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Reading Fluency with Chloe, Second Grader

Reading Fluency with Chloe, Second Grader

In this online lesson, reading expert Linda Farrell helps second grader Chloe master the three key elements of reading fluency — accuracy, reading rate, and reading with expression. Watch how Ms. Farrell gives Chloe explicit instruction and encouragement through all three steps, each building on the previous stage.


This video was produced in partnership with the National Education Association.

See transcript ›

About Linda Farrell

Linda Farrell is a founding partner at Readsters (opens in a new window), an Alexandria, VA-based firm that helps schools implement research-based reading instruction. She is committed to effective early reading instruction to help struggling readers become strong readers, and to ensure that strong readers achieve their full potential.

Linda works in schools throughout the U.S. training and coaching teachers and modeling effective reading instruction. She also has designed curricula in Niger and Senegal for children to learn to read in their local languages.

Linda is a former English teacher and she was a National LETRS trainer for seven years. She has co-authored assessments and curricula for teaching reading, as well as several other published works. Linda can be reached at:


Reading Fluency with Chloe, Second Grader

Linda Farrell: That word is “flood-ing.” Say “flooding.”

Chloe: Flooding.

Linda Farrell: Flooding. That means a whole bunch of water goes some place.

Chloe: And it’s flooding the whole, entire …

Linda Farrell: Yeah. It’s that word.

[Graphics] Looking at Reading Interventions: A Reading Rockets Series

[Graphics] One-on-One Intervention with Chloe.

Chloe is in the second grade in Alexandria, Virginia. During the pandemic, she’s also getting virtual lessons from reading expert Linda Farrell.

Linda Farrell: Okay. Hi, Ms. Smoak and Chloe. How was your holiday?

Chloe: It was completely great.

Olu Smoak: It was wonderful. How are you?

Linda Farrell: I am well.

Ms. Farrell and Chloe are working mostly on phonics. But they devote the last ten minutes of each lesson to oral reading. That gives Chloe a chance to apply what she’s learned about phonics and develop her reading fluency, which is our focus today.

[Graphics] Linda Farrell, M.Ed. Founding Partner, Readsters

Linda Farrell: Fluency is often measured as a rate. People think that fluency is how fast you read and actually fluency has three elements: accuracy, its rate, and its expression.

[Graphics] Three Elements of Fluency: Accuracy. Rate. Expression.

And they probably should be approached with struggling readers in that way. If someone is struggling with fluency, first, we want to have them accurate. Next, we get them reading at a reasonable rate, and if they aren’t reading with expression at that point then we work on their expression.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy

Linda Farrell: Today, Chloe, we’re going to read some sections of passages. We’re going to aim for accuracy. What’s accuracy?

Chloe: Accuracy is when you don’t do any, like any words, every word is correct.

Linda Farrell: Yes. That would be 100 percent accuracy.

Olu Smoak: Okay, I’ll leave you two to the lesson. See you afterwards. Have a great time.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: First reading of passage #1

Linda Farrell: Okay, Chloe, let’s get started.

Chloe: When the twins finished eating their apples it was time to get to work. Kim picked red apples. Jill got green apples. The green apples were not sweet.

[Graphics] When the twins finished eating their apples it was time to get to work. Kim picked red apples. Jill got green apples. The green apples were not sweet.

Ms. Farrell starts Chloe with a short passage — about 40 words or so. It’s one that Chloe can probably read accurately on her first try … to give her confidence and to get her warmed up. Ms. Farrell won’t be timing Chloe, so the focus is on reading each word correctly.

So why is accuracy so critical?

Linda Farrell: The reason accuracy at every age is so important is that in early reading in easy texts you can guess and still get the gist, especially if you have good background knowledge. When the students get to 4th and 5th grade, and the pictures go away and the words are harder, guessing is no longer a strategy that works.

Ms. Farrell says that it’s a mistake to allow young readers to guess words or to skip words. We shouldn’t even let close misreads slide – like reading “mommy” instead of “mom” or adding a word that isn’t there. If we allow students to get comfortable with inaccuracy, they can develop habits that are really hard to change later on.

Linda Farrell: You got 100 percent three times in a row, so we’re going to read Set Two next time.

Chloe’s goal is to read three passages correctly the first time she reads them – cold reads. After that, she’ll practice reading more difficult passages until she’s reading 100% accurately at her grade level.

Linda Farrell: But before we do that write 100 percent in the third column.

Linda Farrell: Students are motivated to improve. They have charts. They chart how well they do and that’s very motivating.

