Testing & Improving Reading Fluency

June 10, 2009 by Karianne Wilkins  
Filed under Reading, Recent Articles

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of reading fluency and the impact it has on reading comprehension.  Now I will discuss how to measure and improve reading fluency.

Testing Reading Fluency

You can easily test a child’s (or your own) reading fluency by selecting a passage of appropriate grade level text.  With a timer set, have the child read the text at a normal rate for 1 minute and mark where the child stops.  Also mark any reading errors such as words that were omitted (skipped), mispronounced, substituted (read another word in its place), or pronounced by you if the child paused for a couple seconds.  It may be easiest to tape record the child and mark the errors made afterwards.  Now count up the total number of words read correctly per minute (WCPM).  You can do this process 2 more times with different passages in order to get a WCPM average, and more realistic reading fluency rate.  Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal are two researchers who did a study titled “Oral Reading Fluency: 90 Years of Measurement” in 2004.  The data from their study provided them with oral reading fluency rates for children in grades 1-8, which is useful in determining where a child places in relation to average for a particular grade.

Improving Reading Fluency

As a speech-language pathologist I often work with students to improve their reading fluency since it so greatly affects reading comprehension.  I select an appropriate passage for the student, which may be below grade level if the student is struggling with reading fluency.  Note: It is important to select a passage that will be a bit of a challenge, but not so difficult that it will cause frustration.  Once the passage is selected I have the student read from it for 1 minute and note any reading errors that were made.  I then count the number of words he read correctly during the 60 second reading, which gives me the number of words read per minute (wpm).  Next I go over the reading errors with the student, having him sound out any words he struggled with, mispronounced, or skipped.  After the review, I have the student read the same passage a second time and stop at the same spot where he did after the first 60 second reading.  I document the amount of time it took him to read it the second time, and the number of errors he made.  Again I review any reading errors that were made (if any). I repeat this process a third time, having the student stop in the same place and then document the amount of time it took to read and number of errors he made.  Usually the student will improve his reading rate (by reading the passage in less than 60 seconds) and/or his reading accuracy (by making fewer errors) with each successive second and third reading of the passage.  After working on reading fluency, I usually have the student continue reading the paragraph or passage and then ask him a few reading comprehension questions.  Below is how I document reading fluency.

Date

Time 1: 60 seconds/ # errors/ # words per minute (wpm)

Time 2: # seconds/ # errors

Time 3: # seconds/ # errors

It is important to note that just because a student has a fast reading rate and reads accurately, it does not mean he necessarily comprehends the text being read.  Likewise it would be unwise to focus just on reading rate at the expense of having incorrect prosody or not comprehending what was read.  Notice where a child’s reading errors occur.  Are they due to rate (trying to read too fast and skipping words or maybe taking too long to decode words)?  Are they due to accuracy (reading the words incorrectly or pronouncing the words incorrectly)?  Does the child understand what was just read (if asked who, what, when, where, why type questions about the text)?  Was incorrect prosody (phrasing and expression) a factor in poor comprehension?  Or was poor comprehension due to weak vocabulary skills?  By examining the errors a child makes, I am able to determine what areas need work.  Then I can target specific skills to develop those areas and improve overall reading fluency and comprehension.

I believe the best ways to improve a child’s reading fluency and comprehension is by being read aloud to, and through practice reading aloud.  By reading aloud to a child, you are providing a model of reading rate, fluency, and expression.  You can also ask questions about what you have just read, which demonstrates the importance of comprehending what was read.  And by having the child read aloud to you, he has the opportunity to practice and get feedback on his reading fluency (i.e. rate, accuracy, and prosody).

Let me know if you have any questions about testing or improving reading fluency in the comment section below.

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The Importance of Reading Fluency

June 7, 2009 by Karianne Wilkins  
Filed under Reading, Recent Articles

What is reading fluency and why is it important?  Reading fluency is comprised of the rate, accuracy, and prosody you use while reading.  Reading fluency is important because the ability to read efficiently, accurately, and with appropriate expression and meaning allow for what is read to be comprehended.

Reading rate just means the speed, or how quickly, you are able to read text.  The rate you are able to read at depends upon your ability to automatically decode words on the page.  If you are a good reader you are able to look at the letters and sounds that form a word and quickly put them together to read the word.  If you struggle with reading you take more time to sound out each letter in a word and then to blend the sounds together in order to read the word.  And when you have to do this for every word in a sentence, it is very easy to forget the words you sounded out at the beginning of a sentence.  For example, let’s say this is the sentence you are reading from a book: “The cat sat on a large mat.”  It makes a big difference if you are able to read this sentence in 5 seconds as compared to taking 2 minutes to read it.  This is why reading rate can greatly affect reading comprehension, and why reading needs to become automatic in order to become a good reader.

Reading accuracy means how accurately, or correctly, you are able to read text.  It is important that you are reading the words on a page correctly.  Otherwise it makes no difference how quickly you are able to read because the meaning of what you have read is wrong.  For example, let’s say this is the sentence you are reading from a book: “The frog jumped over the log.”  And then let’s say you did not read it accurately, and this is what you read instead: “The frig jumped over the dog.”  As you can see, the meaning of what you just read was completely different than the sentence in the book and does not make any sense.  Reading accuracy is just as important as reading rate in becoming a good reader and being able to obtain meaning from what you have read.

Reading prosody means the ability to read with expression and proper phrasing while reading text.  Prosody is what makes you sound natural while reading, and helps the words you are reading convey meaning.  For example, let’s say this is the sentence you are reading from a book: “Mom, look over there!  It’s a snake!” And this is how you read it aloud instead: “Mom look over there it’s a snake.”  As you can see, the excitement or fear that the original sentence should convey was lost in the reading.  It not only sounds boring, but comprehension of what has just occurred may be missed because it was not read with correct prosody.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will discuss how to test and then improve reading fluency.

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