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Using a repeated reading program to improve generalization of oral reading fluency.


Three second-grade students at-risk for reading failure participated in an adult-directed repeated reading program that integrated isolated word reading practice, unison reading, error correction, and performance cueing and feedback procedures. During each intervention session, the participants practiced five difficult words key to a first-grade independent level passage, engaged in unison reading with the adult trainer, and repeatedly read the passage four or five times with error correction. The oral reading rate on second-grade, transfer passages (i.e., new passages that students have not practiced before) served as the primary dependent variable. Using a multiple probe across participants design, we showed that the repeated reading program improved all participants' oral reading rates on the grade level transfer passages. Implications of the study are discussed.

Keywords: reading fluency, oral reading rates, generalization, repeated reading.

Reading connected text fluently is an essential, life-long skill that all students must master in order to be successful not only in academics, but also in everyday life. The National Reading Panel delineated reading fluency as one of the five critical reading skill components and defined it as the ability to "read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression" (NICHHD, 2000, p. 3-1). The ability to read fluently has been found to serve as a strong predictor of reading comprehension, an essential goal of reading (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hosp, 2001; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974). Although reading fluency depends on well developed word attack and decoding skills, improved competency in word identification does not necessarily produce fluency gains without explicit fluency instruction (Meyer & Felton, 1999; NICHHD).

To improve students' fluency skills, various fluency strategies are available in literature. One commonly examined strategy is repeated reading of passages (e.g., LeVasseur, Macaruso, & Shankweiler, 2008; Martens et al., 2007; Mercer, Campbell, Miller, Mercer, & Lane, 2000; NICHHD, 2000; Vandenberg, Boon, Fore, & Bender, 2008). Despite the various distinct procedures, effective repeated reading interventions are most often implemented as a part of a multifaceted treatment package that includes several essential, interconnected components. Specifically, repeated reading typically involves a student rereading a specific passage out loud multiple times to a teacher or peer tutor. The teacher or peer tutor may first model expressive reading or involve the student in unison reading (Richards, 2000; Therrien & Kubina, 2006). The passage that is read multiple times is usually connected text at an instructional or independent level for the student (Meyer & Felton, 1999). During or after the oral reading, the teacher or peer tutor will provide corrective feedback and then record the number of words read correctly per minute. One goal of repeated reading is for the student to reach a predetermined criterion of words read correctly during a 1-min trial. As a result, repeated reading often involves some method for monitoring student progress and providing verbal performance feedback (e.g., Chafouleas, Martens, Dobson, Weinstein, & Gardner, 2004; Conte & Hintze, 2000; Eckert, Dunn, & Ardoin, 2006) and/or graphic cues (e.g., Alber-Morgan, Ramp, Anderson, & Martin, 2007; Staubitz, Cartledge, Yurick, & Lo, 2005; Yurick, Robinson, Cartledge, Lo, & Evans, 2006) in an effort to encourage improvement in future rereading.

Existing literature on repeated reading often reports its effects on students' ability to fluently read two types of passages: nontransfer passages (i.e., passages that students practiced multiple times during repeated reading sessions) and transfer passages (i.e., new passages that students have not practiced before). Results of most recent reviews or syntheses have suggested that repeated reading improves reading fluency with moderate to large effect sizes on nontransfer passages for students with and without disabilities (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Meyer & Felton, 1999; Morgan & Sideridis, 2006; NICHHD, 2000; Therrien, 2004; Therrien, Wickstrom, & Jones, 2006; Wexler, Vaughn, Edmonds, & Reutebuch, 2008), but resulted in less robust effects on transfer passages (Ardoin, Eckert, & Cole, 2008; Therrien). From a functional and social validity perspective, the generalization of fluency to transfer passages is the vital outcome for educators. Students' ability to apply what they have learned to fluently read transfer passages will likely support them in reading texts that are unfamiliar to them both within and outside of schools (e.g., texts for different academic subject areas, readings for leisure). However, not all reviews have strongly supported the use of repeated reading. A recent review of 11 repeated reading research studies with students at risk or with learning disabilities by Chard, Ketterin-Gellar, Baker, Doabler, and Apichatabutra (2009) indicates that repeated reading is yet to be established as an evidence-based practice according to the quality indicators proposed by Gersten et al. (2005) and Horner et al. (2005) (as cited by Chard et al.). Specifically, these authors reported that the number of high quality research studies on repeated reading in current literature is insufficient to identify repeated reading as an evidence-based practice for students at risk or with learning disabilities. Thus, although there is a great deal of supporting evidence, additional high quality research on repeated reading is needed. Further, it is important to understand which of the numerous variations on repeated reading are most effective.

In a meta-analysis of 16 repeated reading studies with school-age students, published between 1977 and 2001, Therrien (2004) measured its effects on generalization to transfer passages and found a moderate effect size (ES = .50), based on Cohen's (1988) criterion (as cited by Therrien). To further determine the components within the repeated reading intervention that might be associated with the success of the program, Therrien conducted a component analysis. Although the results were correlational in nature, Therrien reported that several components including the provision of error correction or corrective feedback on students' performance, adult modeling, performance cueing, and rereading a passage until achieving a performance criterion may have contributed to the success of the reviewed repeated reading interventions. We further describe each of these components in the following sections.

