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Read Naturally Strategy Programs

Placing Students

  1. Can a student's Lexile® reader measure be used to place a student in Read Naturally fluency programs?
  2. How do I place beginning readers?
  3. Do the Read Naturally reading levels correspond to grade levels?
  4. Can a student's Lexile reader measure be used to place a student in Read Naturally?
  5. Can I use a student’s score from RFBA, Benchmark Assessor Live, or DIBELS to place students in Read Naturally?
  6. How do I determine initial goals?
  7. How do I accurately place students in the Read Naturally program?
  8. What is the role of accuracy in placing students in Read Naturally Strategy programs?
  9. How do I know if I should use the Phonics series or the Sequenced series with a student?
  10. Which percentile in the oral reading fluency norms should I set as a long-term fluency goal for my students?
  11. I have a fourth-grade student who is a beginning reader. I think she needs extra phonics help but only with some of the sounds. Should I start her in phonics level .8?

1. Can a student's Lexile® reader measure be used to place a student in Read Naturally fluency programs?

No, a student should not be placed in a Read Naturally level using the student's Lexile reader measure because the Lexile reader measure and Read Naturally placement results convey information about different skills.

  • A student's Lexile reader measure reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is likely to comprehend at 75% accuracy.
  • A student's Read Naturally placement reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is unlikely to read fluently.

Placement in an appropriate Read Naturally level is based on the student's fluency performance on passages in the placement program. The placement passages closely align to the passages in each level.  Using Lexile reader measures, other text difficulty measures, or grade-level oral fluency scores will result in incorrect placement of a student and may be detrimental to the student's progress.

2. How do I place beginning readers?

For beginning readers, there is an exception to the placement process. On the placement test, students who fall below the placement table range on the lowest level, 1.0, will still be able to work successfully in Read Naturally if they know beginning sounds and can recognize about 50 written words.

Note: To work in Read Naturally, beginning readers do not need to know the words from any particular word list. When a student knows beginning sounds and approximately 50 words, the student usually has the skill to recognize whether the word he or she is viewing in the story text matches the word being spoken by the narrator.

At placement level 1.0, you have a choice of series (Sequenced level 1.0, Phonics level 0.8, or ME Spanish series level 1.0). After choosing a series, set the goal as usual by adding 30 to the student's score on the placement test.

Students who are not yet ready to work independently in these series but who know 15 to 20 words may start in Read Naturally's GATE (Group and Tutoring Edition) for Phonics level 0.8. GATE offers direct phonics instruction for students in small groups, in addition to fluency support. 

Learn more about Read Naturally GATE

Placement Example for a Beginning Reader
Jessie is in second grade, and English is her native language. On her placement test in level 1.0, she read 26 words correctly per minute. She knows beginning sounds but can recognize only 60 written words. Can she work in Read Naturally? If yes, what level might be appropriate?

Jessie can work in Read Naturally even though her score fell below the placement table range of 30–60 wcpm for level 1.0, because she knows beginning sounds and more than 50 written words.

As a beginning reader, Jessie can work in either Phonics level 0.8 or Sequenced level 1.0. If she needs practice in decoding words with short vowels, place her in Phonics level 0.8 to provide some phonics instruction along with the fluency practice. If Jessie is receiving good phonics instruction and does not need more phonics practice, put her in Sequenced level 1.0 to work on fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary alone.

Set her goal by adding 30 to her score for the level 1.0 placement story and rounding to the nearest five (26 + 30 = 56 wcpm, and round down to get 55 wcpm).

3. Do the Read Naturally reading levels correspond to grade levels?

Our levels do correspond to the grade levels they are named for in that the readability score for each story in each level falls within about 0.3 of the grade level named.

However, that does not mean that stories in our 2.0 grade level, for example, are appropriate for all early second graders. Rather, the 2.0 level is appropriate for students of any age whose instructional reading level is early second grade.

It is important to use the placement procedure to place students in the Read Naturally program.  Proper placement is essential to provide the students with the right balance of challenge and success. And keep in mind that because of the audio support, students often work a half year above their instructional reading level.

We used the following readability formulas to level our stories:

  • Fry and Spache readability formulas for levels .8 through 2.7.
  • Harris-Jacobson readability formulas for levels 3.0 through 5.0.
  • Dale Chall readability formulas for levels 5.6 and above.

To give you a frame of reference for how these formulas apply to other writing, we checked the readability of a few well-known works:

  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss falls at 1.4 according to the Spache readability formula and low first grade according to the Fry readability formula.
  • An excerpt from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowlings falls at 5.0 on the Harris-Jacobson readability formula.
  • The Miranda rights fall at 5.5 according to the Harris-Jacobson and Dale-Chall readability formulas.
  • The Gettysburg Address falls at 6.8 according to the Dale-Chall readability formula.
  • The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence falls at 8.8 according to the Dale-Chall readability formula.

4. Can a student's Lexile reader measure be used to place a student in Read Naturally?

No, a student cannot be placed in a Read Naturally level using the student’s Lexile reader measure because the Lexile reader measure and Read Naturally placement results convey information about different skills.

  • A student’s Lexile reader measure reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is likely to comprehend at 75% accuracy.
  • A student’s Read Naturally placement reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is unlikely to read fluently.

Placement in an appropriate Read Naturally level is based on the student’s fluency performance on passages in the placement program. The placement passages closely align to the passages in each level. Using Lexile reader measures, other text difficulty measures, or grade-level oral reading fluency scores will result in incorrect placement of a student and may be detrimental to the student’s progress.

