What is the relation between oral and silent reading fluency and reading comprehension in beginning readers? An eye movement study.

What is the relation between oral and silent reading fluency and reading comprehension in beginning readers? An eye movement study.

First Author: Christian Vorstius -- Univeristy of Wuppertal
Additional authors/chairs: 
Young-Suk Kim; Ralph Radach
Keywords: Eye movements, Fluency, Comprehension, Reading development, Longitudinal
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: The relationship between reading fluency and comprehension has been the subject of extensive research. However, most work on fluency has focused on oral reading, and our understanding of silent reading fluency is still limited. To date there is no evidence that silent reading fluency will develop naturally or smoothly from oral reading fluency. In the current study we investigate the development of both oral and silent fluency over time and their relations with comprehension.

Method: Data represent results from two assessment periods (T1 and T2) in year one of a large-scale longitudinal study (3 years, N= 400). First graders read sets of single line sentences for comprehension (silently vs. aloud). Items from a standardized reading test (TOSREC) served as reading materials and eye movements were recorded using an EyeLink 1000 system in both conditions.

Results: Results indicate a large increase in reading speed from first to second assessment period. Students with lower fluency scores at T1 showed a greater gain and the difference between silent and oral reading was more pronounced for students with better silent fluency scores. A more detailed analysis of word viewing times at T1 indicated that for students with lower fluency, oral reading led to an inflation of time spent with re-reading previously fixated words. This difference was later reduced but the oral reading disadvantage remained substantial at T2.

Conclusion: The present study addresses important and understudied questions regarding the complex relationship between fluency and comprehension in oral and silent reading. Differential effects of oral vs. silent reading are already apparent for the first two assessment periods of year 1 and provide a new and informative approach to the study of fluency. At this point results appear to suggest that oral reading requires more mental effort to achieve comprehension. Implications for classroom teaching and testing will be discussed.