Fluency: Introduction | Fluency: Speed | Fluency: Expression

Fluency Assessment

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pixWhat is fluency and why is it important?
Fluency is the ability to read words quickly with accuracy and expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.

How do I assess fluency and monitor student progress?
Students' fluency should be measured regularly throughout the school year. As a Reading First School, you will be administering PALS at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. The results from your PALS testing will provide you with data on each student's reading accuracy and speed on graded passages. This information can help you set instructional goals for each student, determine each student's progress toward end-of-the-year accomplishments, and determine the effectiveness of your instruction.

It is also important to monitor students' progress by assessing fluency on a regular but informal basis. Such assessments are especially crucial for struggling readers. These informal assessments help you determine if students are reading texts at the appropriate level of difficulty, if they are making progress in developing their fluency, and if you need to modify your instruction. Taking several fluency measures across time will give you a more complete picture of your students' reading fluency.

In this section of the Fluency Guide, you will learn some informal ways to assess oral reading fluency. These procedures assess students' fluency using the same texts that students are reading during their instruction. Hence, assessments can easily be incorporated into your classroom literacy routine. The assessments in this lesson include:


Assessing Oral Reading Accuracy and Speed: Timed Running Records

A running record is an informal check of oral reading accuracy. The procedure for taking a running record is described on the PALS website. This site also provides links to a downloadable running record form and a coding guide that explains how to record a student's oral reading accuracy.
Click here to go to the PALS website.

Please note the accuracy percentages on the PALS website:
Level Percentage
Independent 98% - 100%
Instructional * 90% - 97%
Frustration Less than 90%

*For preprimer text, instructional level is 85% - 97%

pixFor students reading at a Primer (mid-first grade) level and above, you can time a running record to provide a measure of reading rate as well as accuracy. Students reading below the Primer level are typically not timed on oral reading assessments since they read word by word. Emphasizing rate too soon can have a detrimental effect on students' accuracy. There are two ways to time a running record. In the first, you time the student's reading of the 100 word selection, and later, calculate the number of words read per minute. Teachers who are not accustomed to taking running records and are focused on the coding aspect sometimes prefer this method.
To compute a student's reading rate, or WPM (words per minute), multiply the number of words read (in this case, 100) x 60 and divide by the number of seconds it took to read the selection.

WPM = # words in passage x 60
                 time in seconds

A quicker way to obtain a measure of a student's reading rate and accuracy is to indicate on the running record form when one minute has passed. To do this, you must be aware of the time on the stopwatch while coding the running record. WCPM (words correct per minute) can then be obtained simply by counting the number of boxes before the one-minute mark, and subtracting any errors.   
The PALS website provides you with target rates for oral reading for levels primer through fourth grade.
Click here to see PALS target rates.

Assessing Oral Reading Expression: Teacher and Student Rubrics

Fluency encompasses more than just accuracy and speed. Fluent reading is reading in meaningful phrases with appropriate expression that reflects the meaning of the passage. This aspect of fluency-the appropriate use of intonation and phrasing-is called prosody. Rubrics such as the one below can assist teachers in evaluating the prosody of a student's oral reading.

Click here to see the Multidimensional Fluency Scale by Zutell & Rasinski.

One way to have students reflect on their own oral reading is to use a student self-evaluation guide, such as the example below. Students read a selected passage into a tape recorder, then listen to their reading and evaluate their fluency. This assessment can be part of a fluency center where students work independently.

Click here to see a student self-evaluation guide

Please feel free to download and use any of the activities and information that we have provided. You may contact the Reading First office at the University of Virginia if you have any questions.

Fluency: Introduction | Fluency: Speed | Fluency: Expression

Pictorial Case Study: Fluency in the Classroom

Contact Reading First in Virginia

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