"The Deep Sea"


Growing Independence and Fluency

Allison Boutwell

Rationale: Although it is a very slow and drawn out process, it is very important for children to learn how to read through decoding. Reading slowing also hinders reading comprehension. With instruction in fluency instruction, the process can be sped up. It also helps turn new words into sight words (automatically recognized words). Through the practice of repeated readings, a student can move forward from slowly decoding to automatic, effortless reading. This lesson helps children to use strategies that build sight words through cross-checking, repeated reading of the text, and charting the progress in paired partner reading to motivate rereading.   


- Stopwatches (one for each pair of students)

- Fluency graphs for each child (see assessment)

- Star stickers

- Class set of The Deep Sea

- Fluency checklist (see bottom)

- Reader response form (see bottom)


1) Explain the activity:

Say: Today you are going to learn how to pick up speed while you're reading so you can read smoothly and as naturally just like when you talk. When you can read smoothly, it's easy to understand the words and get interested in what's happening in a story.

2) Model fluent and non-fluent reading:

Say: I am going to let you listen to me read a short passage two times. When I'm done, I'll take a vote on which time I sounded better. (1) "Yes, I see the w-a-v-s," said Dave. Hmmm. I see the waves? (Waves makes more sense than w-a-v-s.) I am having trouble with a few of these new words so I have to finish the sentences to see if I can figure them out.) "The waves are b-i-g, big. But th-is, this is a big boat. We will be s-a-f, s-A-f, safe." (2) Let me try this passage again. "Yes, I see the waves," said Dave. "The waves are big. But this is a big boat. We will be safe."

[Ask for a show of hands] Who liked listening to the first time I read? How about the second time? Why did the second time sound better to you? Right, I didn't have to stop to figure out any of the words.

3) Review a strategy

Say: Did you notice that I used a strategy of crosschecking when I couldn't get a word? I finished the sentence to see if I could figure out how to say some tough new words that had long vowels, like the in waves or in safe. At first I read them, but they didn't sound like any real words I've heard before. When I finished the sentence, I could figure out what the words were, like wave instead of wav.

4) Practice together

Say: Let's try reading the next line on the page together as a class. I see one tough new word in the next sentence. (choral read: )"Will Dave and Bill take the little boat with them every time they sail?" I heard some of you having trouble with every, but you used the rest of the sentence to figure it out.

5) Motivate to read

Say: Before we get any further, let me tell you a little bit about what happens in this story. Dave and Bill sail the big boat, The Rip Tide, to Gull Rock every week. This time, they hit a big log in the sea! There is a leak in the side of The Rip Tide! Dave and Bill have to come up with a way to save the big boat and to save themselves. What do you think they will do? You'll have to read the story to find out what happens to Dave and Bill.

6) Explain the new procedure for paired practice

While explaining, write directions as steps on the board for students to refer to.

Say: Here's what you are going to do next.

1. Pair up with your reading buddy; one buddy can come and get two Partner Reading Progress checklists and two reader response forms from my desk, then return to your reading places. While one buddy is doing this, the other one will count all the words in this chapter and put that number at the top of your checklist forms.

2. Take 3 turns reading the chapter to each other. While one reads, the other will use the stopwatch to time your partner's readings.

3. Also pay close attention to how many mistakes your partner makes each time.  Make tallies like this (show line tally method on the board) for each mistake.

4. Then do a subtraction problem the total number of words minus the number of tallies for each reading.  That number goes on this line:                Words in             seconds

5. After getting some progress measures figured out, answer the two questions on the progress form about which turn was the smoothest and which had the fewest errors.

6. When you are done timing each other, you can discuss the answers to the reader response questions.

7. Then each of you will write your answers on a separate sheet of paper back at your desks.

8. When you turn in your papers and checklists, I will give you a graph and three stars. I will figure out your three rates and after putting your name at the top your stars will go in the time spaces to show your reading rates. 

9. You'll put your completed star chart on the front bulletin board on the fluency poster.


Grades are computed using point system as follows:

Followed direction for completing forms


Improved in speed


Improved in accuracy


Answered 4 questions with complete sentences


Answers accurate/appropriate


Total Points




­__________ Reading Rate



































Sims, Matt. (1999). The Deep Sea. Novato, CA : High Noon Books.

Photo image from: 

Lesson Design Resources:

Geri Murray, "Reading is a Breeze"  http://www.auburn.edu/~murrag1/murraygf.htm

Jamie Storey, Smooth Sailing into Fluent Reading http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/awakenings/storeyjgf.htm


Partner Reading Progress
Total words in chapter: ­______

Reader: ­­­­­­_______________________________
Checker: _______________________________
1_____ words in _____ seconds
2 _____ words in _____ seconds
3 _____ words in _____ seconds
Turn number that sounded smoothest _______
Turn number that had the fewest mistakes _______



Reader Response                                             Name____________________________

Directions: On a separate sheet of paper, answer each question with at least one complete sentence.

1.    Why do you think Dave and Bill feel safe when they have the little boat with them?

2.    What would you have done with the hole on The Rip Tide?

3.    What did Dave and Bill want to race on the way to Gull Rock?

4.    Write down a time that you remember being scared and tell what you did in that situation.


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