Repeated reading is one of the critical suggested strategies for developing fluency. Two schools of thought exist on how much rereading is enough. Some research suggests focusing on a number of rereadings while others are more concerned with meeting a criteria level, usually determined by age appropriate or reading level appropriate norms. Scott P. Ardoin, Jessica C. Williams, Cynthia Klubnik and Michael McCall examined what number of rereadings might be optimal in their article, Three Versus Six Rereadings of Practice Passages, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2009, 42(2).
They used four male elementary aged subjects. Basal reading passages were selected and then generalization passages were written which contained a high percentage of passage vocabulary overlap (between 78 and 95%). Passages were assigned based on the individual's reading level. Students were rewarded for successful exceeding their baseline fluency rate. Alternating passages were read three times and others six. In general, with each rereading student fluency rate increased. Doubling the number of rereadings did not increase the fluency rate for the generalization passage when read at the end of the session. (In three of the four cases there was no significant difference reading rate on the generalization passage read immediately after the rereadings.) A week later the generalization passage was reread. There was a higher fluency rate for those passages that students read the matched basal passage six times than for those that were reread only three. Consequently, some long term benefits may exist for an increased number of rereadings.
Carefully examining the data reveals interesting details. In 29.5% of the trials, the subjects' second reading was at a slower rate than the first. In 9% of the six rereadings the subjects' final rate was lower than the initial rate. In 18% of the three rereadings this was the case. Other studies that I have read expressed diminishing returns after four rereadings. Perhaps these erratic results are the reason that criteria based programs are so common.
This begs the question of what impact reading sessions that are a week apart that involve rereadings has on reading skill. Is it better to perform all rereadings immediately in one session or should they be spaced? I have worked with many programs that only have one reading attempt per session and sessions could be a week apart. Would my students be better served by repeating the reading right away? Is this different for different students?
One of the interesting citations the authors present is that "it is not clear ... that providing intervention on the first half of a story would have substantial, immediate, and beneficial effects for the student when reading the latter half of the same story" (p. 375). One of the strategies used in many of the New York State Common Core ELA Modules is to begin reading a passage to the students as an introduction and have them complete the reading independently. If this sort of preview is unconfirmed as a practice to help with the reading, we then need to develop alternate approaches. I would think one reason this is unsuccessful is because students often do not comply with the direction- read along silently as I read. Without the real experience of "reading" the word, this is merely a listening comprehension exercise, not a reading scaffold. True listening comprehension is a critical skill, especially for students with below grade level reading skills, but it may be a misdirected scaffolding strategy.