Express Yourself! by Reading Fluently

Growing Independence & Fluency Lesson Design

By: Courtney Leyde

Rationale: Fluency is a crucial part of a student’s reading ability, as it results in the ability to read with more speed, accuracy, expression, and smoothness.  Reading fluency improves and increases reading comprehension, as well. When students are able to read fluently, they can use all their brain power to focus on getting the message of a text. In this lesson, students will practice reading with a decodable, engaging chapter book and will review decoding strategies such as crosschecking and rereading. After repeated readings of the text, students will be able to read the text with much more expression.



·         Student copies of Horrible Harry and the Dragon War

·         Stopwatch for each pair of students

·         Poster with the sentence “Oh no, my sister fell down!”

·         Student copies of Repeated Reading Fluency Checklist



1.       Introduce the lesson, say: “Today, we are going to work on fluency by practicing reading with more expression. We are going to read Horrible Harry and the Dragon War. You will read the text with a partner several times to practice learning and reading with more expression.  What does it mean to read with expression? (Allow student discussion.)”

2.       Review: “What do we do if we come across a word we don’t know while reading? We can decode as best as possible then crosscheck to see if the word makes sense. To crosscheck means to finish the sentence using the word and see if it makes sense. You might even have to reread the sentence to find out if it makes sense. Then you can continue if it’s the right word (rereading the sentence to get back into the story), or go back and try again if it’s not. For example, look at the poster on the board. Listen to me try to read it, ‘My sister ffff-iiii-llll down, wait, that’s not right. Oh, my sister FELL down! Oh no, my sister fell down.’”

3.       Model fluent reading:  “Keep looking at that sentence. Imagine it’s my first time reading that sentence, “Oh no, myyy…sis-sister fi-fell down’ (in a halting, boring tone). Now I’ll try to read it again, (read more smoothly and with more expression), ‘Oh no(!), my sister fell down!.’ See? The second time, I was able to read it in a more exciting and interesting way since I wasn’t having to try so hard to figure out what the words are. Now listen as I read a few sentences; notice how my voice goes up and down and how I read them with different expressions. I love Halloween! We get to dress up and get lots of candy. What is your favorite part of Halloween? Notice how an exclamation point means I read it in an excited way. And I read the sentence with a period in a normal voice. And when I read the sentence with a question mark, my voice goes up at the end and I use my questioning voice. If I was sad, my voice would go down at the end.”

4.       Say: “Now I will read a short passage. When I sound happy or excited, wiggle your fingers. When I sound angry or sad, cross your arms. If I don’t sound either, don’t make any signals.”

5.       Say: “Now it’s time for you to practice. You will each draw a sentence with a suggested certain emotion from a hat. I will give you a couple minutes to practice and think about how you are going to read your sentence WITH EXPRESSION. Then we will go around the room and let everyone share their sentence.”

6.       Directions: “Now you will practice reading and rereading Horrible Harry and the Dragon War. This story is about something AWFUL that happened in Horrible Harry’s classroom, Harry and his best friend Song Lee are having a fight! They disagree about dragons. Are they mean and scary (like Harry thinks) or are they gentle and lucky (like Song Lee says)? You will be put with a partner. Each group needs one book, one stopwatch, and two checklists. You will take turns reading and listening to each other. While your partner reads, you will listen closely and keep track of how they’re doing on the checklist. Use the stopwatch to track your partner’s time. Read the book three times each, and practice reading more fluently with more and more expression each time.”

7.       Observe: While students are working, walk around the room to observe students’ reading, and making yourself available for any questions students may have.

8.       Assess: After all students have done the repeated readings, have students write down their answers to several reading comprehension questions such as –

                a.       So was Harry or Song Lee right?

                b.      How were they both correct?

                c.       Who found the information that proved them both right?

                d.      How did they celebrate?

                        Also, review the peer checklists the students filled out, as well.



Allman, Amber. No More Robot Reading.

Kline, Suzy. Horrible Harry and the Dragon War. Scholastic Inc. New York: 2003. 51pp.

Roebuck, Caitlin. Becoming Faster with Fluency.





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