Chris Drage discovers a way for teachers to step back from learners and give them a cool reading space
Fluency Tutor Version 2Readers get their own space with 'Fluency Tutor v 2'When I was a primary school teacher I was always aware of the intrusion children must have felt when I was ‘hearing’ them read. Inevitably I would interrupt a learner while correcting, explaining or encouraging them to practice oral reading.

Fluency Tutor V2, an online service from Texthelp Systems, aims to allow teachers to monitor progress without intruding on learners' private reading time while helping them practise oral reading, independently and at their own pace.

A service designed to address the issues of struggling readers and to develop and improve reading ability and fluency levels, Fluency Tutor allows children to record and listen to themselves reading passages of text aloud and then submit them for scoring.

The teacher can use the software to score users' recorded reading passages, identifying the type of fluency errors made and the frequency of errors. They can record the number of words correct per minute and score the reading expression levels. And the program collates individual’s scores and can generate reports measuring the improvement in fluency and comprehension levels over time.

Once children's accounts have been set up by the teacher or administrator, they progresses through four main areas in the Pupil section of the software:

  • Practice my Reading:  this offers a practice area where learners practise their reading by listening to exercises being read aloud and then recording themselves reading. It offers reinforcement of learning and is followed by comprehension quiz questions to test whether pupils have understood what they are reading.
  • Measure my Reading: here children record themselves reading exercises that have been assigned by the teacher and complete the quiz, testing their comprehension levels. Both are submitted to the teacher for marking. Through this process, pupils take ownership of their reading improvement.
  • How did I do?: children can view their teacher-marked assessments. Errors are recorded in red and the teacher provides a prosody (expression) score, quiz score, WCPM (words correct per minute) score and any other relevant notes. Children can listen again to their recording and access the coaching window that provides details of any errors made.
  • See my Progress: children, can view a graphical representation of their reading progress over time. The graphs display their reading speed, prosody and quiz scores. The pupil’s target reading speed will also be displayed for measurability.

The software can be used in school or at home to practise and record reading exercises

The software can be used in school or at home to practise and record reading exercises, and learners can alter the way that information is presented to them through a customisable interface, allowing them to choose from different fonts and colours. I like the pop-up preview screen which highlights boxes for the learners' attention – such as dictionary and translator messages and coaching windows – without distracting the reader with other items on the screen. This could be beneficial for those readers with tracking issues.

screen Fluency Tutor 2Click on image above for 'Fluency Tutor 2' demo

The Teachers Section offers three means of measuring and assessing the reading skills and comprehension levels of the class:

  • Assign appropriate Reading tests: Teachers assign reading practises or assessments to an individual pupil or group of pupils. They also set a target WCPM (words correct per minute) score. Text difficulty is measured by MetaMetrics Lexile levels and teachers ensure that the exercises match the pupil’s reading ability.
  • Mark completed assessments:  Teachers mark pupils’ assessments. A ‘details panel’ displays the error types and frequency as well as the WCPM score. Teachers also rate the prosody of the pupil’s recording and include any comments.
  • View a pupil’s progress:  Teachers access a number of reports/graphs within Fluency Tutor to view a pupils’ progress over time. This analysis allows them to target individualised instruction, identify the level of text difficulty for a pupil and view or print a list of problem words the pupil has encountered.

What I like about Fluency Tutor V2 is that it is based on sound pedagogical principles: focusing on the Reading Fluency Cycle of Practice, Assessment and Instruction, which are proven methods of learning. I believe that Texthelp Systems’ Fluency Tutor V2 can really assist early and struggling readers to gain confidence in their ability to read with ease, helping to ensure that reading becomes a more enjoyable and progressive experience. It is a great way to support oral reading fluency and will undoubtedly help to develop a learner’s confidence because children can listen to stories being read aloud before they record their own reading and submit the results for teacher assessment.

I particularly like that way Fluency Tutor V2 provides learners with immediate feedback through a series of easy to understand and colourful graphical displays – it all goes towards boosting confidence and self-esteem.  I know from my years of experience that a child who gains confidence in reading fluency often increases in oral fluency and also shows improvement in written composition. With key stage 2 test results revealing that one in five pupils are still not reaching the expected level in English, software tools like Fluency Tutor V2 will certainly help address the situation.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   4
Ease of use                5
Features                    5
Quality                       4
Value for money        4

Fluency Tutor V2

Online service where children can practise and record their reading and where teachers can evaluate the work. £500 for one-year subscription.
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Tel:   0800 328 7910
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