Working with Students: General Topics


1. How much growth can be expected if Read Naturally Encore or Read Naturally Live is used with fidelity?

The student is the first source of information about the level of growth that can be attained. Use what you know about the student along with information about typical growth to determine a goal that the student can attain by the end of the school year.

In 1993, Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlet, Walz, and Germann conducted a study about growth fluency students can be expected to make. In the following table, which is based on the cited study, grade refers to grade level in school, not instructional level. Decide whether to use the student's grade level or instructional level to determine an appropriate goal.

Grade or Instructional Level

Realistic Goals

Ambitious Goals


2.0 words per week

3.0 words per week


1.5 words per week

2.0 words per week


1.0 words per week

1.5 words per week


0.85 words per week

1.1 words per week


0.5 words per week

0.8 words per week


0.3 words per week

0.65 words per week



To calculate a goal, select the instructional or grade level option and then select a Realistic or Ambitious Goal option and find the words-per-week goal on the table above. Multiply the words-per-week goal from the chart by the number of instructional weeks and add the current words-correct-per-minute (wcpm) assessment data of the particular student. This formula will provide an attainable goal for the current instructional period if the Read Naturally program is used with fidelity:

(words-per-week goal x instructional weeks) + current wcpm score = attainable goal

For example, a 3rd grade student whose instructional level is 2.0 and who will receive instruction for 32 weeks could have any of the following long-term goals based on your knowledge of the student.

  • A realistic year-end goal based on a grade or instructional level of 2:
    • 1.5 x 32 weeks = 48 + 45 wcpm assessment data = 93 wcpm
    • Round year-end goal to nearest 5 = 95 wcpm
  • A realistic year-end goal based on a grade or instructional level of 3:
    • 1.0 x 32 weeks = 32 + 45 wcpm assessment data = 77 wcpm
    • Round year-end goal to nearest 5 = 80 wcpm
  • An ambitious year-end goal based on a grade or instructional level of 2:
    • 2.0 x 32 weeks = 64 + 45 wcpm assessment data = 109 wcpm
    • Round year-end goal to nearest 5 = 110 wcpm
  • An ambitious year-end goal based on a grade or instructional level of 3:
    • 1.5 x 32 weeks = 48 + 45 wcpm assessment data = 93 wcpm
    • Round year-end goal to nearest 5 = 95 wcpm

As seen from the above examples, the goal could be as low as 80 or as high as 110 based on what the teacher knows about this student.

Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Hamlett, C. L., Walz, C., & Germann, G. (1993). Formative Evaluation of Academic Progress: How much Growth Can We Expect? School Psychology Review, 22 (1): 27-48.

2. What are the most important student behaviors to accelerate reading improvement when using Read Naturally Live?

A student should use the program with fidelity. Specifically, the student should:

Look at and say each word during the Read Along step as the narrator reads the storyThe Read Along step is crucial for teaching correct pronunciation, phrasing, and expression. The student uses multiple physical activities when this step is completed correctly (seeing, hearing, speaking, pacing), increasing the likelihood of mastering the words and phrases in the story.

Read each word quietly aloud while practicing the story. As in the Read Along step, the student's physical activity during the Practice step increases the likelihood of mastering the words and phrases in the story.

Click on difficult words while practicing. When a student clicks on a word he or she does not know or is unsure of in Read Live, the correct pronunciation is provided. Hearing the correct version of the word at the point of error (neurological impress) is a powerful step in learning the word in context. 

Read the story as though the student were speaking normally. If the student reads too fast, the listener is unable to keep up with the meaning. Accuracy increases when the emphasis is on meaning rather than speed.

3. How can I teach my Read Naturally students how to write a better retell?

Direct the student to pay attention to the answer the student selects for comprehension question #1, because that information can be used as the first sentence when the student retells the story. The answer for question #1 is always the main idea of the story and provides the student with a good starting point for his or her retelling.

Once the student has done this, ask the student to think about information in the story that helps explain that sentence. In Read Naturally Live, the student can click Review Story and go back in the story to find supporting information if necessary. (You might want to print a copy of the story for the student, so the student can underline the supporting information.) In Read Naturally Encore, the student can go back in the story and find or underline supporting information if necessary. Then tell the student to use the information to retell the story. You can also direct the student to write a summarizing sentence at the end to increase the quality. Here is a sample using the story “Spitting Cobras” in level 2.5:

"Spitting cobras protect themselves in many ways. [Answer to question number 1.] They play dead to trick their enemies by rolling over. They spit poison up to eight feet away and this poison can blind their enemies. Spitting cobras don’t protect themselves by biting. They only bite what they want to eat. [Information obtained from the story.] The spitting cobra seems very smart because it can trick its enemies. [Summarizing sentence provided by the student.]"

