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Timed Repeated Readings

Timed repeated readings are an instructional practice for monitoring students' fluency development. Repeated readings, under timed conditions, of familiar instructional level text can increase students' reading speed which can improve comprehension.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Why use timed repeated readings?

  • It improves reading rate, one aspect of fluency.
  • It improves reading accuracy, a second aspect of fluency, and leads to improved comprehension.

How to use timed repeated readings

Timed repeated readings should be done using books or passages the student has read before that are at an independent reading level (i.e. books the student can read with 95% accuracy or above). Most timed repeated reading sessions should include 3-4 re-readings of the same text.

What you will need:

  • Two copies of the assessment passage — one for the student and one for the teacher
  • Stopwatch or clock
  • Pencil

Carefully select passage to be used, and determine the type of assessment information you want to gather:

One minute reading. The student reads for 1 minute. The teacher or partner counts the number of words read correctly in one minute (WCPM). This score is as valid as calculating perfect correct or accuracy on longer readings. Provide some practice time with non-assessment reading material before beginning the 1 minute timed reading.

Timed repeated readings. The student reads the same passage for 1 minute multiple times (3-5). The teacher or partner counts how words the student read in 1 minute. The number of words read results can be graphed using a bar graph.

Words correct per minute (WCPM). Choose a passage. Time the student when s/he reads the passage.

Examples

A student read a story with 148 words in 2 minutes, 55 seconds. She made 8 errors. To determine WCPM:

  1. Count the total number of words.
    Example: 148
  2. Count the number of mistakes.
    Example: 18
  3. Take the number of words minus the number of mistakes = number of words read correctly.
    Example: 148-18 = 130
  4. Calculate percent accuracy: number of words read correctly divided by total number of words.
    Example: 130/148 = 87%
  5. Convert the time it took to read the passage to seconds.
    Example: 2 minutes, 55 seconds = 175 seconds
  6. Convert the number of seconds to a decimal by dividing the number of seconds by 60. This is the total reading time.
    Example: 175 / 60 = 2.91
  7. Divide the number of words read correctly by the total reading time in decimal form.
    Example: 130 / 2.91 = 45 WCPM

Use these fluency norms from Hasbrouck and Tindal (8K PDF)* to determine the child's approximate percentile for oral reading fluency.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners

  • Encourage students to become familiar with the strategy before introducing a stop watch.
  • Begin with materials that are familiar to the student.
  • Accommodate students who have speech impediments. Have them talk to you or read an extremely easy passage. Record their fastest rate of speech. Do not expect them to be able to read faster than this rate.
  • Use repeated reading as practice for the timed repeated reading. Have students read passages aloud several times while receiving feedback and guidance from an adult.
  • Have the adult or a more proficient student read the passage. Then have the student read the passage.
  • Teach students to be proud of their own progress and not compare it to others. Keep scores private.

See the research that supports this strategy

Council for Exceptional Children, the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) and the Division for Research (DR). Fluency Instruction (139KB PDF)*.

Dowhower, S. (1989) Repeated reading: Research into practice. The Reading Teacher, 42(7), 502-507.

Hudson, R.F., Lane, H.B., & Pullen, P.C. (2005). Reading Fluency Assessment and Instruction: What, Why, and How?. The Reading Teacher, 58(8), 702-714.

Johns, J. & Berglund, R. (2002). Fluency: Question, answers, evidence-based strategies. Dubuque, IO: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Kuhn, M. (2004). Helping students become accurate, expressive readers: Fluency instruction for small groups. The Reading Teacher, 58(4), 338-344.

Murray, B. (1999). Two Methods for Developing Fluency.

Rasinski, T. (2003) The fluent reader: Oral reading strategies for building word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. New York, NY: Scholastic Professional Books.

Samuels, S. J. (2002). Reading fluency: It's development and assessment. In Farstrup, A. & Samuels, S. (Ed.). What research has to say about reading instruction (pp. 166-183). Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Samuels, S. J. (1997). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 50(5), 376-381.

Vaca, R. & Vaca, J. (1999). Content area reading: Literacy and learning across the curriculum, 6th edition. New York, NY: Logman.

Comments

This is a helpful posting for native English speakers, but could you also add the research that casts doubt on the value of timed fluency tests for ELL students? Many can decode quickly but have no idea what jibberish (strange/unknown English) they have just read quickly. Is that fluency?

I found that my ESL kids benefitted as much if not more from consistent fluency practice. I made sure they were paired with a native English speaker and specifically asked meanings of words as I rounded the classroom when monitoring.

What gibberish. It's simply another renaming and reimplementation of Look Say Reading, which is memorizing words instead of actually learning how to read them in context. Just because a reader can 'read' so many words a minute doesn't mean the reader understands anything he or she has read or can transfer that knowledge of a single passage to other texts. When will educators start doing something that actually helps students to read rather than using students as guinea pigs for methodology research?.

I'm sorry that you don't understand the importance of being able to recognize words. While I do agree that students must be able to read for comprehension purposes, the purpose of this exercise is simply to help the students recognize the words. As the students progress through the "easier" material teachers are giving them harder and harder passages to read. It makes me sad that you choose to criticize teachers for using techniques that have been proven to improve students reading fluency.

The purpose of this is to improve fluency, it's not meant for comprehension comparisons.

You seem a bit bitter. "What gibberish." Except that IT WORKS!!!! I do this with my students and yes, in the beginning they may be memorizing the words, but you know what?! Their fluency often jumps multiple grade levels in one school year, because they have actually learned the words! I rarely have students who do not make serious progress in one school year when we consistently work on fluency through repeated readings (and the only ones that do not make a lot of progress are students with severe disabilities). Here is the thing: if a child reads too slow it is much, much more difficult to understand what they are reading. So with kids that read really slow, we need to get them to read faster so it is easier for their brain to make it make sense. (Just try speaking with a few seconds in between each word and everyone instantly understands how much more challenging it is to comprehend what a student reading very slowly is reading.) After we have increased fluency (and often during) we are also working on comprehension strategies. Resolute voice, I would invite you into my classroom to show you that it works, except I would never let such a negative person around my precious students!!! Your judgement "when will educators start doing something that actually helps students to read rather than using students as guinea pigs for methodology research?" shows that you are extremely uninformed about today's classrooms.

you also do a comprehension exercise at the end of the passage or reading for that day.

There are multiple facets of reading. Fluency is one piece of the pie. Comprehension is another part, and Accuracy another. Sometimes we need to work on the individual pieces so that the whole pie will fit together.

I agree with the last comment. Timed/Repeated reading is meant to address and improve FLUENCY. NOT comprehension! Any educator will tell you, if a student isn't reading fluently, then his/her comprehension will be impeded.

I think repeated readings and progress graphs will do wonders for my special education students with low self esteem.

I time my child while re reading passages, but we have not got to a point where I physically check for accuracy. But I think the approach is helpful.

Education is a fluid activity. There should be continued efforts to do what it takes so that all students may learn and become proficient academically. Saying, this is gibberish is inaccurate.

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