Error Correction

In repeated reading, error correction often requires an adult or peer instructor to correct the student on any missed words during rereading of the assigned passage by having the student repeat the correct word and read the word in a phrase or in a complete sentence, either before moving on to the next part of the passage (e.g., Staubitz et al., 2005) or after completing the passage (e.g., Begeny, Daly, & Valleley, 2006). The inclusion of error correction helps readers to improve response accuracy in future readings, and at the same time prompts the readers to practice prosody in phrases that may contribute to improvement in oral reading fluency (Alber-Morgan et al., 2007; Begeny et al.; Nelson, Alber, & Gordy, 2004; Therrien). Yurick and colleagues (2006) conducted two experiments to determine the generalization effects of peer-mediated repeated reading with error correction on oral reading fluency of third- and fourth-grade students on transfer passages. In one experiment, the authors used an error correction that required students to: (a) stop and sound out the missed word; (b) read the word phrase consisting of the word preceding the miscue, the missed word, and the word following it; and (c) either repeat the word phrase three times or read the word phrase backward and forward. In the second experiment, the error correction procedure was more explicit in that the peer tutor specifically told the student the correct pronunciation for any missed word and required the student to repeat the correct word and word phrase. Results of both experiments showed that the participants demonstrated mild improvement in oral reading rates on transfer passages.

Adult Modeling

Previous literature showed that repeated reading with appropriate adult support from modeling (student listening to an adult read a passage, e.g., Nichols, Rupley, & Rasinski, 2009; Richards, 2000) or from unison reading (student reading aloud along with an adult, e.g., Heller, Rupert, Coleman-Martin, Mezei, & Calhoon, 2007) can be beneficial in providing prosodic cues and natural reading rate essential for improving reading fluency. For example, Ardoin, McCall, and Klubnik (2007) found that a repeated reading intervention that involved 6 third-grade students listening to an expressive reading from an adult model prior to repeated reading of the same or multiple passages, with error correction following the passage reading, was effective in improving the students' oral reading fluency on the transfer passages. In a study with an elementary student with physical disabilities, Heller et al. compared the effects of repeated reading with error correction under two conditions, one in which the student read and reread passages without adult modeling and one in which the student engaged in unison reading with an adult trainer prior to rereading a passage. Using an alternating treatments design, the authors found that the additional inclusion of unison reading produced slightly greater fluency increases across transfer passages than the intervention without unison reading.

Performance Cueing and Feedback

Cueing students to focus on fluency (i.e., "read as fast as you can") and graphing students' performance serve as both prompts and feedback for students to attain higher achievement during subsequent rereading. In fact, performance cueing and graphing have been associated with increases in oral reading fluency for students with and without disabilities (Therrien, 2004). Staubitz and colleagues (2005) examined the effects of repeated reading on students' ability to read transfer passages with 6 fourth- and fifth-grade urban students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Each participant was paired with a peer or an adult trainer to repeatedly read an assigned passage for 10 min each session until the predetermined performance criterion (e.g., 135 correct words per minute [CWPM]) was achieved. The intervention also included timing, systematic error correction, and graphing of performance. The authors measured the students' oral reading rate on a transfer passage once per week in order to determine the students' ability to generalize reading skills under three conditions: covertly timed (i.e., the use of the timer was not apparent to students), overtly timed (i.e., directly telling students they were being timed and to do their best reading), and overtly timed plus graphed. The results of this study indicated that all participants improved their oral reading rates on the transfer passages, with the overtly timed and timed plus graphed conditions resulting in superior outcomes.

In light of the important roles of error correction, adult modeling or unison reading, performance cueing and feedback in repeated reading, integration of these components into fluency building interventions in promoting generalization is warranted. Further, preview and practice of isolated words (either difficult words or commonly presented sight words) students will encounter in the passage and the use of instructional or independent level materials may be beneficial to some students in improving reading fluency, although these were not features analyzed in Therrien's (2004) metaanalysis of reading fluency gains on transfer passages.

Preview and Practice of Isolated Words

Unlike error correction, previewing specific words from a passage or sight words commonly presented in children's literature can serve as a preventive approach aimed at increasing oral reading rate. By selecting words anticipated to cause difficulty for previewing, the instructor can provide students with practice on those words prior to reading and prevent errors or hesitations that may limit students' reading fluency. Results of a 3-year longitudinal study examining the roles of sublexical fluency in predicting oral reading fluency indicated that isolated word recognition was a strong predictor of reading fluency (Burke, Crowder, Hagan-Burke, & Zou, 2009). Other studies have also reported the importance of including isolated word practice as a preview to reading the passage in order to improve oral reading fluency (e.g., Levy, Abello, & Lysynchuk, 1997; Speece & Ritchey, 2005). For instance, Begeny and Silber (2006) conducted an alternating treatments design to compare the differential effects of four different intervention packages on 4 third-grade students' oral reading fluency. They found that the package consisting of sight word training (i.e., reading a list of difficult words from a passage in isolation), adult modeling (i.e., listening to an adult model reading a passage fluently), and repeated reading produced greater gains in reading fluency, than any two components combined, for three of the four students. Similarly, Begeny and Martens (2006) demonstrated that a repeated reading intervention with sight word training, adult modeling, and error correction using a phrase drill technique resulted in substantial gains on several reading measures (e.g., word lists, reading fluency of both nontransfer and transfer passages, comprehension of nontransfer passages, and standardized reading tests), compared to traditional classroom reading instruction.