Linda Farrell: Oh my gosh. Three 100s in a row. We are going to move to set two. Can you find the passages that say set two?

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: First reading of passage 2

Linda Farrell: Can you find the passages that say Set Two?

Linda Farrell: Uh-huh. That’s it. Okay. And when you’re ready to read, I’m ready to take notes.

Chloe: April [sic] day means tree day, tree day. Trees are important. That is why trees get a special day every year.

[Graphics] Arbor Day means tree day, tree day. Trees are important. That is why trees get a special day every year.

As Chloe reads, Ms. Farrell makes note of any missed words, any self-corrections, and any repetitions. And then she starts her review with what Chloe got right.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: Reviewing Chloe’s reading

Linda Farrell: How many words are in that section?

Chloe: 45? No, 49.

Linda Farrell: 49 words in that section and you got 46 right. And that is 94 percent accuracy.

Chloe charts her work, and then Ms. Farrell reviews the words that Chloe misread. This prepares her for the next reading.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: Prep for second reading of passage 2

Linda Farrell: Underline the first word.

Chloe: Okay.

Linda Farrell: That word is arbor. Read that word.

Chloe: Arbor.

Linda Farrell: Arbor. Arbor means tree. What does arbor mean?

Chloe: Tree.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: Second reading of passage 2

After learning the word “Arbor,” Chloe reads the same section as many times as she needs to until she reads it with 100% accuracy.

Linda Farrell: Here’s the good news. You got 49 words right.

Chloe: Yea!!!

Linda Farrell: Yes. That’s good news and I’m glad you’re happy. Here’s the not so good news. You had three repetitions. You repeated the words you read and you’re only allowed to have two of those repetitions. So you get to read it again.

Linda Farrell: Why do we have to read it one more time?

Chloe: Because I got three overs and I didn’t know what they’re called.

Linda Farrell: They’re called repetitions. You repeated words, but overs works just fine.

Linda Farrell: If a student has the habit of going back and rereading, repeating what they’re reading, or self-correcting what they read, it slows them down and it hurts their comprehension.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: Second reading of Arbor Day section

Arbor Day means tree day. Trees are important.

Chloe: Arbor Day means tree day. Trees are important.

These repeated readings help Chloe improve on this particular passage, and they also help her develop good habits for the long haul. It’s hard work, but Chloe wraps up the day’s lesson with a strong finish.

[Graphics] Working on Accuracy: Third reading of passage #2: Arbor Day

Linda Farrell: How many words do you think you got right? 49 words, 100 percent, and only one self-correction. How do you feel about that? Yes.

[Graphics] Fluency Lesson 2: Reading to Improve Rate. Working on Chloe’s rate of reading accurately

After a few more sessions, Chloe was consistently able to read passages with 100% accuracy. But she was still reading slowly. So now Ms. Farrell will focus on increasing Chloe’s reading rate, or the pace at which Chloe is able to read accurately.

If you think of reading as riding a bicycle, fluency means you can turn the pedals fast enough to have a smooth ride. Pedal too slowly, and the bike falls over. Read too slowly, and you may not be able to understand what you read.

Linda Farrell: Rate has been shown by many studies to correlate very closely with comprehension. Children need to read fast enough so that they can hold their ideas in their mind.

[Graphics] Working on Rate. Chloe’s goal: 60 accurate words per minute

Linda Farrell: So we’re going to start now on working on rate. So Chloe, are you ready to work on rate?

Linda Farrell: The reading rate is generally measured as words correct per minute. Lots of people think it’s how fast or what speed the student is reading, but it’s really a measure of how many words correct do children read in a certain time, usually it’s one minute when we’re assessing. So it is speed. It is how fast they’re reading, but it’s also how accurately they’re reading.

Linda Farrell: So your goal is to read 60 words a minute and not make any mistakes. So, what we’re going to have you do, Chloe, is read for one minute, I’ll time it, but you don’t have to read fast just read naturally. Olu, I think Chloe and I are ready to work together.

Linda Farrell: When we first started working with Chloe she was reading I believe about 38 words correct per minute. And she still, even after we practiced, read relatively slowly. So once she met her accuracy goal, now we look at what’s the 2nd grade middle of year benchmark and it’s around 65 or 70 words a minute in 2nd grade material.

Before Chloe reads, Ms. Farrell will review words that may be difficult to pronounce or that have an unusual spelling pattern. This allows Chloe to do her rate practice without being stumped by a word we wouldn’t expect her to know, yet.

[Graphics] Working on Rate. Previewing words that might be difficult for Chloe.

