Accuracy rates are important in reading instruction, because they help educators level materials. If a child is reading below his level, he’s not learning. If he’s reading above his level, he gets frustrated and gives up (often after a meltdown). To get the level right, you need to use some simple math formulas outlined in this post. There are 2 key accuracy rates in k-3 reading instruction: wordlist accuracy and book reading accuracy.
Both of these accuracy rates will help you learn how to determine the reading level of a book and lesson.
Wordlist accuracy rates in K-3 reading instruction
Wordlists are an important part of phonics lessons. They strip away context and pictures, and really identify if the child has learned the sound patterns. Here is a sample wordlist for a child that’s learning silent e:
- plop- student misses word
- whale – student misses word
- time – student misses word
- track – student misses word
Notice that the above list contains interleaving, meaning not all the words are silent e; this ensures that the child cannot guess at the sounds. In contrast, if the list were all silent e (rake, mine, fine, cove), he’d know to say the long vowel sound every time and this would not encourage deep learning. Since the list is mixed, he must stay vigilant and learn to differentiate between long and short vowels.
In the above list, the child missed 4 words. Thus, his accuracy rate is 80%. Is he ready to move on? Yes! This particular child can now learn ee/ea. If a child receives 70% or above, he is ready to learn a new sound. Students often get stuck “learning” material they’ve already mastered, because wordlist accuracy rates are set too high. On a list of 20 words, if your student misses 7 words, he’s ready to move on.
Why are wordlist accuracy rate standards this low?
Wordlists take away all the student’s crutches: they can’t look at pictures, guess based on context, or rote memorize the words. Thus, they must really engage in sound-by-sound reading. Plus, all the material on the wordlist should be recent content. If for example, your student is learning the aw sound (which kids usually learn in 2nd grade), it’s inappropriate to put easy Kindergarten phonics words like cat on the list.
Wordlists should challenge the student just enough for learning to occur.
A 70% accuracy standard for wordlists will ensure that your reading lesson actually helps your student read books better… and that’s the whole point of reading lessons! If you see a lesson require that a child read 85% of the words accurately on any given phonics wordlist… this is way too high of a goal. It’ll keep the child’s book reading level stagnant.
How to determine reading level for books
Accuracy standards for book reading are much, much higher. The book accuracy standards outlined below can be applied to beginning readers, older kids and even adults.
Selecting texts for students may seem challenging, because you want to pick books that will engage your student and improve her reading level. Many kids read books that are significantly above or below their reading ability: neither do much to improve reading skills. While there may not be an inherent problem when kids read books that are too easy for them for leisure or too hard for them for an occasional challenge, students also need leveled books.
How do you find your student’s current reading level? Accuracy rates.
Accuracy rates can be defined as the percentage of words a child reads correctly on any given text. The book must be one the child has not memorized. For example, if Amaya reads 89 words out of 100, her accuracy rate on that text is 89%. This is too low. Thus, in this case, you’d want to look for an easier text for Amaya.
Finding accuracy rates
Now you’ve given Amaya a slightly easier text. Time your student while she reads for one minute. Mark the number of words she’s read in total, and the number of words she’s missed. Subtract the number of words missed from the total number of words:
119- # of words read
8- # of words missed
This student has an accuracy rate of 93%. In short, Amaya can now read a book that will both challenge her enough to improve her reading skills and won’t frustrate her. Use the information below to determine how appropriate a book is for your student…
IF ACCURACY IS 98% OR ABOVE (INDEPENDENT)… This is a student’s independent reading level. She can read this book on her own. In sum, she’ll miss about 2 out of every 100 words. She will not hit frustration, and she does not need a reading partner to guide her through missed words. With a text like this, she can improve her reading skills on her own.
IF ACCURACY IS 93-97% (INSTRUCTIONAL)… On this text, the student needs a reading partner like a teacher or parent. The more experienced reader can help the child tackle unfamiliar words. In essence, books at the instructional level are crucial for kids, because they help them learn how to pronounce words they may never have heard. They also help young kids master new phonics sounds. Ideally, on phonics books, the reading partner would help the child read missed words sound-by-sound.
IF ACCURACY IS BELOW 92% (FRUSTRATION)… The text is too difficult for the student. Put it away for now and you can try again after your student’s reading skills have progressed. Yes, we want to push our students, but hitting frustration will cause a child to shut down, will atrophy his confidence, and will cause him to dislike reading entirely.
I hope the information in this post helps you design leveled reading lessons.
Reading Elephant offers printable phonics books in our online shop.
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