Repeated Reading Training Materials

Although current research findings regarding the difficulty of text used during repeated reading interventions remains inconsistent (Kuhn & Stahl, 2000; Stahl & Heubach, 2005; Wexler et al., 2008), the theory of automaticity supports researchers' contention that using text that can be read accurately for fluency training will reduce decoding difficulty, therefore, increase fluency (e.g., Meyer & Felton, 1999). Specifically, these researchers suggest that using text materials at the students' instructional level (90-95% accurate word recognition) to independent level (above 95% accurate word recognition) is likely to support students in focusing their attention on speed, prosody, and comprehension, rather than decoding (Bos & Vaughn, 2002). To improve the oral reading fluency of 3 fourth-grade low-achieving nonfluent readers, Musti-Rao, Hawkins, and Barkley (2009) used passages at second-grade or third-grade instructional levels during their peer-mediated repeated reading intervention. Results on the fourth-grade level fluency assessments indicated that the intervention had a large effect size for all three students' oral reading rates (ES = 1.40, 1.90, and 2.00) on transfer passages.

In sum, the above reviews suggest several areas for consideration in repeated reading research. First, investigating the effects of repeated reading on transfer passages is important. Second, integrating error correction, adult modeling, and performance cueing and feedback in repeated reading is likely to result in improvement in reading fluency on transfer passages. Third, the inclusion of isolated word previewing and practice in repeated reading interventions may provide additional support to promote greater fluency effects on transfer passages. Finally, using materials at the students' instructional or independent level during repeated reading may allow students to concentrate on fluency building. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a repeated reading intervention package on oral reading fluency on independent level (first grade) and grade level (second grade) transfer passages with 3 second-grade students. In particular, this study was to answer two research questions.

1. To what extent would an adult-delivered repeated reading intervention package including preview and practice of isolated passage words, unison reading, performance cueing and feedback, and error correction increase the participants' oral reading rates on the grade level (i.e., second grade) transfer passages?

2. To what extent would the repeated reading intervention package increase the participants' initial oral reading rates on the first-grade transfer passages?



The present study was conducted in a Title I elementary school within an urban school district located in the southeast region of the United States. The school population was composed of 87.7% African American students, 5.4% Hispanic students, 4.4% Asian students, 1.6% multi-racial, and 0.8% American Indian students. Approximately 93% of students qualified for free or reduced price lunch. The school was one of seven in the district participating in the Behavior and Reading Improvement Center (BRIC) grant (CFDA: 84-324X). This federally funded 5-year grant focused on the prevention and intervention of early reading and behavior problems (cf., Algozzine et al., 2008). As a part of the grant model, the school adopted the administration of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills[TM] (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002) benchmark and progress monitoring assessments as a schoolwide practice for at-risk student identification and intervention development. Following Fall and Winter Benchmark assessments, students identified at risk received focused decoding instruction or focused fluency instruction.

All assessment and intervention sessions took place in an otherwise unoccupied tutoring room (6-feet by 8-feet) with 8-10 sets of student desks and chairs. No other adults or students were present in the tutoring room (with the exception of the second observer on occasions) during the intervention and data collection periods.


Three second-grade students participated in the present study. These students were selected based on four criteria. First, students had either completed or tested out of Early Reading Tutor (Gibbs, Campbell, Helf, & Cooke, 2007), a supplemental decoding program addressing first-grade decoding skills; and demonstrated benchmark performance of at least 50 correct sounds per minute on the DIBELS Nonsense Word Fluency subtest. This was to ensure that students had essential decoding skills to practice oral reading fluency. Second, students scored below the benchmark level on the second-grade DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency subtest (DORF; Good, Kaminski, & Dill, 2002) of the Winter Benchmark assessment (i.e., December of second grade). Third, the trend line of students' DORF weekly progress monitoring assessment scores in an 8-week prebaseline period (February to March) was insufficient to predict that they would attain the DIBELS benchmark level (i.e., 90 CWPM) by the end of second grade with the core reading instruction alone. Fourth, students were not involved in any specialized group or individualized oral reading fluency interventions beyond the core reading instruction to avoid possible multiple treatment effects. Four students meeting the selection criteria had regular attendance and provided parental consents. One student was excluded from reporting because she did not receive the repeated reading intervention package due to absences from illness, off-site fieldtrips, and insufficient time at the end of the school year to extend the study to include her. None of the students had an identified disability and each attended a different general education classroom.

