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Reading Fluency Placement and Practice

Reading Fluency Norms for Grades 2-8

Grades 2-8 Reading Fluency Norms

Working years ago as a reading specialist in a large and diverse Northern California school district, years ago, I was part of cadre of talented reading specialists and literacy coaches. Following recommendations of the National Reading Panel, we began exploring means to explicitly teach and practice reading fluency.

Our first task was to find out how our students were performing relative to national norms. Using  Hasbrouck and Tindal’s grades 1-6 fluency norms, followed later by middle school norms, we selected grade level expository texts from our district reading series. Most all of the schools bought into completing one-minute baseline, end of first trimester, end of second trimester, and end of school fluency assessments with these district-adopted reading passages. We analyzed student data vis a vis the fluency norms and discussed the need to provide fluency intervention programs at each of our 30 elementary sites. From these data we determined that we needed to establish fluency interventions for grades 3-6 students. However, we also recognized the fact that using a grade-level passage as a screener had plenty of limitations.

Placement criteria, based upon the grade level baseline assessment, were determined by the school site and varied greatly. We selected the Read Naturally® program as our district-wide fluency program. Once placed within the fluency intervention, students were further assessed with Read Naturally’s Brief Oral Screener (a series of short sentence groupings with instructions to test up or down according to how well students read) was administered individually to establish an instructional reading fluency level. For many students, this second assessment placed them at grade-level, time of year, reading norms, and so these students were quickly exited from the program.

Reading specialists trained teachers and paraprofessionals and at some sites helped staff the interventions. Instructional delivery varied from school to school. Some schools ran Read Naturally® fluency labs as half-hour pull-out programs during the two-hour literacy block; others did so during social studies or science instructional periods; still others did so during early-late ability groups times; and some built the program into after school programs. Funding varied from Title 1, to PTA sponsorship, to general education allocations.

In the original Read Naturally® program, each grade level had one or two sets of fluency passages with a few short recall comprehension questions and the timing sheet. The basic practice included taking a cold (unpracticed) timing on a new reading passage, reading along with modeled reading cassette tapes (using headphones) over and over again. The modeled readings were all recorded at one speed. Of course, since that time the program has evolved with online placement, more grade level passages, and multiple speed modeled readings. The reading fluency interventions were widely perceived as successes. However, they were expensive in terms of materials, personnel, and instructional time.

To address these expenses, I began developing procedures and materials to streamline fluency instruction and bring it into the classroom.

I began developing a diagnostic fluency assessment which would “kill two birds with one stone.” My goal was to screen for fluency deficits and establish an optimal instructional fluency level in the same assessment. After plenty of trial runs and critiques from fellow reading specialists and literacy coaches, I completed the “Pets” Fluency Assessment. This assessment (download for free at end of article) is a two-minute (much more accurate than one-minute) expository passage with the first two paragraphs at third grade, the next two at fifth grade, and the last two at seventh grade level. As the teacher listens, it’s quite easy to determine an instructional fluency level as well as establish a baseline fluency. Plus, the initial lower reading level provides a confidence-builder which elicits more accurate data for the succeeding paragraphs. So much better than handing a grade-level fluency passage to a vulnerable reader! And it provides both screening and teachable data.

Working at three elementary schools, I imposed upon a dozen or so grades 3-6 teachers to experiment and re-design a four group, 15-20 minute, instructional fluency program that would meet the needs of below, at, and above grade level students within the class room. The kids loved the fast-paced reading practice and teachers saw significant improvement in all levels of students’ fluency scores as indicated by the trimester district assessments. Check out the details of this in-class fluency program design.

The two-in-one assessment and in-class instructional design helped solve the problem of expensive pull-out intervention programs.

The Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit

Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit

At the encouragement of teachers, I began writing expository passages, based on every student’s favorite subjects: animals, with the same tiered design for practice. As class sets of relatively inexpensive Chromebooks and iPads became more accessible, I recorded the passages at three different speeds to challenge students in their individual zones of proximity as indicated by the “Pets” Fluency Assessment. These 129 modeled reading passages have been widely used to provide individualized modeled reading fluency practice.

Later, I developed vocabulary and comprehension questions for each of the animal fluency passages.


The print copies of the Animal Fluency Articles include challenge words in the upper right corner for the teacher to pre-teach. Word counts are provided in the left margin for fluency timings. The YouTube videos of each article include a picture of the animal and a modeled reading, but do not include the challenge words or word counts.

Additionally, the Animal Fluency Articles are available as YouTube videos for individualized fluency instruction. Each article has been recorded at three different reading speeds (Level A at 95-115 words per minute; Level B at 115-135 words per minute; and Level C at 135-155 words per minute) to provide modeled readings at each of your students’ challenge levels. A total of 129 videos!

Get the Pets Fluency Assessment FREE Resource:

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.


Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

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