For More Information: Placing Students in Read Naturally Strategy Programs

5. Can I use a student’s score from RFBA, Benchmark Assessor Live, or DIBELS to place students in Read Naturally?

Benchmark assessments like Reading Fluency Benchmark Assessor (RFBA), Benchmark Assessor Live (a component of Read Live), and DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) are used to see who needs a fluency building program like Read Naturally and to monitor student progress in fluency. With benchmark assessments, students are assessed with grade-level passages, which will not necessarily give teachers the information they need to initially place students in Read Naturally.

Students are typically placed in Read Naturally a half grade above their instructional level because of the audio support they receive during the read along step. It is best to place students in Read Naturally by using the Read Naturally ME placement packet, the Read Naturally SE placement program, or the Read Naturally Live placement program.

6. How do I determine initial goals?

A student's goal should be sufficiently high to require the student to read the story several times after reading along with the audio recording. Generally, when setting goals for students below fifth grade, set the goal 30 words above their initial reading rate (words correct per minute) on the placement passage. For students in grade 5 and above, set the goal by adding 40 words to their initial reading rate on the placement passage.

The placement program in Read Naturally SE or Read Naturally Live recommends an appropriate goal for each student. You may decide to set a different goal than the one suggested by the program based on your knowledge of the individual student.

More about initial placement

7. How do I accurately place students in the Read Naturally program?

When you place students, you establish an instructional level, reading rate goal, and curriculum that are appropriate for each student. It is essential that students using Read Naturally work with a level of material and goal that both challenges them and allows them to succeed. 

For general information about initial placement, see Placing Students in Read Naturally Strategy Programs. For specific information about placing students with the Placement Packet or with one of the SE placement programs, refer to one of the following topics:

8. What is the role of accuracy in placing students in Read Naturally Strategy programs?

In most cases, we do not isolate and then use the accuracy scores to place students in Read Naturally. Accuracy is accounted for in the words-correct-per-minute score obtained in the placement process, because errors are subtracted to calculate the score. 

One way Read Naturally accelerates students’ reading is by teaching unfamiliar words. The students learn the unfamiliar words from a model during the read-along step, and then they master them during the repeated reading step. So students can be (and should be) placed in levels in which they make some errors. 

However, if a student’s scores indicate the student could be placed in two or more levels, the teacher should take the student’s accuracy into consideration in selecting the best level for the student.

9. How do I know if I should use the Phonics series or the Sequenced series with a student?

Read Naturally recommends the Phonics series if...

  • the student needs instruction or reinforcement in phonics and
  • a Read Naturally level appropriate for the student's fluency instruction (as determined by the Read Naturally placement test features the phonics elements the students needs.

Use the following table to determine whether one of the phonics levels would be a good fit for your students based on their instructional level and phonics needs.

    The student's phonics needs
    Short Vowels Long Vowels Blends & Digraphs R-Controlled & Other Combos
The student's
instructional
level
Early to Middle Grade 1 Phonics Level .8 Phonics Level 1.3    
Middle to Late Grade 1   Phonics Level 1.8
Early to Middle Grade 2 Phonics Level 2.6 Phonics Level 2.7 Phonics Level 2.3
Middle Grade 2 to Middle Grade 3  

 

Read Naturally recommends the Sequenced series if...

  • the student does not need phonics instruction or
  • the student is receiving phonics instruction or reinforcement in another setting and does not need additional phonics reinforcement or
  • a Read Naturally level that is appropriate for the student's fluency does not feature the phonics elements the student needs.

If the student's fluency needs and phonics needs do not match, you might consider providing the student with lists of words that address particular decoding deficiencies and instruct the student to practice the lists to a level of automaticity. Read Naturally offers a supplemental phonics curriculum called Word Warm-ups to meet this need. This curriculum is designed to develop mastery and automaticity in the decoding of words with common phonics and syllable patterns. A student with phonics needs can benefit by spending a few minutes each day on Word Warm-ups. 

Learn more about Word Warm-ups

10. Which percentile in the oral reading fluency norms should I set as a long-term fluency goal for my students?

It is recommended that students receive fluency practice and support if they read at a rate 10 or more words below the 50th percentile. Some schools or districts set the goal for a specific percentile or number of words per minute, and students must meet this to be considered "at benchmark." Typically, schools or districts set the goal at the 50th percentile.

There is a study from the University of Oregon entitled Using Oral Reading Rate to Predict Students’ Performance on Statewide Achievement Tests. The most important finding of this study is the fact that 100 percent of the second-grade students who read at least 72 words correct per minute (wcpm) passed the statewide reading test taken the following year. Also, in the third grade, 94 percent of the students reading less than 117 wpcm did not pass the statewide reading test taken during the same year. These clear and simple data communicate powerful information to practitioners.

11. I have a fourth-grade student who is a beginning reader. I think she needs extra phonics help but only with some of the sounds. Should I start her in phonics level .8?

If she is a beginning reader she probably does need to start with phonics level .8.  But because she is older and may not need work on all of the sounds, she probably won't need to go through all of the stories in that level.  So you can tailor the program to fit her needs.  Build a packet of stories from level .8 that only includes the stories that focus on the sounds with which she needs more work.  You can do the same thing with levels 1.3 and 1.8 if her situation continues to require this kind of customization.

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