Sherry was a 7-year-old (7 years 10 months) African American female. On the Winter Benchmark assessment, Sherry obtained 52 CWPM on the DORF measure. According to the DIBELS technical report that was based on over 15,000 students (Good & Kaminski, 2002), with a score of 52 CWPM, Sherry's odds of achieving the acceptable second-grade benchmark goal of 90 were only 38%. During prebaseline, Sherry scored an average of 62.33 CWPM on the second-grade DORF weekly progress monitoring with a decreasing trend line slope (slope = -0.210), predicting that she was not likely to achieve the benchmark goal. Gabriella was a 7-year-old (7 years 6 months) Hispanic female. She scored 34 CWPM on the DORF subtest of the Winter Benchmark assessment, indicating that her odds of attaining the acceptable Spring Benchmark of 90 CWPM were 8%. Additionally, Gabriella scored an average of 52.00 CWPM on the weekly progress monitoring during the 8-week prebaseline with a trend line slope (slope = 0.588) less steep than necessary to reach the benchmark by the end of the year. Aaron was an 8-year-old (8 years 3 months) African American male. With a score of 40 CWPM on the DORF measure of the Winter Benchmark assessment, Aaron's odds for achieving the Spring Benchmark goal of 90 CWPM were only 8%. He received an average of 42.83 CWPM on his prebaseline weekly progress monitoring assessments with a trend line slope (slope = 0.829) that would not reach the benchmark goal by the end of the year.


Reading passages. All reading passages for the probes and intervention were obtained from the DORF (Good et al., 2002) progress monitoring passages for first-grade and second-grade levels. According to Good and colleagues, the test-retest reliabilities of the DORF measures for elementary students ranged from .92 to .97 with an alternate form of reliability from .89 to .94 and criterion-related validity coefficients from .52 to .91. There were 20 DORF passages at each grade level. Each passage was divided into two halves, resulting in 40 short "new" passages at each grade level to allow for frequent measurements in the present study. The length of each new passage ranged from 91 to 123 words at the first-grade level and 105 to 147 words at the second-grade level. The cut-off point for the first half of each passage was either the end of a sentence or the end of a paragraph. The first-grade passages were used for intervention and assessment, whereas the second-grade passages were used for assessment only. The first-grade passages were chosen for intervention because they presented texts that were at the participants' independent level and therefore would require less time spent in error correction. On the other hand, the second-grade passages were selected for assessment only, because it was an important goal for the participants to reach the DIBELS benchmark of 90 CWPM on grade level passages, the lowest level that predicts success in third-grade reading (Good et al.).

There was one set of student materials and three sets of instructor's scoring booklets (one for each participant). The student materials consisted of the 40 first-grade passages and 40 second-grade passages, individually cut out and pasted onto an 8.5" by 11" white paper in portrait layout. The passage title was printed in black at the top of each page. The font size of the passage title and text was consistent with that of the original DORF student materials (i.e., 16-pt Times New Roman font). For the instructor's scoring booklet, a dividing line was inserted to separate the two halves of each original DORF passage. Originally printed word counts were crossed out and rewritten for all passages. New passage numbers were marked at the upper left side margin of each passage (i.e., 1-40).

Preview world lists. The first author selected five words from each of the 40 first-grade passages for the isolated word preview. The words were nouns, adjectives, or verbs that (a) we anticipated to be difficult for the participants to decode, including multisyllabic or irregular words and/or (b) were unusual (e.g., Eiffel) or low frequency words. These selected words were used for preview and practice before the participants engaged in their first reading in order to reduce possible reading errors. Each set of five words was printed in lower case on one 8.5" by 11" white paper using 16-pt Times New Roman font size.

Flashcards. Two sets of words were included on flashcards for word recognition practice. Each flashcard was 2.5" by 2" in white color. The first set consisted of any words the participant read incorrectly on the previous reading of the passage. The purpose of this set was for practice during the error correction procedure of the intervention. The tutor hand wrote these missed words in approximately 20-pt font size. When the student made fewer than five errors, additional flashcards were drawn from a second set that included high frequency sight words selected from the 220 words that make up the Dolch Basic Sight Word List.

Student performance graphs. Each student had a performance graph with the vertical axis marked in increments of 5 up to 150. The horizontal axis was marked in increments from 1 to 20 to allow the instructor to record (by placing a dot) the student performance across 20 sessions. There was room at the bottom of the page to record the session number, date, passage number, and number of words read correctly per minute on each timed trial.

Other materials also included five colored gel ink pens of green, red, yellow, blue, and silver (for tracking participants' reading errors during each fluency trial) and a count-down timer.

Dependent Variables and Measures

The dependent variables were two transfer measures of oral reading fluency, presented in CWPM, using the DORF first-grade and second-grade progress monitoring passages described previously. The first author administered all of the data collection with each participant individually in the baseline and the repeated reading phases. The weekly prebascline data were existing data collected by a trained literacy facilitator who was responsible for the school wide administration of the DIBELS benchmark and progress monitoring assessments for students at grades K through three. To ensure consistency, both the literacy facilitator and first author used the seven-step administration procedure for Oral Reading Fluency in the DIBELS Administration and Scoring Guide (Good et al., 2002) during all of the DORF progress monitoring assessments. The total number of words read correctly during each 1-min time trial was recorded for data analysis. Words were excluded from the correct total if they were mispronounced, self-corrected after 3 s, omitted, or were read in incorrect word order. If a participant skipped an entire line of text in a passage, the first author immediately redirected the participant to the skipped line by finger-pointing to the first word of the skipped line without making a verbal response. Skipping a line was not considered an error.

