Updated: Apr 20
I know many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to how to assess reading fluency. Why does it matter if a child reads fluently? How do you determine if a child is reading at the rate they should?
Well, to keep it short and sweet, reading fluently both impacts and demonstrates fluency. (For more information on Why You Should Teach Reading Fluency, I have a blog headed your way.) Since we are Teaching for Mastery, we definitely don't want to miss reading fluency.
Don't worry. It's not as difficult as you think. Over the next few minutes, I'm going to break down exactly how to assess reading fluency in just a few minutes.
First, let's talk about what you need to assess reading fluency.
Reading Article: You are going to need an article for your child to read. You will need one copy with the words counted, and one copy without the word count.
If you know what grade level your child is reading on, that is the level I would use to pick an article. If you are not sure what grade level your child is reading on, start with the grade they are in.
A great website to find free articles is ReadWorks.org. You can sign up for a free account. Then, search for the grade level you need. You can narrow the search results by choosing a subject and topic. Print two copies of your article.
I love to choose articles that reinforce what I am teaching in Science or Social Studies.
Once you have your article printed, you are going to count the words and number one of the articles. You can see in the picture below how one article has a word count to the side. This is a reading fluency set I created for Kindergarten. But you can easily do this with the article you printed from ReadWorks.
Count the words on each line, and write the number of total words at the end of the line. You can see in the article above that there are a total of 48 words in this article (beginning of the year Kindergarten).
Pen: You will need a pin to mark the article as your child reads. I recommend using a color pen, not black. Using a color will make it a lot easier to see the marks you have made when you review it later.
There are two pens in the picture because I assess reading fluency twice a week on the same article (Check out my blog How to Teach Reading Fluency for more information). I use the same article, but use different color pens so I can tell which marks were the first read and which marks were the final read.
Timer: You will need a timer to assess your child's reading fluency. As you can see in the picture, I use my phone.
Okay, now that you have collect the things you need, let's talk about how to assess reading fluency.
Give your child the article without the word count. You will set the timer for 1 minute. Your child will start with the title and read the ENTIRE article (have them keep going when the timer goes off).
As your child is reading, you will be marking the article that has the word count. You will mark any mistake your child makes while reading.
Some people have different ways to mark each kind of mistake (which is fine). I personally choose to slash through any mistake. I just feel like it takes to long to mark different ways, and I don't see the value of knowing exactly what mistake was made.
You will mark: mispronounced words, skipped words, and words they have to sound out. You will also mark where your child was when the timer went off. I just put a vertical line after the word they read before the timer went off. Do not mark the rest of the article.
If your child gets stuck on a word, don't let them hang out there. Tell them the word, mark it as a mistake, and let them move on.
Some people have the child stop when the timer goes off...in my experience this really messes with the child and makes them feel like they did bad because they didn't get finished. But we aren't trying to get them to finish the article in a minute! Just let your child finish reading.
When your child has finished reading the article, you will go back and calculate how many words they read in 1 minute. I let the child go before I do this. I have seen kids stress themselves out watching someone count how many mistakes they made. We do not want this to be stressful. So, allow your child to move on and not wait as you calculate.
So, how do you calculate the words per minute?
Find your vertical line that marked their place when the timer went off. You are going to look at the word count for the line above where they stopped. Then, continue counting until you get to where they stopped.
Look at the picture above. The child stopped on the last line after the word "my." So, I would look at the line above for the word count- 43. Then, keep counting to the word my. 44, 45, 46.
NEXT, I have to subtract any mistakes that were made. It is hard to see in the picture, (you can't really see the different colors I used to mark) but the child made 1 mistake on her final read. So, I would subtract 1 from 46 to get 45. So, she read 45 words correct in 1 minute.
But...is that good? Did she read with fluency?
Well, she was right on target for how many words she read. You can see below that 45 words is exactly how many a Kindergartner should read in 1 minute.
BUT reading enough words is not the only thing that determines reading fluency.
The other factor is expression. Did your child read with appropriate inflections and emotion through the article. Or did they sound like a robot just trying to get the words right. If your child is not reading with expression, they are not reading with fluency.
There are two ways to teach your child to read with expression.
1. Direct instruction: visit How to Teach Reading Fluency for more information.
2. Reading to your child EVERY DAY: I have a blog on the way to explain why this is so important.
That's it! Now, you know how to assess reading fluency. Remember to head over to my blog How to Teach Reading Fluency to take the next step.
Check out some of my resources that include reading fluency articles!
Did you know you can teach a Preschooler to Read Fluently, too? Absolutely! Look out for my new blog, coming soon!