Sailing to Smooth and Speedy Reading



 Growing Independence and Fluency Lesson Design

Claire Simpson




Rationale:   In order for a child to read fluently, he/she should be able to read faster and smoother than when they first started reading.  Reading fluency is the ability to recognize words accurately, rapidly, and automatically. When a child is able to decode words automatically and effortlessly, reading becomes a much more enjoyable experience for them.  The way to accomplish this is for the child to read and reread decodable words in a connected text.  The more children work with a particular piece of text, the more fluent the text becomes to them.  This lesson will help children learn how to read faster and more smoothly.



-dry erase marker

-large piece of paper for each student with a waterway/river drawn on it

-small cutout of a sailboat

-one stopwatch for every two children

-Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Aladdin Publishing, 1987.

-different books of different reading levels




1. Introduce the lesson to students by saying how important it is for readers to read both quickly and smoothly. Say: Not only does it sound better when we read this way, but it also helps us to make more sense of what we are reading.  This means that the stories are more interesting and fun to read.  Let me show you. 


2. Say: I am going to read a sentence one time through just like a beginning reader would and then I am going to read it again like a really good reader would read it. Write the sentence on the board - She just bit an apple, then noticed that there was half a worm inside! Read the sentence slowly to the students. Say: Listen closely to the difference: S-h-e-j-j-j-u-s-t-b-i-t-a-n-a-a-a-p-p-l-e-t-h-e-n-n-o-t-i-c-e-d-t-h-a-t-t-h-e-r-e-w-a-s-h-a-l-f-a-w-o-r-m-i-n-s-i-d-e. Sound the words out slowly, stuttering a bit. Say: That did not sound quite right, did it? Now let me read it again. Notice my speed this time. Read the sentence a second time more smoothly. She just bit an apple, then noticed that there was half a worm inside! That sounds much better, doesnt it? What are some things that I did differently the second time compared to the first time? Right, I let the words flow out of my mouth more clearly!


3. Write another sentence on the board.  (The school bell rang and we all packed our bags to go home.) Divide students into pairs and have them practice reading the sentence to one another until they can read it smoothly.  I want you all to read the sentence through for the first time out loud to each other.  Listen to the way that it sounds the first time you read it. Then I want you to read the sentence silently to yourself at least five times through. Reading the sentence over and over will help you with your speed.  Then, I want you to read the sentence again out loud to your partner.  Notice how different it sounds this time.  What makes it sound better? Did it sound better when you read it fast or slow? Awesome job everyone! Explain to students, The reason we practice our reading is to become good at it!

4. Read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst to the students. Say: This is the story of Alexander.  Poor Alexander is having a horrible day.  First he goes to sleep with gum in his mouth and wakes up with it in his hair. As Alexanders day progresses, he gets smushed in the middle seat of the car, gets a lunch sack with no dessert, discovers a cavity at the dentist, sees kissing on TV, and is forced to sleep in railroad-train pajamas. Lets read to find out if Alexanders day gets any better! Model timed reading.

5. Now it is your turn to try reading your own book!  I am going to give each group a book to read.  While one of you reads the book the other one is going to be the timer.  You will be timed for one minute.  Read as many words as you can. If you come to a word that you dont know, use the cover up method to try to figure it out.  If you still cant figure it out, look at the rest of the sentence. If that doesnt work, ask your partner for help.  I will also be walking around to help you. We are going to do this several times so that you can become a faster and faster reader! Lets get started!


6. Say: Now, after one minute is up you will count how many words you read and place your sailboat on that number on the waterway.  Then you will switch and your partner will do the same thing.  Before you start all over, make a star with your pencil on your waterway on the first number of words that you read so that we can see how much faster you are getting.  I bet after a couple of times reading the book, your sailboat will get farther and farther along the waterway. Lets see. One, two, three, read!


7. I will assess the students by looking at their progress charts.  They will mark on the waterway where they began and where they ended and turn it in for me to evaluate.


(Stewart, Christi. 2005)

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