The second-grade transfer measure served as the primary dependent variable and was collected across all phases of the study. The first-grade transfer measure served as the secondary dependent variable and was collected during the intervention condition only (i.e., neither in prebaseline nor baseline). The first-grade transfer measure was the result of the participants' first timed reading, which followed isolated word practice of five passage-specific difficult words (see procedures for details).

Experimental Design

This study used a multiple probe across participants design (Horner & Baer, 1978) to evaluate whether there was a functional relationship between the repeated reading intervention package and the dependent variables. Weekly probes were conducted during prebaseline and initial baseline conditions, followed by at least three consecutive daily probes immediately prior to the introduction of the intervention. Daily probes (i.e., 4 days a week) were then employed throughout the intervention condition. Each participant received the intervention in a staggered fashion after fluency improvement (i.e., change in level or trend direction) was observed with the previous participant.


General procedures. All participants received daily core reading instruction in Open Court Reading (Adams et al., 2000) for 90 min from their respective classroom teachers throughout the study. The Open Court Reading lessons consisted of three strands: (a) Preparing to Read, which focused on decoding skills, vocabulary, and reading fluency; (b) Reading and Responding, which emphasized comprehension instruction; and (c) Integrating the Curriculum, which included language arts instruction based in content that extended across the curriculum. To support the development of fluent reading of connected text, students in the program were given "Decodable Books." These books provide practice opportunities for students to exercise decoding skills emphasized in the related lessons and are intended for multiple readings across a five-lesson unit. Explicit timing and feedback on oral reading rate were not part of the fluency practice. Students' progress on oral reading fluency was monitored through the DORF measure on a weekly basis during prebaseline and baseline and then daily throughout intervention.

Repeated reading program. Each participant received the individual repeated reading sessions from the first author (i.e., tutor) for 15-20 min each session, four times per week. Each session involved a new passage and the eight steps described below.

1. Initial performance cueing and feedback: With the exception of the first intervention session, the tutor showed the participant's progress on his or her performance graph and encouraged the participant to beat his or her previous scores.

2. Preview of difficult passage words: The tutor read the title of the intervention passage to the participant (i.e., "We are going to read about __ today.") and previewed the five preselected passage-specific difficult words using a model-test procedure (i.e., "This word is __. What word?"). The participant then independently read each of the five words. If the participant made an error during the individual reading period, a model-lead-test error correction was provided (i.e., "This word is __. Read it with me. __. Your turn, what word?"). The tutor provided verbal praise (e.g., "Good work." "That's right.") for the participant's correct responses.

3. Initial timed passage reading: The tutor instructed the participant to read the provided first-grade passage for 1 min (i.e., initial reading) without assistance from the tutor, "Now it's your turn to read the story. Remember, if you get stuck, I will tell you the word so you can keep reading. Do your best reading. Read until I say 'Stop.' Start here (point to the first word of the passage)." The tutor recorded errors on the instructor's materials as the participant read aloud. At the end of the 1-min reading, the tutor placed a bracket after the last word read and recorded the number of correct words on the student performance graph using the green color gel ink pen. Performance on this reading was recorded as the secondary dependent measure as well as being a step in the intervention procedure.

4. Performance feedback and error correction: The tutor announced to the participant the number of words he or she read correctly. The tutor provided error correction on each of the missed words by pointing to and identifying the missed word on the passage ("You missed this word. It is __."), instructing the participant to read the missed word ("What word?"), and directing the participant to read a three-word phase consisting of the missed word and two other words that either preceded or followed the missed word ("Read the three words."). To assist the participant in identifying the appropriate three-word phase, the tutor pointed to the first word in the phase with a pen. Verbal praise ("Good job") or error correction ("What word?" "Read the three words again.") was provided.

5. Error word or sight word practice: The tutor wrote down the missed words on blank flashcards for isolated word practice. The tutor and the participant practiced a set of at least five words consisting of the error words the participant made during passage reading supplemented by randomly selected high frequency sight words from the Dolch Basic Sight Word List (if missed words constituted fewer than five). The procedures for flashcard practice were as follow.

* The tutor modeled and tested each word on the flashcards by holding up each flashcard and instructing the participant to read the word ("This word is __. What word?"). This procedure was repeated until all words were reviewed once.

* The tutor shuffled the flashcards and had the participant read each word independently ("What word?") as the tutor displayed each word. Words read correctly were placed in the "correct" pile whereas missed words were placed in the "incorrect" pile.

* The tutor modeled the error words in the "incorrect" pile and instructed the participant to repeat the words (model-test).

* After all the words on the flashcards were reviewed, the tutor placed a tally mark on the back of the flashcards in the correct pile and made a strike on the last tally mark for a misread word that was previously read correctly. Flashcards with three tallies in a row were considered "mastered" and were removed from practice.

6. Unison reading: The tutor instructed the participant to read the passage aloud with her as she modeled expressive reading at a rate that was slightly faster than the participant's current reading rate but at a rate that the participant could read in unison with the tutor ("I want you to read the story along with me. Use your finger to follow along. Try your best to read WITH me. Start with the title. Begin.").

