Got Fluency?

Reading Fluency

Anyone get a fluency reading score coming home from school for their school-age child recently? You may have recently received a report that gives a single number which represents the number of words your child read in one minute. Anyone wondering why we are timing our students to see how many words they can read in one minute?

I have very mixed feelings about these fluency scores and the message they send to our students. After all, why would we want to teach our kids to read as fast as they can? This flies in the face of everything I know as a reading specialist. However, there are a two redeeming things about these fluency scores. The first is they are quick and easy to give. Schools are desperately looking for data these days to drive instruction, and when you are talking about giving assessments to hundreds of kids multiple times a year, it gets complicated. The second reason is that research shows that a fluency score is one (albeit ONLY one), indicator of future success as a reader.

I have sat and given hundreds of these assessments for the past couple years and here is one thing I know. There are students that have beautiful command of the text, with perfect tone and pace that sound much better than students who race through the text meaninglessly and end up with a higher fluency score. I just wish they wouldn’t call it a fluency score. Speed is only one small part of fluency and that message is unfortunately lost on many students who are simple being asked to read fast.

By the way, how do you improve your child’s fluency? Two simple things. Have them read often and make time to read aloud TO them to give them that model of fluency. Time for bedtime story!


3 thoughts on “Got Fluency?

  1. Speed is not the only thing that rates in evaluating fluency. Expression is more important than speed. I don’t know where you get the concept of children racing through the material. That was never a part of my training in evaluating fluency.

    Apart from that, I applaud you on what you are trying to do to improve reading fluency. It is very needed, and children need to hear stories read aloud.

    • Indeed, I agree that speed is not the only thing that rates in evaluating fluency. When I am assessing a student for fluency I am paying attention to use of tone, phrasing and tending to punctuation in addition to accuracy and speed.

      Where I see children racing through material is during the fluency assessment we give school-wide three times a year called AimsWeb. This widely administered fluency assessment has students timed with a stop watch to see how many words they can read accurately in one minute. These assessments are quick and easy to administer, but they risk teaching our students that good reading is fast reading. I remind teachers every year at this time to remind students that speed is only one small part of reading fluency.

      • I don’t recall ever using the stopwatch. I agree, that gives a very twisted view of reading fluency. I retired in 2008, so there may have been new approached I didn’t learn in assessing fluency.

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