On Your Marks, Get Set, READ!

Growing Independence and Fluency


Jessica Smith


Rationale:  Students learn to read at a slow pace.  As more words become automatic, reading speed increases.  Reading with fluency enables readers to read with expression, speed, and comprehension.  Fluent readers are able to focus more on text, because they have larger sight vocabularies.  This lesson focuses on encouraging students to read faster.  They will gain fluency through repeated readings with times kept on a chart.  Students will want to improve their reading speeds.


Materials: Copies of Pen Pals for each student, reading charts for each student (place for 1st minute, 2nd minute, and 3rd minute place), fluency rubric, stopwatch, pencils, chart with a tree and a monkey that can move up the tree.  To move up the tree, the child must improve his or her word per minute score.  The goal is for the monkey to reach the bananas at the top of the tree.



Reading Chart


Name: ________________       Date: _______


1st minute:  ______


2nd minute: ______


3rd minute:  ______




Fluency Rubric


            Name: ______________       Date: _______


                                                            After 2nd                      After 3rd


                        Read Faster:                ________                    ________


                        Read Smoother:          ________                    ________


                        Used Expression:         ________                    ________


                        Remembered words:  ________                    ________


1.      Introduce the lesson by explaining reading with speed and modeling its helpfulness.  "Today, we're going to try to improve how fast we read.  When we read faster, we can understand what we read better." 

2.      Write the sentence, "John loves to eat hamburgers with pickles," on the board.  "When I read this sentence for the first time, if I don't know the words it may be hard to read.  Reading it more than once can help me read it faster and with more expression.  (read slowly and monotone at first):  Joohnnn loaves, no loves, John loves to e-at h-a-m-b-urg, hamburgers with pi-ckles.  This is how you may first read the sentence.  If I read it again though, I can read it faster.  John lo-ves to eat ham-burgers with pickles.  Ok, that was a little better.  Let's try it one more time, John loves to eat hamburgers with pickles.  See, reading that sentence more than once can help me read it much faster because I already know more of the words."

3.      Remind students that even though they want to read faster, they need to remember to use cover-ups when they come to words they may not know. "Now even though we want to read faster, we have to make sure the story that we're reading makes sense.  What do you do when you're reading and you come to a word you don't know?  Right, you can use cover ups.  Like if you come across this word (write slacks on the board).  First I see that it has an a in the middle.  That says /a/.  Then I uncover the first part.  That says /s/, /l/, so I have /sla/.  Then I uncover the last part of the word.  The ck says /k/ then I add the /s/.  /s/,/l/,/a/, /k/, /s/  slacks!" 

4.      Also remind students about crosschecking to make sure they read the words correctly.  "Now when you crosscheck, you make sure the word makes sense in the sentence.  For example if I read this sentence, Ben has to tack a bath.  Tack a bath, that doesn't make sense.  Oh, Ben has to take a bath.  See how the first time I read it, it didn't fit in the sentence.  Rereading it helps me see what word I missed."

5.      Split the class into pairs.  Pass out the book, Pen Pals to each student.  Hand out the reading charts and fluency charts.  Give the following book talk, "Ben is a little baby.  He's playing in his play pen.  He gets lonely, so he starts crying.  Ted is Ben's cat, and he wants to get in the pen with Ben.  Ted and Ben both get really upset when they can't be together.  Dad comes to help.  What do you think he's going to do to help them?  We'll have to read to see what happens!" The students will first read the story silently individually.

6.      Then, students will take turns reading out loud to their partners.  One student will record the number of words read in a minute, using the stop watch to time one minute and counting the words their partner read.  They will record these times on the reading chart.  Each student should get a chance to be the reader and the recorder.  The reader can move his or her monkey up the chart to the correct number of words per minute to try and reach the bananas.                   

7.      Students will then each take turns rereading the book.  They will fill out the reading fluency chart to mark improvements in speed, expression, and smoothness, and sight words for their partners.  Each student will read the book a total of three times.

8.      Take up the students' charts and check for improvements for assessment.      


            Cushman, Shelia. Pen Pals. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.

Cadrette, Mallory.  Super Speedy Readers!! http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/encounters/cadrettegf.html

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