At the start of the school year or when you get the inevitable transfer students, veteran teachers realize that they can’t depend solely upon previous teacher or counselor placements with regard to student reading levels. Teachers don’t want to find out in the middle of a grade-level novel that some students are reading two or more years below grade level and can’t hope to understand the book without significant assistance.
The best quick initial reading assessment? Reading. Specifically, a short reading fluency passage, but one that gives you not just a reading fluency number, but one that also gives you a good ballpark of what grade level the students can independently access. You’ve never seen anything like this before.
This “Pets” expository fluency passage is leveled in a unique pyramid design: the first paragraph is at the first grade (Fleish-Kincaid) reading level; the second paragraph is at the second grade level; the third paragraph is at the third grade level; the fourth paragraph is at the fourth grade level; the fifth paragraph is at the fifth grade level; the sixth paragraph is at the sixth grade level; and the seventh paragraph is at the seventh grade level.
Thus, the reader begins practice at an easier level to build confidence and then moves to more difficult academic language. As the student reads the fluency passage, the teacher will be able to note the reading levels at which the student has a high degree of accuracy and automaticity. Automaticity refers to the ability of the reader to read effortlessly without stumbling or sounding-out words. The 383 word passage and two-minute expository reading fluency is a much better measurement than a one-minute narrative reading fluency at only one grade level. The Pets Fluency Assessment is my gift to you and your students.
High levels of reading fluency are positively correlated with high levels of comprehension. Although not a causal connection, it makes sense that a certain degree of effortless automaticity is necessary for any reader to fully attend to meaning-making.
A good guideline that is widely used for acceptable fluency rates by the end of the school year follows.
2nd Grade Text 80 words per minute with 95% accuracy
3rd Grade Text 95 words per minute with 95% accuracy
4th Grade Text 110 words per minute with 95% accuracy
5th Grade Text 125 words per minute with 95% accuracy
6th Grade Text 140 words per minute with 95% accuracy
7th Grade Text 150 words per minute with 95% accuracy
8th Grade Text 160 words per minute with 95% accuracy
Having administered the Pets Fluency Assessment, two more initial assessments will help you further pinpoint any relative weaknesses and give you a game-plan for assessment-based instruction
- Phonics Assessments (vowels: 10:42audio file, print copy and consonants: 12:07 audio file, print copy)
- Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (22.38audio file, print copy)
These two recording matrices will help you keep track of individual student fluency, phonics, and spelling data: fluency and phonics recording matrix and spelling recording matrix. The matrices facilitate assignment of small group workshops and individualized worksheets. The matrices also serve as the progress monitoring source.
The author of this article, Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, has written a reasonably priced Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program, which includes all of the instructional resources to help students master the demonstrated relative weaknesses in fluency, phonics, and spelling plus other diagnostic assessments (phonemic awareness and sight words) for remedial reading instruction.
Why not check out the author’s Teaching Reading Strategies Introductory Video (15:08)?