7. Repeated performance cueing and feedback: The tutor cued the participant to focus on improving fluency by pointing out the number of words he or she read correctly during the initial reading on the graph ("See, last time you read __ words correctly.") and encouraging the participant to read faster with expression in the subsequent reading ("I want you to read just like what we've practiced. Let's try to beat your last score.").

8. Timed passage rereading: The tutor instructed the participant to reread the passage independently for 1 min (i.e., second reading), recorded errors, and marked the number of correct words read per minute on the performance graph using a different color gel ink pen.

The tutor repeated steps 4, 5, 7, and 8 for the third and fourth readings. After the participant read the passage four times, the tutor examined the participant's progress. If the participant made three consecutive improvements in the oral reading rate, the tutor ended the fluency practice for that session and proceeded to the second-grade transfer passage probe. If the participant did not make three improvements, the fifth rereading followed before administering the transfer passage probe. The selection of three improvements (i.e., four rereadings) was based on previous meta-analytic research findings indicating that (a) using a performance criterion (i.e., making improvements or reaching a certain criterion in reading rate) produced a larger fluency effective size than using a fixed number of readings, and (b) reading a passage four times resulted in the highest fluency effect size compared to reading two times or three times (Therrien, 2004).

Procedural Integrity and Interobserver Agreements

Using a 30-step procedural integrity checklist (can be obtained from the first author), a master's level graduate student majoring in special education attended 15% of the intervention sessions and collected procedural integrity data across all participants to determine the degree to which each step was followed correctly. Procedural integrity was calculated by dividing the number of steps completed correctly by the total number of steps (i.e., 30) and multiplying that number by 100. A 100% accuracy was obtained.

The same graduate student also served as a second observer for the measurement of dependent variables during 19.4% of the first-grade passage and 19.7% of the second-grade passage probe sessions across conditions and participants. Interobserver agreement (IOA) measure was unavailable for the prebaseline data due to the fact that these were existing progress monitoring data retrieved from the literacy facilitator. For each IOA measure, the first author and the second observer compared their recording word by word to determine agreements (e.g., both observers crossed out the word "mushroom" as an error) or disagreements (e.g., one observer crossed out the word "fluffy" as an error and the other observer recorded it as correctly read). Using this word-by-word comparison method, interobserver agreements were calculated by dividing the agreed word score by the sum of agreed and disagreed word score and multiplying the figure by 100. The mean interobserver agreement for the oral reading rate was 99.3% (range 96.0-100.0%) for the first-grade passages and 99.1% (range 97.2-100.0%) for the second-grade passages.

Consumer Satisfaction

At the conclusion of the study, the participants were interviewed individually to complete a nine-item questionnaire evaluating their opinions about the repeated reading intervention. The questionnaire consisted of five statements, each requiring the participants to indicate their agreement to the statement as "No," "Sometimes," or "Yes." These items measured the participants' views on their engagement in the intervention ("I had fun reading the stories." "I enjoyed the reading program."), the intervention materials ("I like using flashcards to learn words." "I like the stories."), and their performance ("I think I read faster and better."). Additionally, all participants answered four open-ended questions regarding their likes and dislikes of the intervention and any suggestions for changes.


CWPM on Second-Grade Transfer Passages

Figure 1 shows the graphic display of the participants' reading fluency across conditions. Participants' performance trend lines (shown as dashed lines) were constructed using the linear regression trend line tool in the Microsoft Excel program. The aimlines (i.e., acceptable fluency trajectory toward the second-grade benchmark goal) shown as solid lines were established using the participants' Winter Benchmark level and the Spring Benchmark goal of 90 CWPM. Table 1 presents the mean and slope of CWPM for all participants. Slopes were calculated according to linear regression data analysis using SPSS 14.0 program. Across the prebaseline and baseline conditions, Sherry scored an average of 62.20 CWPM (range 49-79) on the second-grade passages. With an exception of one data point, her oral reading rate fell below the aimline with her overall progress heading in an undesirable direction (slope, -0.073). During the repeated reading intervention, her mean CWPM increased to 70.96 words (range 49-95) with an overall increasing trend (slope, 0.475) approaching the adequate fluency aimline. For Gabriella, the mean CWPM during prebaseline and baseline was 50.50 (range 41-65) and her overall fluency progress showed a nearly zero trend (slope, 0.024). With the implementation of the intervention, Gabriella increased her mean CWPM to 65.53 words, indicating a mean increase of 15.03 words after one-month of the intervention. Her data path during the repeated reading condition showed a gradual increasing trend (slope, 0.759) that brought her closer to the aimline by the end of the condition. Aaron scored an average of 48.28 CWPM across the pre-baseline and baseline conditions with a data path showing an overall increasing trend (slope, 0.466) that was approximately parallel to his aimline. However, his overall progress trend line during pre-baseline and baseline was about 25 CWPM below the fluency trajectory needed to achieve the benchmark goal. During the intervention, Aaron improved his mean oral reading rate to 74.29 CWPM, indicating an average of 26 words increase when compared to the prebaseline and baseline performance level. Despite the clear change in level, Aaron's performance trend line showed a slightly decreasing trend (slope, -0.349) throughout the intervention condition.