Linda Farrell: We have one word to review. So that word is on line 44. That word is rough. Can you read rough?

Chloe: Rough.

Linda Farrell: That word is rough. Rough means it’s not smooth.

Chloe: like if I have a bath cloth and it’s rough.

And now Chloe is ready to read.

[Graphics] Working on Rate. First reading of a passage for rate. All cats are related. Tigers, lions, and the cats people have as pets.

Chloe: All cats are related. Tigers, lions, and the cats people have as pets.

Linda Farrell: [alarm] Stop. And that time you read 46 words.

Chloe: Is that good or bad?

Linda Farrell: Well, here is what’s good: you got 100% accurate and you only had one time that you repeated, one time. Chloe: If I had three repeat I would have to start over, but one is repeat okay?

Linda Farrell: One repeat is acceptable, that means it’s okay. Two repeats is acceptable, that means it’s okay. And three repeats is too many.

Chloe: Which is not acceptable.

Linda Farrell: That’s right, it’s not acceptable.

[Graphics] Working on Rate. Second reading of passage 3.

Linda Farrell: Okay, so we get to start again because now we want you to read accurately and we’re going to aim for 60 words a minute.

[Graphics] All cats are related. Tigers, lions, and the cats people have as pets.

Chloe: All cats are related. Tigers, lions, and the cats people have as pets.

Linda Farrell: You got 63 words correct and 100 percent accuracy. You read every word correctly and you didn’t have any self-corrections or repetitions. You made it! You got your goal, girl!

[Graphics] Lesson Three: Expression. Moving from word-by-word reading to reading “like you talk”

Now that Chloe has demonstrated that she can read accurately at 60 words per minute, Ms. Farrell helps Chloe focus on expression. Expressive reading means that students are using phrasing, emphasis, and timing as they read aloud. When children read with expression, they are reading the way they talk, and this usually means that they understand what they’re reading.

[Graphics] Working on Expression

Linda Farrell: This time when you read, could you just read like you talk? You’re reading a little slowly, like what you do is you say all-cats-are-related. And then there’s a period, and then you stop a long time before you go to the next word every time you come to a period. Can you not stop quite so long when you come to a period?

Chloe: Yeah, my dad tells me to or my mom or dad tells me to like stop when you see a period, you kind of like stop. Not trying to take too long. I just take a breathe and then go to the next line. I didn’t know it was taking so long.

Linda Farrell: Yeah, it’s really good the way you’re stopping. What we want you to do is not stop quite so long.

Linda Farrell: Watch me. All cats are related. Tigers, lions and the cats people have as pets all have many things in common. Do you hear how I don’t stop quite as long? Can you try that?

Chloe: Okay. All cats are related. Tigers, lions and the cats people have as pets all have many things in common They all have four toes on their front feet and four toes on their back feet.

[Graphics] Working on Expression. Celebrating Success.

Linda Farrell: You aren’t going to believe how many words you read that time. First of all, 100 percent accuracy. How much accuracy did you get?

Chloe: 100 percent accurate.

Linda Farrell: Yep, you read every single read correctly. You got 80 words a minute.

Chloe: Yeah.

Linda Farrell: 80 words a minute, with 100 percent accuracy is phenomenal.

Linda Farrell: What we do is that we have a reasonable goal that we think she can make. So we just wanted to get her to 60. What was so surprising about Chloe is that once we talked to her about reading like you talk, and I modeled for her, she went up to 80 words a minute!

Now that Chloe’s reading more fluently, her rate goal will be adjusted to 90 words a minute, which is the end of year benchmark for second grade.

What seems like quick improvement is actually due to a lot of hard work. Ms. Farrell says Chloe needs a little more practice — roughly ten minutes at a time, twice a week, for the next month or two.

As Chloe becomes a more accurate and faster reader, she and her mom will enjoy reading together even more.

Linda Farrell: Olu and Chloe, it’s always so much fun to read with you. See you next time.

Olu Smoak: Same here. We enjoyed it. Thank you so much. Bye bye.

Chloe: Bye bye!

This episode of Looking at Reading Interventions was produced by a partnership of the National Education Association and WETA. For more information on the teaching practices featured in this program, please check out our viewer’s guide. You can also download our facilitator’s guide, offering helpful ideas for using this program for professional development. You’ll find both guides at

We are deeply grateful to Chloe and her entire family for allowing us to share Chloe’s experience with reading intervention.

We’d like to thank Linda Farrell, Michael Hunter, and Nicole Lubar of Readsters for their invaluable contributions to this project.