Reading Accurately and Reading Fast
|Above copied from Reading Rockets|
When a task is completed not just correctly but also quickly, there is clearly additional evidence of fluency. Speed is not meant to replace comprehension, but with the increasing amount of text that need to be read in school, and even in real life, the rate at which one comprehends written material becomes important as well.
Measuring the time in a reading comprehension assessment is therefore useful especially if such gauge also untangles the two important factors behind reading comprehension: word recognition and vocabulary. This has been recently demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Research in Reading. This research work by Louise Flensted Rønberg and Dorthe Klint Petersen from Denmark involves more than 200 fourth grade children and aims to understand how orthographic coding and receptive vocabulary correlate with reading comprehension.
Orthographic coding (word recognition) and receptive vocabulary have been separately measured via the following:
Orthographic coding (2 minutes, 70 items). The timed test measured the ability to recognise correctly spelled words, which may be seen as a measure of the children’s sight word representations in long-term memory (Nielsen & Petersen, 1992). The children were asked to circle the correctly spelled word amongst four homophone alternatives, for example reine – rain – rane – raine. The test was framed by the orthographic coding test developed by Olson, Kliegl, Davidson, and Foltz (1985). The score was the number of correct responses in 2 minutes.
Receptive oral vocabulary (30 items). The test consisted of a broad selection of 30 highfrequency and low-frequency everyday words and content area words (see appendix). Danish receptive vocabulary tests suited for group administration are few. Therefore, this new measure was developed by the first author. A selection of children’s fiction and non-fiction books were studied, and 56 words were selected. Appropriate photos of the target word and four distractors were found on web pages. The five photos per item were presented in colour in a paper booklet with three items per page. It was piloted with 100 children in Years 3–5. Based on Rasch analyses, the individual items were inspected, and the final test was constructed with 30 test items. All the words were orally presented twice by the test administrator. The score was the number of correct responses.Their findings show that if the reading comprehension exam is not timed, a child's vocabulary is a much more important predictor than orthographic coding. On the other hand, there is a marked increase in the influence of word recognition when reading speed is measured. Furthermore, a third factor independent from either coding or vocabulary emerges in explaining reading comprehension speed, a child's ability to connect word meanings (semantic relationship).
Assessments or exams now have negative connotations. Add speed or time pressure, impressions even become worse. There remains, however, some good in tests under time pressure. It remains one of the ways fluency can be measured.