We’re always happy when teachers approach us with questions about the Cold Timing step. Teachers are highly concerned with their students’ cold-timing scores, and for good reason. A student’s cold-timing score shows how many words s/he can read correctly in a minute when reading a new, unpracticed story aloud. This score is the baseline for monitoring progress on the current story. When compared to the student’s other cold-timing scores, this score also provides important information about a student’s growth throughout a level.

Because cold-timing scores are so important, many teachers wish to be present for the Cold Timing step. To ensure accuracy, some teachers also wish to mark/enter the student’s errors during the Cold Timing step, as they do during the Hot Timing step. These teachers often ask us if these are the best practices. In short, we say “it depends” to the question of teacher presence, and we say “no” to the question of teachers marking cold-timing errors instead of students. Here are the more detailed answers:

Question 1: Should the teacher be present for cold timings?

The teacher must do the first three cold timings with the student. Teachers should use these three opportunities to model how to do a cold timing and to guide the student in marking unknown words. The first three cold timings show the teacher what an accurate cold-timing score looks like for the student and provide accurate data for checking initial placement.

Beyond this, if the student-to-teacher ratio allows for a teacher or another adult to be present during the cold timing, this tends to work well as an opportunity for the teacher to continue to coach the student to become a self-correcting reader. Here is a synopsis of how teacher-present cold timings can be used to coach students:

  • The teacher uses the cold timing as instruction, not assessment, pointing out words the student missed but did not mark as errors.
  • Being reminded to mark unknown words raises the student's awareness. Being aware of difficult words as they are encountered is the first step in learning to self-correct.
  • When students using Read Naturally Encore underline a word, the teacher can supply immediate feedback through neurological impress: hearing the correct version of the word at the point of error. (For students using Read Live, the software supplies the correct version of the word.)
  • When the teacher alerts the student to additional errors during the cold timing, the interruptions by the teacher may result in a lower cold-timing score. However, the student quickly realizes s/he can speed up the cold timing by marking unknown words before being told to do so by the teacher. Reliance on teacher judgment begins to diminish.

When a student consistently marks unknown words without being told to do so, teachers should consider releasing that student to complete the cold timing independently. Independent cold timings have several benefits:

  1. Independent cold timings make high student-to-teacher ratios more manageable, freeing up teachers to monitor student performance and support the students who most need assistance.
  2. The Read Along step supports independent cold timings by providing the opportunity for the student to learn words not recognized as errors during the cold timing.
  3. The student’s cold-timing scores are higher when the student is able to click on or underline unknown words independently—teacher interruptions slow down the process.
  4. Independent cold timings are an important opportunity for the student to practice being a self-correcting reader.

If students complete cold timings independently, the teacher should periodically conduct the cold timing to determine if the student's scores are accurate enough for evaluating the need for adjustments to goals or levels. If a student inflates cold-timing scores, set a rule for the next few stories that the student must exceed the cold-timing score by 30 (in grades 4 and below) or 40 words (in grades 5 and above) to pass, regardless of the goal. Usually students will become more accurate on student-independent cold timings after completing several stories under that rule.

Question 2: Should the teacher mark/enter the student’s cold-timing errors instead of the student?

Our answer to this question is no. Whether the student does the cold timing independently or the teacher is present during the cold timing, the student becomes much more alert to reading errors when held responsible for marking those errors him/herself. As we mentioned above, the teacher should be present for at least three cold timings to properly coach the student to do this.

Often a struggling reader is not aware of reading mistakes, even though teachers/parents may have been pointing out errors for years. When the student takes control and has to click on or underline each unknown word, awareness of difficult words/errors greatly increases.

Taking responsibility for marking unknown words has huge positive implications for accelerating reading achievement. This is an important step in the process of transferring the responsibility for learning to the student. Having the student mark an unknown word trains the student to be aware of errors as the reading is taking place instead of reviewing errors noted by a teacher after the reading is finished. Self-correction is the skill of a good reader, and the first step in learning to self-correct is to be aware of errors as they are happening. 

Do you have additional questions about the cold-timing step, or do you wish to troubleshoot a cold-timing problem? Contact us, and we’ll be happy to help. The Q&A section of our Knowledgebase is also a great place to discover the answers to teachers’ most frequently asked questions.