Table 1

Participants' Mean and Slope of CWPM for Initial Readings

                          First-grade passages

Participants  Mean/Slope    Repeated Reading

Sherry           Mean            77.67
                Slope            0.587

Gabriella        Mean            72.95
                Slope            0.776

Aaron            Mean            82.86
                Slope           -0.252

                              Second-grade passages


Participants  Prebaseline  Baseline  Combined (b)  Repeated Reading

Sherry          62.33       62.00       62.20           70.96
               -0.210 (a)   0.685      -0.073           0.475

Gabriella       52.00       48.40       50.50           65.53
                0.588       0.443       0.024           0.759

Aaron           42.83       51.00       48.28           74.29
                0.829       0.351       0.466          -0.349

Note. (a) A negative value for the slope represents a decreasing trend.
(b) Mean or slope calculated across both prebaseline and baseline

CWPM on First-Grade Passages

Figure 2 shows the participants' oral reading rates across the initial reading (open circle) and the subsequent rereading (solid circle) of the first-grade passages. The first reading of each passage was also shown in Figure 1. Sherry received repeated reading intervention on 24 first-grade passages. She scored an average of 77.67 CWPM on the initial timed readings, with a slightly increasing trend across passages. Not surprisingly, her reading rate increased on subsequent readings of the passages. She averaged 101.88, 104.88, and 106.46 CWPM for the subsequent second, third, and fourth readings, respectively. For 19 of the 24 passages, Sherry engaged in the fifth reading when three improvements were not achieved and scored an average of 109.7 CWPM. Gabriella practiced repeated readings on 19 passages and received a mean score of 72.95 CWPM on her first readings with a moderate increase across the intervention sessions. Gabriella improved her oral reading rates to 85.68, 90.05, and 94.16 CWPM for second, third, and fourth readings, respectively. Gabriella participated in the fifth reading during 12 intervention sessions and achieved a mean score of 100.58 CWPM. Aaron received repeated reading intervention on seven passages; of those, five required a fifth reading. He scored a mean of 82.86 CWPM for the first readings, 109.43 for the second, 109.57 the third, 111.43 the fourth, and 114.20 for the fifth readings. Aaron's data on initial readings were variable with no clear trend. All three participants had the greatest improvement between the first and second reading with an increased score of 24.21 CWPM for Sherry, 12.74 for Gabriella, and 26.57 for Aaron.


Consumer Satisfaction

Both Sherry and Aaron responded positively (i.e., "yes") to each of the five statements on the consumer satisfaction questionnaire. Gabriella responded "sometimes" to three statements regarding the passages and her own progress ("I had fun reading the stories," "I like the stories," and "I think I read faster and better.") and responded "yes" to the remaining two statements ("I enjoyed the reading program" and "I like using flashcards to learn words."). All three participants identified "reading fast" and "graphing" as their favorite parts of the program. Gabriella indicated that some of the stories were too hard for her to read.


This study examined the effects of a repeated reading intervention package on 3second-grade students' oral reading fluency on grade level transfer passages. Results showed that the repeated reading program combining several research-based components (i.e., repeated readings of independent level passages four to five times with preview of difficult passage words in isolation, unison reading, error correction, and performance cueing and feedback) improved fluency on second-grade transfer passages for the three participants lending support to the existing literature on repeated reading (e.g., Therrien, 2004). Specifically, when receiving the repeated reading program, Sherry and Gabriella changed their performance trends to a desired direction with Aaron improving his performance level but showing a downward trend. The improvement brought all participants closer to the grade level benchmark criterion, a pattern that would not be predicted given their prebaseline and baseline performance patterns across 2.5 to 4 months. Although it is not possible to determine the extent to which any particular component or combination of components contributed to the positive outcomes, this study extends existing research on repeated reading to include a package of components not previously combined.

Demonstrating oral reading fluency gains on transfer passages is critical for the importance of reading fluency research and practice. All of the rationales for building fluency are based on the assumption that fluency gains are generalized to new reading passages (e.g., Therrien, 2004). In schools, many reading-based tasks are performed under time constraints (e.g., doing homework, taking tests, responding to written requests). As a result, it is essential for students to read fluently the first time they encounter a passage to be efficient in their task completion. In addition, students can benefit from the efficiency of reading transfer passages fluently so that they can focus more of their attention on interpreting the meaning of connected text. Although evidence is correlational, fluent reading and comprehension have been closely linked (NICHHD, 2000, p. 3-29), suggesting that students need to develop sufficient fluency in order to focus attention on reading comprehension (Fuchs et al., 2001; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974).

