The number one assessed literacy skill is fluency. Fluency is an extremely important determinant in reading success for young readers BUT are we looking at fluency as a whole…or…just as a number???
Take a moment…ask your students or any child for that matter what fluent reading means. The most common response I was hearing to that question was, “It means you read fast.” WHAT? Did I teach them that? Upon reflection I realized that I (well our entire building) had. Afterall, how did most students know me? I was the lady (aka Title I teacher/RTI Coordinator) that came around and listened to all students read, and guess what I carried with me? A timer. Duh! What message was I sending? Not hard to figure out.
A more desirable answer to the question, “What does fluent reading mean?” should be, “To read at a pace that allows me to understand what I’m reading“, or “To read in a way that shows I’m understanding what I’m reading,” or maybe this one, “To read with expression that fits the passage.” NEVER should it be simply to read fast. Although speed is important, there is so much more to it. After you sit and listen to over 250 students three times a year read like they are on a reading race and their life depends upon it, you start to rethink the assessments you give or at least the way you explain the purpose of the assessment.
We have since changed the way we assess fluency in our building for this very reason. We prefer to use a “time up” method instead of a “time down” one. So don’t throw away your kitchen timers yet! Just eliminate that awful “BEEP!”
Is reading speed important? Yes, but it is not the only part of fluency that makes a competent and independent reader. Continue to time (silently) and calculate, but for heaven’s sake please do not turn reading into a speed drill unless rate is your main goal. There is a time and a place to do this kind of practice. That is another story that we can dig into later…
Here’s an easy formula to use with any passage to calculate WPM (words read per minute):
Side note: Since changing to the “time up” system of assessing students with our universal screener, we have not had a decrease in rate. Fancy that.
So you might be thinking…What assessment tools do we use and how do we score/record it?
We starting using a modified version of the DIBELS 6th Edition found here:
Dibels 6th Edition Assessment
Our version was modified to include a comprehension component and an oral reading accuracy score. Each student answers 2 questions about the passage upon reading completion. A rubric is used to score the passage.
This is an example of what our assessment ended up looking like. (Assessor’s Copy)
The Dibels passages provided us with a leveled passage for each benchmarking period, but we needed more in order to give a more clear snapshot into our students as whole readers, so some additional items were added. It’s not perfect by any means, but we keep in mind it is just a universal screener. If we see any concerns we do a more extensive assessment using the DRA2 assessment.
Ok…so we stopped using a loud beeping timer, we added a few comprehension questions to check for understanding, and we added in an oral reading accuracy score, what else? How do you help your young readers to see reading as more than a number? Well it comes through use of the word fluency in conjunction with these words…
Expression…Accuracy…Phrasing…Prosody…Sound like a reader…and so much more!
Add in some FUN with…
A GREEN SCREEN-VIDEO RECORDINGS-PLAYS-READERS’ THEATER PERFORMANCES-COSTUMES-IPAD APPS-AUDIO RECORDINGS-READING BUDDIES-VOIKI CREATIONS-HOW TO PROJECTS-COMMERCIALS-EXPRESSION GAMES-INTERVIEWS-POETRY-RIDDLES-JOKES-USE A STAGE-PROPS-SONGS-DRAMATIC READINGS
And the list goes on and on….the possibilities are endless! In my next post, I will cover some ways to add these and more ideas to practice the most fun component of fluency…EXPRESSION!
Note: This year I implemented a program I created called Super Fluent Me! My kids were loving using video, audio, and green screen recordings to practice their reading/writing fluency but some students were feeling a little shy about getting up there at first. So I created this program complete with t-shirts, a mask, and a cape. For some reason it helped break the ice and clear away those “on stage” jitters. You can check it out here:
Until the next post…