the reader, you read until the timer goes off, and then you record how many words you read.  You will follow this routine three times, until all three spaces on your Timed Reading Chart have been filled in.  When you are the reader, you need to concentrate on reading quickly and smoothly.  When you are the timer, you need to follow along in your book and notice how quickly and smoothly your partner is reading.  By the third reading, you should both be using very good expression when you're reading!  After you have both finished your three readings and filled in all of the blanks on your timed reading chart, I want you to fill in your graph so you can see how much faster you read with each timing.  (Show students the reading graph and demonstrate how to fill it in.)  Say, "At the bottom the graph has columns for the first timing, the second, and the third.  Up the side of the graph it shows how many words you read during that timing.  Look back at your timed reading chart and see how many words you read for the first time and color your bar graph up to that number.  If your time is between numbers, for example 42, just stop coloring in between the 40 and 45 blocks, like this." (Demonstrate coloring in between boxes.)  Say, "Now you may go find a quiet place in the classroom.  Remember that you will be taking turns reading and timing with your fluency partner.  Be sure to use your inside voices so that you don't disturb the other partner groups.  I will be walking around to listen to all of the great reading in the room!  If you have any questions, just raise your hand, and I'll be happy to come and help you."


Assessment:  When all students have finished with timed readings, call students one by one to your reading table to bring you their timed reading charts and graphs. Go over the checklist and graphs with them, making note of the increase in words per minute and praise students' accomplishments.  Then record a one-minute reading with each student, making notes of miscues. Compare this to the recorded times with their fluency partner.


Developing Reading Fluency," by Bruce Murray, The Reading Genie,


The Race for Cake by Geri Murray, The Reading Genie,

"Racing to Read with Fluency! Growing Independence and Fluency,"  by Sarah Walton, The Reading Genie


"Hippity Hop into Fluent Reading,  Growing Independence and Fluency," by Mandy Fleming, Sightings, Fall 2008,

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