Put the Pedal to the Metal

By: D.D. Knight

Rationale: This lesson is for students to practice their reading. We want students to read words quickly and effortlessly. When students can read easily then they will read faster and understand more, making fluent readers. Word recognition is learned by decoding and crosschecking and sped up through repeated readings. We calculate our reading score by words read times 60 divided by the seconds it took to read. Students will be able to recognize words automatically, read with expression, and understand the context.



            Sarah Plain and Tall (enough for each student)

            Stop watches (enough for each pair of students)

            Dry erase board

            Dry erase marker

            Fluency sheet (enough for each student)

            Stick notes

            Pencils (for each pair of students)

            Progress chart (an iceberg with a movable penguin and sea lion) 

Procedures: 1. Explain lesson purpose: “Today we are going to work on becoming more fluent readers. That means reading without pausing to decode every word. I want you to read the way I read to you. To become a more fluent reader, we need to practice knowing the words when we see them. We are going to read our book through several times, and it will get easier each time to know the words.”  


 2.  Model: Have the sentence “I love big penguins.” written on the whiteboard. “I am going to read this sentence a few times, and then I want you to tell me which is easiest to understand.” First read the sentence disfluently, “IIIII llllloooovvvveee bbbiiiggg pppeeennnggguuuiiinnnsss.” Then read it correctly, but with pauses between words, “I love big penguins.” Finally read it fluently and quickly, “I love big penguins. Did you hear the difference? Which time was the easiest to understand? (wait for answer) Yes, the third one. Each time I read the sentence, it was a little easier to read it the next time. That is the same when you read.”

 3.  Explain the activity. “Today, we will be reading the first chapter of Sarah Plain and Tall. In this chapter, Anna is having a conversation with her brother, Caleb, when their Papa walks in. Let’s keep reading to see what he has to say. It should get easier to read the words every time you read through the story. The first time you read it, you might come to a word you don’t know; remember to cross-check. That means do the best you can with that word and finish the sentence. Then see if it makes sense. I am going to read the story through once to show you what you want to sound like.” (Read through the chapter fluently) 

 4.  Give students time to practice fluency on their own.  “Now that we have practiced, I am going to let you work together.” Divide students into pairs and give each pair a timer and sticky notes and each student an iceberg with the moveable parts. “I want each of you to take turns reading the chapter to your partner. Then one person will start the timer and the other reads. Time your partner for how long it takes to read the chapter and mark any words they say wrong by putting a sticky note in your book. Tell your partner what words they missed after they finish. When you finish, put your penguin on the iceberg. The less time it takes you to read, the closer the penguin makes it closer to the fish, and the fewer words you miss, the farther away the seal moves from the penguin. I want you to each read three times and move the penguin and sea lion each time. Watch as I show how this works.” (Have a student read and model how the partner marks words and places the penguin and sea lion.)

 5.  Walk around classroom to listen to students and check that students are on task.

 6.  Make a note when you pass of students’ scores to make track if speed is increasing and errors have decreased.

To assess students when each pair is finished reading, ask each student two of the following questions to check for comprehension.

1. Who is the oldest?

2. Who liked to sing?

3. Why did Papa write an ad?

4. Who responded to the ad?




 Rachel Smith- The Race for Home http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/awakenings/smithrgf.htm


Maclachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper Collins, 1985. Print.

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