Racing Readers

Growing Independence and Fluency Design

Catherine Gardner

Rationale: For students to be fluent readers, they must read quickly, automatically, and expressively.  One way to increase fluency is through repeated readings.  Repeated readings, reading a text or section of text several times, allows students to become more fluent by making all the words in a text sight words.  In this lesson, students will gain fluency through silent reading and repeated readings with a partner.


·        The book: The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race by Stan and Jan Berenstain (one for each student pair and one for teacher)

·        Stop watch/timer for every two students

·        Chart to record student's words per minute

·        Copy of passage on the smart board to model fluent reading

o   "The dog jumps from the bed to the ground. He wags his tail and barks very loud."

·     Copies of passage  (one for the students to read and one for each student for the teacher to record on)

·     fluency checklist (to pass out to students)

·     racecar with velcro that moves along the track in relation to the students WPM (1 for each student)


1. Explain to students what being a fluent reader means.  "It is very important that we all become fluent readers.  A fluent reader is able to read the words in a book at a good rate, automatically read and recognize words, and read with expression.  Being able to recognize words automatically and read at a proper pace leads to better reading comprehension, which leads to reading being more enjoyable.  It takes a lot of practice to become a fluent reader, but it is worth it!"

2. "There are some things you need to be able to do to become a fluent reader.  First you need to be able to decode words.  We can use our cover-up critters to break up words that we don't know into smaller parts that make it easier to read.  If we come to a word that we don't know, after we have tried to decode the word, it is good to finish the sentence to see if we can figure out the word using the context of the sentence. This is called cross-checking.  It is also important to be able to mentally mark irregular words once you have figured out that word, such as island says I-land.  When you make notes about these irregular words in your head, this is called mental marking. One other important step you need to do is to always reread sentences that give you trouble.  Once you crosscheck, discover the word, and mentally mark the irregular word, you always should reread the entire sentence."

3. Model fluency: I am going to model how to read fluently. I will start by reading this passage:

          'The dog jumps f-rrr-ooo-mm the bed, oh from the bed, to the grind, I mean ground. He w-aaa-gs his tail, oh wags his tail, and b-a-r-ks very l-ooo-d. Load? Oh, that's loud.'"

"That sentence definitely gave me some trouble!  I'm going to read it again now that I have used the important steps of crosschecking and mental marking." (I will read it fast without expression)

          'The dog jumps from the bed to the ground. He wags his tail and barks very loud.'

"That was a lot easier for me to read since I remembered the words that gave me trouble when I read it before.  Now I'm going to read it again and add expression to my reading. (Then I will read the passage with expression).  Notice how after I have read a word a few times, using decoding, crosschecking, and mental marking, I was able to recognize it immediately and it made the whole sentence more enjoyable to read.  Wasn't it more enjoyable listening to me read the passage the last time than the first time I read it?  When we read fluently, we enjoy reading more and others enjoy listening to us read!"

4. "Now it is your turn to practice reading fluently! Today we are going to be reading The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race.   Brother Bear in his little red car is in the road race against the other bigger cars.  The other cars are bigger and faster, will Brother Bear be able to win the race?  Let's read to find out if Brother Bear wins!  I want everyone to read this book silently. Remember, silently means you are not whispering, you are silent."

5. "Now I want everyone to get into pairs and read the book with your partner.  I want you and your partner to take turns being the reader while the other partner is the recorder.  The reader is to read to page 15 of The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race three times and the recorder will fill out a sheet, noting how the reader is improving.  The recorder will mark if the student remembered more words, read faster, read smoother, and read with expression the 2nd and 3rd time they read the book. Then you will switch places and repeat. Remember to use your decoding, crosschecking, mental marking, and rereading skills."

Fluency Checklist:


Title of Book: __________________________________


Student’s Name: __________________________________   Date:


Partner's Name: ______________________________


After 2nd Reading After 3rd Reading

_________                    _________                   Remembered more words

_________                    _________                   Read faster

_________                    _________                   Read smoother

_________                    _________                   Read with expression


6. To assess the students, I will call students to my desk one by one to individually read a passage of text to me. I will record how long it takes the students to read the 137 word passage provided below. I will record the student's words per minute on a chart (word per minute is calculated by words read multiplied by 60, divided by however long it took the students to read. Words x 60 / seconds).  When the student receives his or her words per minute, they will then move their racecar along the track to the correct WPM.  The goal is to become a speedy reader like the speedy racecar!


Berenstain, Stan.  Berenstain, Jan.  The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race.  1987.

Jaggears, Emma.

Byers, Kathryn.



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