Measuring Reading Fluency
What is Reading Fluency?
Many beginning-level English language learners, as well as other foreign language learners, struggle and can't read fluently. In most cases, these learners cannot sound out and distinguish between words. They also don't know the meaning of words and how they are used in sentences. Should this be a surprise? No, not really, if we truly understand what must take place for reading fluency to exist. This hub examines the phonological, orthographic, semantic, and contextual levels of linguistic awareness and how they relate to reading fluency.
Levels of Linguistic Awareness
There must be four levels of linguistic awareness for reading fluency to exist: phonological, orthographic, semantic, and contextual. If a learner hasn't acquired all of these levels, there won't be any reading fluency. Let's look closely now at each of these four levels of linguistic awareness.
Phonological awareness means you recognize the sounds of a language and can distinguish among them. A lot of people think that learning the alphabet of a language is the first step in gaining linguistic awareness for reading. This may be true for languages such as Thai in which the letters of the alphabet are pronounced exactly as they are written. It is not true for English, because many letters, especially the vowels a, e, i, o, and u can take on various sounds.
For this reason, it is first necessary to learn how to pronounce the phonemes or basic sounds of a language. Then, a learner blends the consonant and vowel sounds to form words. For example, after learning the consonant aspirated sounds of b and p and the long vowel sound e, students can combine them to form the sounds bee and pee.
Orthographic awareness means you can recognize letters of an alphabet like English or characters of a language such as Chinese. It also means you can recognize the correct order in which letters or characters are placed to make words. For example, with this awareness, you know that cats is a word in the sentence "The cats aren't big," and that there are spaces between the words. With orthographic awareness for Thai, you would recognize that ฉัน is a word in the sentence ฉันรักธอ "I love you." For the Chinese sentence 明天我要去北京 "I want to go to Beijing tomorrow.", with an orthographic awareness, one would know that 明天 means tomorrow. In addition to this, orthographic awareness includes familiarity with rules for spelling, hyphenation, abbreviations, capitalization, and punctuation.
When combined, phonological and orthographic awareness create word recognition and pronunciation. Young English learners with this awareness should be able to read Dr. Seuss's rhyme books. It is a known fact that before you can read and remember a word, you have to be able to pronounce it
If one has semantic awareness, you can distinguish between real words and imaginary words or between English and foreign words. For example, you know that phander is a made-up word, and father is a real one. Having semantic awareness also means that for each word you know, a mental image inside your brain matches that word as well as other words associated with it. For instance, the word tree associates with forest, leaves, trunk, etc.
Finally, contextual awareness is like a puzzle clue. It indicates the correct placement of words in a sentence and shows an understanding of basic grammar rules. It is also needed to differentiate between homophones and homographs. For instance, in the sentence, "She runs slowly to the park," contextual awareness tells us that slowly is an adverb and park is a noun.
Linguistic Awareness for Reading Fluency
Which is the most difficult level of linguistic awareness to acquire for reading fluency?
How Is Your Reading Fluency?
The following short simple test is designed to measure your ability to process words on the four levels of linguistic awareness. It will also define your strengths and weaknesses as a reader. Don't worry because no one will pass or fail this test which is only a tool. Its purpose will be explained after you take the test.
Read the following sentences and answer the questions.
1. Once when I was a komlet, my fander and I were sundering in line to buy chatmots for the jammit.
2. In front of ooze, woat was another famlet with shix rindles who were kambering their potents sorants.
3. They were delletly dennering about the bracks, illectics, and other hotts that they would vint that moster.
1. Who is the speaker with and what are they doing?
2. Who were the shix rindles with and what were they doing?
3. What were they delletly dennering about?
4. What would they vint that moster?
5. What is the difference between passed and past?
6. What is the difference between hair and hare?
7. What is the difference between a bass and a bass?
8. What is the difference between "touch down" and "a touchdown?"
What does this test signify? Well, if you can't read the short three-sentence paragraph, it means you lack a good foundation in English grammar and sentence structure. The paragraph follows rules of English grammar and sentence structure even though it is filled with made-up words. Native speakers should be able to easily answer all of the questions. Failure to pronounce the words may indicate a lack of phonological awareness. Although there are many imaginary words, almost all of them contain English morphemes, the smallest basic units of speech conveying the sounds and letters that appear in the language. If you could not answer questions 5-8, you may lack semantic, phonological, or contextual awareness.
Tests similar to the one above could be written for other languages to measure phonological, orthographic, semantic, and contextual linguistic awareness. All of this awareness must be present for learners to develop reading fluency. Specific ways to develop reading fluency will be addressed in a future article.
Phrasing in Fluent Reading
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn