Words Correct Per Minute
The process for calculating words correct per minute (WCPM) and reading accuracy begins with the selection of three passages from a grade level basal text. Students are required to read each passage for exactly one minute and the total number of words read for each passage is averaged to produce a score. The total number of errors made while reading each passage is then averaged to produce a second score. The difference between the average number of words read and the average number of errors is then computed to yield the WCPM. This number can then be used to determine if the student is at, below, or above grade level in reading fluency. Furthermore, once a baseline is established at the beginning of the year, additional measurements can be taken to determine individual student progress throughout the year.
Students cannot understand texts if they cannot read the words. Before they can read the words, they have to be aware of the letters and the sounds represented by letters so that sounding out and blending of sounds can occur to pronounce words. Once pronounced, the good reader notices whether the word as recognized makes sense in the sentence and the text context being read and, if it does not, takes another look at the word to check if it might have been misread. Student word-recognition skills are critical to the development of comprehension. However, the ability to sound out a word does not assure that the word will be understood by the reader. Real mental effort is necessary when students begin learning to sound out words. The more effort required the less consciousness left over for other cognitive operations, including comprehension of the words being sounded out. Fluent word recognition consumes little cognitive capacity, freeing up the child’s cognitive capacity for understanding what is read (Pressley, 2001).
Strategies for Advancing WCPM and Reading Accuracy
Monitored oral reading with the teacher and repeated reading activities will build all three components of fluency: accuracy, rate, and prosody. Furthermore, there are specific instructional strategies for each component.
Poor accuracy requires additional instruction in word identification skills. Instruction should center on building automatic word recognition. For younger readers struggling with accuracy the appropriate intervention is to provide systematic explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight words. Phonemic awareness instruction is critical for fluent reading because as some readers will not be able to decode a word because they do not hear every sound in the word. Phonics and sight word instruction is essential for swift and accurate reading. These are the basic tools used to identify words. As children get older slow word identification is often the result of poorly developed structural analysis skills, syllabic analysis skills, and orthographic knowledge (Zarrillo, 2011).
Three instructional strategies that can be used in the classroom to facilitate fluency and accuracy are partner reading, read and re-read, and Reader’s Theater. All three of these strategies are easy to implement. Partner reading can be with students with level and unlevel reading abilities. Read and re-read works to familiarize students with words and build confidence. Reader’s Theater allows students to take virtually any piece of literature, analyze it and adapt it into a script. This script can then be performed with a minimum of preparation, props or scenery.
Pressley, M. (2001, September). Reading instruction: What makes sense now, what might make sense soon. Reading Online, 5(2). Retrieved January 7, 2012, from http://www.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=/articles/handbook/pressley/index.html
Zarrillo, J.J. (2011) Ready for revised RICA: A test prperation guide for california’s reading instruction competence assessment, 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.
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