Research School Network: Barriers to learning: Reading fluency How to use assessment to support reading fluency

Barriers to learning: Reading fluency

How to use assessment to support reading fluency

by Lincolnshire Research School
on the

James Siddle Director of Lincolnshire Research School and Headteacher of St Margaret’s CE Primary School explores reading fluency and how to use assessment to support it.

How do we use assessment to support reading fluency?

A lot has been written about reading fluency, for example: Why focus on reading fluency? | EEF ( and indeed the EEF currently have an opportunity for schools to participate in an upcoming programme KS2 Reading Fluency Project (2024÷25 trial) | EEF ( are many ways we can promote reading fluency as part of our approach to teaching reading, but why might we focus on this area of reading and what role does assessment play?

What is the role of reading fluency?

Breadmore et al., (2019) described fluency as multifaceted and its function in reading comprehension is taught and assessed in different ways (Kuhn et al., 2010). According to Hudson et al., (2011) and Rasinski et al., (2011) reading fluency can be broken down into three elements:

Word Reading Accuracy:
the ability to decode accurately.
Reading Rate automaticity
: word-level fluency and speed when reading a text.
Prosodic Features:
the variations in pitch, stress and intonation which comprise expressive reading.

Prosodic Features: the variations in pitch, stress and intonation which comprise expressive reading.The latter – prosodic features – are harder to both define and measure compared to accuracy of automaticity (Such, 2021). These elements were highlighted in the EEF’s Guidance to Improving Key Stage 2 Literacy


Assessment and Implications for Practice

Kuhn (2010) identified that most classroom practice uses assessment which fails to fully capture the concept of reading fluency, leading to inappropriate instruction and a misconception of this characteristic of reading. So how should we use assessment of reading fluency?

Assessment of reading accuracy and automaticity

Reading accuracy and automaticity can be assessed by using a running record and calculating the reader’s word count per minute (wcpm) – the errors made in one minute (Hudson et al., 2011). The validity of this measure has been established over the past 25 years e.g., Fuchs et al., (2001); Shinn et al., (1992). McGuinness (2004) suggested that a reading rate of 90 wcpm was inadequate to process meaning.

Assessment of prosody

Hasbrouck (2006) argued that prosody is subject to subjective judgements and it is hard to study as a component of reading. Practitioners assessing prosodic features can be aided by fluency rubrics’ such as those developed by Hasbrouck (2006) or Zutell and Rasinski (1991) which featured in a previous EEF blog: EEF blog: Shining a spotlight on reading fluency | EEF (

Care should be taken when using assessment, as assessment can often drive instruction (Valencia et al., 2017), for example wcpm may not be a good measure when students encounter more complex texts. Although wcpm is a well-established measure of fluency, this measure may well place too much evidence on speed at the detriment of comprehension, and employing a multidimensional approach to assessment is required to assess all the components of reading fluency.

Are there age-related assessment considerations?

Valencia et al., (2017) suggested fluency assessment might focus on the following:
Early grades (Key Stage 1 for example):
rate, accuracy, prosody and comprehension
Higher grades (Key stage 2 upwards):
more on prosody and comprehension.

What does this mean for practice in assessment?

According to Valencia et al., (2017) a composite approach to assessment of reading fluency would allow the identification of:

• Students who are strong in accuracy but weak in rate; from

• Students who are weak in accuracy but read quickly but not undertake comprehension monitoring; from

• Students who are automatic decoders but read with little phrasing, expression and, ultimately, understanding.

Quigley (2020) identified a variety of approaches to teaching reading fluency that practitioners may wish to try – for example, choral and echo reading; segmenting sentences; and peer tutoring. A great example of this in practice from Town End Research School can be found here: RS Network | How I teach reading fluency (

Repeated Reading

According to Hasbrouck and Tindal (2006) research over two decades has identified repeated reading as the key strategy – this requires modelling and feedback as essential components. Repeated Reading was proposed by Chomsky (1978) and Jay Samuels (1979) to develop decoding automaticity with students struggling with reading and features in recommendation two of the EEF’s Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2. According to Jay Samuels this method consists of:

• Using a text at the frustration level of students, at around 90 – 94% accuracy.

• Repeatedly reading (usually three times) a short text (50200 words) or for a timed period (usually one minute for younger learners but could be up to three minutes for older readers),

• Receiving feedback, until a satisfactory level of fluency is reached (attaining sufficient speed and accuracy levels) – typically 110+ wcpm with 99% accuracy and appropriate prosody according to Such (2021).

This can be implemented as part of whole class teaching or as an intervention. It might feel counterintuitive to implement this on a whole class basis but the evidence suggests that it can benefit all students (Kuhn, 2020) and whole class repeated reading was designed as an extension of the repeated reading intervention (Mcteer et al., 2022).


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