We selected the first-grade passages for intervention, anticipating greater rate increases than would be obtained with second-grade passages because the lower level passages would include fewer difficult words interfering with the participants' reading rate. An analysis of the participants' accuracy on the first- and second-grade passages revealed that the first-grade passages were at an independent level (i.e., 97.5% for Sherry, 97.1% for Gabriella, and 95.9% for Aaron) and the second-grade passages were at an instructional level (i.e., 94.5% for Sherry, 94.9% for Gabriella, and 90.0% for Aaron). Fluency data on initial readings (Figure 1 and Table 1) reveal that growth (slope) on the two levels of passage was generally equivalent, with overlap in the two data paths for Sherry and Gabriella and much variability for Aaron. Not surprisingly, all three participants' initial oral reading rates on the first-grade passages were slightly higher (about 6-8 CWPM) than those on the second-grade passages, most probably due to the easier level of connected text and the previewing of difficult words for the first-grade passages. Previewing and practicing difficult passage words in isolation prior to the initial timed reading allowed participants to be familiar with words that might be challenging to them, therefore reducing time it might take for the participants to decode these words while reading. The fluency improvement observed in both first- and second-grade transfer passages supported the potential benefit of using easy text (e.g., Bos & Vaughn, 2002) in combination of isolated word previewing (e.g., Begeny & Silber, 2006) to build fluency in repeated reading.

There were several notable differences from previous repeated reading studies. First, most previous studies have reported data on the nontransfer passages which do not represent an adequate measure of students' reading of unpracticed text. In contrast, the current study measured oral reading rates on first- and second-grade transfer passages. Second, in contrast to previous research by Yurick et al. (2006) and Staubitz et al. (2005), the error correction employed in the current study involved practicing error words at the end of each 1-min timing rather than immediately at the end of a sentence or at the time a student made an error. This procedure was appropriate for the current study because each reading was timed, making delayed correction more feasible. Third, we practiced difficult words from the passage in advance of reading as a decoding enhancement. This practice appears to have relatively limited research support within the context of repeated reading (Begeny & Martens, 2006; Begeny & Silber 2006). In the current study, the focus was on an efficient procedure to reduce reading errors and included only word recognition, not word meaning. This truncated version of previewing may have some advantages when vocabulary is not a major concern but the passages contain words that may be difficult to read (e.g., multisyllabic words, irregular words).

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Despite positive outcomes, there are several limitations in the study. First, this study was conducted during the last 2 months of the school year, limiting the number of sessions available for intervention, particularly for Aaron, who entered the intervention the last. Aaron's trend line in intervention was based on only seven data points; and although there was an increase in level, there exists a decreasing trend over this short period. Additional data would help establish a clearer picture of the effects of the intervention. Furthermore, even though the intervention appeared to reduce the risk status by boosting the trend line for Sherry and Gabriella, with the exception of the last data point for Sherry, none of the participants achieved the DIBELS second-grade Spring Benchmark goal of at least 90 CWPM. Trend lines for Sherry and Gabriella suggest that additional intervention would have resulted in achieving this benchmark. Future studies should be conducted with more time available to achieve fluency growth to a point at which students are no longer at risk for reading failure predicated on low reading rates.

Second, due to scheduling difficulties, we had limited number of sessions in which our second observer was available to collect procedural fidelity and interobserver agreement data. Additionally, there were no interobserver agreement data on the procedural fidelity measure. Both of these factors limit our confidence in concluding the effects of the intervention. When it is difficult to arrange for in vivo observation, future studies might make use of audio recordings.

A third limitation, common to other repeated reading studies, is related to the fact that we were not able to isolate the effect of any one of the components in our intervention package. Without a component analysis, we cannot make conclusive statements about the efficacy of any particular component. In fact, any given component or combination of components may or may not have been responsible for the intervention effects. Therrien (2004) recommended components that were common across studies with larger effect sizes. While this helps to guide repeated reading practice, it does not establish those components as critical. Component analyses need to be conducted in order to identify the effectiveness of particular practices. With support from component analyses, using combinations of these components may then lead us forward in identifying repeated reading interventions that are robust and efficient for particular groups of students or for particular concerns (e.g., comprehension, prosody, or rate).


With research on repeated reading spanning decades and numerous studies demonstrating successful outcomes (e.g., Daly & Martens, 1994; Levy et al., 1997; O'Shea, Sindelar, & O'Shea, 1987; Strong, Wehby, Falk, & Lane, 2004), this practice holds great promise as a strategy for improving reading fluency. However, as suggested by Chard and colleagues (2009), the current research literature on repeated reading is not sufficient for it to be designated as an evidence-based practice. In order to establish the efficacy of repeated readings, more empirical research addressing transfer passages such as ours is needed. Further, finding the combination of components most robust for particular students remains a challenge. Although practitioners will find repeated reading strategies described in reviews of research (e.g., NICHHD, 2000; Therrein, 2004), in textbooks (e.g., Bursuck & Damer, 2007), and in commercial programs (e.g., Read Naturally; Hasbrouck, Ihnot, & Rogers, 1999), the components of these strategies will vary. As with any intervention, to gauge individual response to the strategy, teachers should use progress monitoring and adjust the strategy accordingly. Given the importance of fluency, we recommend that progress monitoring be conducted with transfer passages and that researchers include such measures in future studies.


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Ya-yu Lo

Nancy L. Cooke

A. Leyf Peirce Starling

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Correspondence to Ya-yu Lo, Department of Special Education and Child Development, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223;
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Author:Lo, Ya-yu; Cooke, Nancy L.; Starling, A. Leyf Peirce
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Date:Feb 1, 2011
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