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Sound It Out

Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

23 words per minute

October 23, 2007

I have the pleasure of working one-on-one with several beginning readers, my own and a handful of others. There's nothing more amazing than sitting beside a new reader and listening to them as they "get" reading. It's something that you hear — their reading goes from word to word, choppy, and staccato-sounding to more phrasal, intonated, and just plain faster. But, how fast?

Words Correct per Minute (WCPM) is one way to determine a student's reading fluency. Quick probes based on carefully selected passages can help teachers screen, diagnose, and monitor students' progress.

Two researchers, Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal, have spent a great deal of time quantifying the oral reading fluency of kids in grades 1-8. In 2006 they published revised norms which provide guidance about where kids should be functioning.

In many cases, students will need some fluency instruction. And the good news is that fluency instruction will improve reading achievement. Really!

How do you assess your kids oral reading fluency? Do these norms align with the ones you use?


I am a special ed. teacher of moderately disabled students. While some of my students can read fluently, they can not comprehend what they read. I do continue to work on fluency and intonation, but my main focus remains: teaching comprehension. Are you assessing comprehension at the same time as the fluency assessment?

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"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo