Maximizing Progress


Accelerating learning in Read Naturally


In most cases, our ability to succeed at a task depends on how well we understand the expectations. When a student knows exactly what’s expected of him, he can focus his energy on doing his best work. In many schools, teachers are required to tell students what the students will be able to accomplish after each lesson. If someone walks into the classroom and asks to know the learning goal, each student should be able to identify it. This little requirement can make a big difference to learning.

When teachers apply this principle to their Read Naturally programs, they see great results. For example, in Read Naturally Live, a blue ribbon appears on the Congratulations screen when a student answers all of the comprehension questions correctly on the first try. Teachers report that, when they talk to students specifically about how to get the blue ribbon, students put much more effort into answering their questions correctly on the first attempt. The students have a goal—the ribbon—and they know exactly how to achieve it.

Think about your Read Naturally program. Every step of the strategy has a goal. Do your students know each goal? We can’t take for granted that student expectations are always clear. We may intuit how to get the blue ribbon, but our students may not. It pays off to clearly and explicitly communicate expectations for every step.


Inform students they will work in Read Naturally to become readers who read as easily and expressively as they speak, with few errors, and with understanding.

1. Select a Story

Tell students they will pick a story from the level.
Explain that, while working in Read Naturally, they will learn to read interesting nonfiction stories well by working through a series of steps. 

2. Key Words

Tell students they will listen to each key word to learn its pronunciation and meaning.
Explain that knowing the meaning of important words in the story will help them to understand the story.

3. Prediction

Tell students they will write a prediction because thinking about the story before reading it will help them understand it.

4. Wordtastic (Read Naturally Live only)

Tell students Wordtastic is a vocabulary game that requires them to select the best synonym or antonym for a word.
Explain that this fun game will help them learn the meanings of words.

5. Cold Timing

Tell students they will each read their chosen story the first time to you for one minute and then see a graph showing the number of words they read correctly.
Explain that students will be able to use their cold-timing scores to see how quickly their reading improves.

6. Read Along

Tell students that they will read the story quietly along with the audio three times.
Explain to students that reading along will help them to read the story accurately and with expression, and to answer the questions correctly.
Tell students that this step also provides an opportunity to learn the meanings of additional vocabulary words in the story. 

7. Practice

Tell students they will practice reading their chosen stories three to ten times.
Explain that reading the story many times will help them reach their individual reading rate goals with accuracy, expression, and understanding. Caution students that having a reading rate goal does not mean reading fast; it means reading as easily as they speak.

8. Quiz

Tell students they will answer questions about the story and must answer all the questions correctly to pass.
Explain that reading well means understanding what you read.

9. Retell

Tell students they will retell the story.
Explain that using their own words to retell the story deepens their understanding.

10. Word List

Tell students they will read the lists of word with the featured phonics patterns until they are able to read the words down the columns and across the rows with three or fewer errors in a set timeframe (60 or 75 seconds).
Explain that practicing the word lists helps the student build automaticity in reading words with the featured phonics pattern.

11. Pass/More Practice (Read Naturally Live only)

Tell students they will alternate between practicing the story and playing Wordtastic while waiting for a teacher.
Explain that they need to continue practicing the story so they are ready to pass the first time.

12. Pass

Tell students they will read the story for a teacher for one minute*. They will pass the story if they:

  • Meet or exceed their individual reading rate goal.
  • Make three or fewer errors.
  • Read with an expression score of two or more.
  • Answer all their comprehension questions correctly.
  • Meet their teacher’s expectation for retelling the story (non-Phonics series), or read the word list in the designated time, making three or fewer errors (Phonics series). 

*The student will read the whole story or for two minutes if the story option for whole-story timing or two-minute timing is being used. 

To print the Guidelines for setting student expectations:

pointer Setting Student Expectations in Read Naturally Live
pointer​ Setting Student Expectations in Read Naturally Encore


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