See Also: Tips and Ideas for the Prediction and Retell Steps

4. Is it ever okay to drop the Read Along step?

The Read Along step is crucial for teaching correct pronunciation, phrasing, and expression. However, older students may be ready to drop the Read Along step when they can read grade-level material with very few errors at a fluency rate approaching grade-level expectations. If an older student regularly has cold-timing scores above 90 words correct per minute with few errors and few phrasing and expression problems, have the student go directly to the Practice step after the Cold Timing step. Rather than drop the Read Along step all at once, you could also gradually reduce the number of read alongs from three to two to one and finally to none.

In rare cases, a student may have an auditory "photographic memory," such that the student can actually memorize the entire story by listening. In such a case, you may need to reduce the number of read alongs or drop the step entirely for the student.

5. When should a student exit a Read Naturally strategy program?

Proper assessment and placement are the keys to a student’s initial success in Read Naturally. Careful assessment is also critical for deciding when a student is ready to exit Read Naturally. As a general rule, a student is ready to exit Read Naturally when his or her long-term fluency goal is met — reading unpracticed, grade-level material at a rate that is at least at the 50th percentile on national norms.

Many schools have established assessment plans that include doing benchmark fluency assessments three times per year using grade-level passages to measure student progress in terms of national norms. A benchmark assessment tool can be used to screen a student in the fall and to determine if a student has met his or her long-term fluency goal in the winter and spring of the school year. The Hasbrouck-Tindal Table of Oral Reading Fluency Norms provides norms for analyzing the results of oral reading fluency assessment scores.

A student begins using Read Naturally because he or she reads grade-level passages below the 50th percentile of national norms. Using the assessment scores, the national norms table, and any other relevant information, a teacher should create a long-term fluency goal for the student and a plan to meet that goal. That student should continue to work in Read Naturally until he or she can read grade-level material at or above the 50th percentile.

Progress in Read Naturally is monitored story-by-story at the student’s placement level; however, these scores alone should not be used to measure progress toward the ultimate long-term goal. The student listens to audio recordings of the stories and practices each story multiple times. So daily progress in Read Naturally will not reflect the level and rate at which a student reads unpracticed material. A student’s cold scores on stories are an indication of improvement on unpracticed material, but a student may be working in a level of Read Naturally that is lower than the student's grade level.

A student who works in Read Naturally will typically need to be working in material that is at least half a year to one year above his or her grade level before he or she is ready to leave the program. Just because a fourth-grade student is working in level 5.0 does not mean that student has reached his or her goal. By administering benchmark assessments at grade level again in the winter and in the spring, progress can be measured in terms of national norms.

6. How many levels should a student be able to complete in one year?

If the student does all the steps, a student should be able to complete a level in approximately eight weeks—by working four days per week, 30 minutes per day, from the end of September through May. We generally expect students to go through multiple levels in a year, even three or more levels if working in the program for more than 24 weeks.

pointer For more information: Placing Students in Read Naturally Strategy Programs

7. Do you have recommendations for grading a student’s work in Read Naturally programs?

Because grading approaches vary widely in format, each school or educator must determine how generation of a grade fits the purpose and method used by the chosen grading system. Here are some ideas you might consider when providing grades for student work in Read Naturally strategy programs:

  • When a grade reflects a student’s reading proficiency, then good indicators could include:
    • normed benchmark assessment data
    • diagnostic assessment data (such as from a phonics measure)
    • comprehension quiz scores
    • reading expression rubric scores
    • words correct per minute (WCPM) scores
  • When a grade reflects a student’s effort, educators may use:
    • the number of stories completed
    • the student’s time on task (currently an informal, formative evaluation)
    • attendance
  • When a grade reflects educational progress, then a teacher might consider:
    • increases in reading level and/or reading goal
    • exit from supplemental programs (such as Word Warm-ups Live)
    • improvement or mastery with types of Quiz questions
    • qualitative improvement of predictions and/or story summaries
    • increased independence reflected by decreased need for instructional supports as adjusted through Story Options (such as a decrease in the number of required read along experiences or an increase in practice duration from one-minute to two-minute timed readings or whole story reading).
  • Finally, educators may use a combination of the above to provide a grade reflective of proficiency, effort, and improvement.

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