Growing Independence and Fluency Lesson Design

Flat Stanley Wants You to Read More Fluently!

By: Carly Dumas


Reading fluency is being able to read with automatic word recognition. When readers become fluent their ability to read text quick, smooth, and with expression will increase. The recognition of these words may be learned by decoding and then sped up through the use of repeated readings. The strongest research evidence supports the method of repeated reading to gain fluency. If students are fluent readers and do not have to individually decode each individual word, they will be able to spend more time deciphering the message and retaining it for comprehension. If a student is unfamiliar with a particular word and unable to decode it, perhaps he could figure out the word by crosschecking. Children who use both decoding and crosschecking are becoming more able to recognize words automatically, read with expression, and understand the context. The goal of this lesson is to improve student’s fluency through repeated readings and timed reading.


- Flat Stanley by: Jeff Brown (class set)

- Stopwatches (class set, one per pair)

- Pencils

- Reading progress charts (for each student)

- Cover up critter (decorated Popsicle stick with googley eyes on the end for each student)

- Fluency checklist (for each student)

- Dry-Erase Board/Marker (Keep covered until needed)


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining what it means to be a fluent reader. “Today we are going to work on our fluency while reading. Fluency is the ability to read words quickly and automatically with expressions. Fluency is important because it makes reading more exciting and easier to comprehend. We can all become fluent readers by reading a text several times. Today, we are going to work on improving our fluency by rereading a text. We are going to read the same book three times with a reading partner. You and your partner are going to time each other reading. Everyone should set a goal for themselves to improve your reading each time. I want everyone to read faster and more accurately with more expressions every time."

2. First the teacher will use the dry erase board and model reading fluency by writing ‘Come to my room.’ The teacher will say, “A beginning reader sounds like this when reading the sentence on the board: ‘Coooome tooo mmyyy rrooooom'.  Then they might say 'Ccooomee come – to – my – rrooom room’ struggling with the unfamiliar and repeating those they do not recognize.  A beginning reader who can read the words automatically might say ‘Come to my room’ but sound like a robot or read without expression, but a fluent reader who recognizes words automatically and reads with expression sounds like this: ‘Come to my room!'  Fluent readers sound like this because they are able to read the words effortlessly and automatically.  The more practice that you have with a book, the faster you are able to read it.  Reading a book that you have already read before also helps you become more natural with books that you have never even seen before.  Let's start practicing so that we can become fluent readers!"

3. Next have students take out their cover-up critters. Model how to use the critters when coming across an unfamiliar word during reading. "Today we are going to review the cover up critter strategy.  Okay, what do we do when we come to a word that we cannot read?  We use our cover-up critter! For example, if I saw this word (write luck on the board) when I was reading and did not know it, I would cover-up all the letters (l, c, k) but the vowels because I know that  u= /u/.  Now look at the letter before the vowel l.  Blend these phonemes with the vowel u.  This sounds like /l/u/.  Then blend the letters at the end of the word, the ck, with the rest of the letters to make /l/u/ck/.  When you see a word that you don't know how to read, use the cover-up method to help you decode the word. Breaking it down into little pieces is a lot less intimidating and makes it less frustrating when you come across a word you do not know."

4. Tell the students: "To understand what we have read, we cannot just focus on reading fast.  We can crosscheck what we read to make sure our sentence makes sense.  For example, if I read this sentence (Write on the board: "The sky looks blue today") as "The sky likes blue today" then I could use my crosschecking ability to decide that “likes” doesn't have anything to do with it being with the color of the sky. I would then reread my sentence correctly as “The sky looks blue today" realizing that I misread the word.

5. Break the class up into pairs. Then give selected book, Flat Stanley to each child; hand out a Fluency Rubric and Reading Progress Chart to each student. Also, give the following book talk about Flat Stanley, but will be careful not to give away the ending so that the students are eager to continue reading. “When Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning, his brother, Arthur, is yelling. A bulletin board fell on Stanley during the night, and now he is completely flat! Amazing things begin happening to him after this. Stanley gets rolled up, mailed, and he is even flown like a kite. Stanley becomes a hero! We will have to keep reading if we want to learn about all of the adventures Stanley takes when he is Flat."

6.After the students have heard the whole story out loud tell them to take turns reading parts of the story to their partners. The person who is not reading, “the recorder”, will write down how long it takes the "reader" to read pages 6-14 of the text.  The "recorder" will record the "reader’s" time by using the stopwatch.  The "recorder" will then make a note on the Reading Progress Chart about how long it took the reader to read pages 6-14 (154 words). They will then switch turns (the "reader" becoming the "recorder" and vice versa) and do the process again so that each student reads. After both children have finished reading, have them practice by doing a repeated reading of the same text (x2).  This time also remind each "recorder" to fill out the Fluency Rubric after the "reader" has read the book. This will give them a chance to focus on expression and smoothness not just speed. This will also show me how well they read the text not just if they could read it quickly.  

7. Allow the students to do one more rereading of the book for a total of three readings of the book.  Remind the children to carry on recording their partner's reading in the Reading Progress Chart and to complete the Fluency Rubric. Let the students discuss how they got better within their readings and re-readings of the book with their partner.

8. Observe the reading partners as they read the text. Walk around the room and answer questions that the students may have. Be sure that they are filling out the reading progress chart and fluency checklist.

9. Lastly collect the students' completed Fluency Rubrics and Reading Progress Charts. Compare the students' first, second, and last readings to check for development in fluency and divide the 154 words that each child reads multiply it by 60 and then divided by the amount of time that it took them. This will give me the words per minute for each student and enable me to make a graph of their progress.


At the end each child will get out their reading journal and write about three adventures Stanley went on while he was flat. This will show whether or not the students comprehended the text. Afterwards, they will choose one adventure that Stanley went on and draw and color a picture of what the adventure entailed. As students are working independently at desks I will call them up to answer comprehension questions. Some will include, “ How did Stanley become flat? How did Stanley get stuck in the tree? When Mrs. Lambchop's ring fell into a street drain, Stanley climbed down to get it. What did Stanley hold onto when he went in the drain? Who was Stanley going to visit when he mailed himself to California? What did Stanley want to dress up as at the museum? Etc.”

  Reading Progress Chart:

Name:______________________  Date:____________

1st reading: ______

2nd reading: ______

3rd reading: ______


Fluency Rubric:

Name:______________________  Evaluator:_______________________ 

Date: ____________

I noticed that my partner: (put an X in the blank)                                                 

                                                                 After 2nd   After 3rd

Read Faster                                                ______      ______

Read Smoother                                          ______      ______

Read with Expression                              ______      ______

Remembered more words                      ______      ______



Brown, Holland, “Go, Reading With Fluency, Go!”

Brown, Jeff, and Tomi Ungerer. Flat Stanley. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1964. Print. 

Goins, Hilary. "Read Fluently with Amelia Bedelia and Me!"

Murray, Bruce. Developing Reading Fluency.

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