Fluency- an important ingredient in reading assessments

Fluency- an important ingredient in reading assessments

In our previous posts, we talked about Phonics, and vocabulary building. Next in the series is fluency.

Ineducational parlance, “fluency” is a buzz-word that gets thrown around with great weight. But, what exactly is fluency? How can it be measured? What are some of the common misconceptions about measuring fluency?

Traditionally, reading fluency has been associated with oral reading skills. However, there are more aspects to it than just speaking fluently. Reading fluency forms a vital component for the overall reading ability. When reading fluency is good, there are more mental resources available for analysis, critical thinking and understanding.

“Reading fluency is made up of at least three key elements: accurate reading of connected text at a conversational rate with appropriate prosody or expression.” – Hudson, Lane, and Pullen

According to National Reading Panel’s definition, fluency is the ability to read text with accuracy, appropriate rate and good expression (NICHD, 2000). A big misconception around fluency is that if children are reading at a faster and more fluent rate, then they can comprehend the word they speak. But, this is not always true. During many instances, children have simply memorised the visual representation of the word, helping them to read this particular passage faster and with fewer errors. These children are very likely to go back to slower reading when new material is presented to them.

Christopher Skinner, a reading researcher, found that students who read lists of words with him slowly were more fluent with the words than students who read with him at a faster rate.

We need to become more aware of what is actually happening during the process of fluent reading and how do we assess fluency. The process of fluency assessment begins with the component pieces of fluency which are prosody, accuracy and rate. Prosody refers to the pattern of stress and intonation in a spoken language; accuracy in reading fluency refers to the minimum number of errors made by the reader. Reading rate is also important to assess the overall reading fluency of a child. It is simply the words read per minute.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress has a Fluency Scale which is used globally. Different levels are explained below:

Level 1 (Non-Fluent)

Primarily reads word-by-word.

Level 2 (Non-Fluent)

Child reads in two-word phrases with some three- or four-word groupings. Some word-by-word reading may be present.

Level 3 (Fluent)

In this stage, reads in three- or four-word phrase groups. Some small groupings may be present.

Level 4 (Fluent)

In this level the child reads in larger, meaningful phrase groups.

There are different ways one can adopt to build fluency. National Reading Panel has listed three broad strategies to be effective in improving reading fluency: Teacher Modeling, Repeated reading and Progress monitoring. Teacher modeling is listening to the other person read with complete involvement in a multi sensory way. Different ways of modeling such as teacher supported reading, audio supported reading and peer supported reading can be used. Repeated reading is a powerful approach that considerably builds reading fluency. Progress monitoring is a motivational method where students are provided with a specific goal and an instant feedback on their development.

There are various ways of assessing a child’s reading fluency. Some of them are listed below:

· A simple procedure to assess children’s reading speed and accuracy uses regular classroom texts to determine the number of words that students can read correctly in one minute. To obtain a words-correct-per-minute (WCPM) score, students are assessed individually as they read aloud for one minute from an unpracticed passage of text. To calculate the WCPM score, the examiner subtracts the total number of errors from the total number of words read in one minute. An error includes any word that is omitted, mispronounced, or substituted for another word.

· Two very common and easy methods of assessing a child’s reading fluency are SSR and RRR. SSR stands for sustained-silent reading, which involves silent reading for 30 minutes, plus additional 15 minutes for writing personal reflections on what was read.

· RRR stands for Round Robin Reading is another popular technique where individual students in a group take turns reading aloud from the text.

· “Fluency Battery” is a fluency measuring tool developed by USAID, 2009the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning, 2002)This tool primarily, involves measuring a child’s speed of accurate reading, and writing Hindi and math tests. It was adopted by ASER to test the same in the regions of Bihar and Uttarakhand.

We are keen on hearing about your views on the importance of assessing reading fluency. Share examples of approaches adopted by you to achieve fluency. We will soon update you on the final component essential to reading ability.

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