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One-Minute Reading: Evaluating Reading Rates

When it comes to assessing a student’s reading abilities, tests are the most common form of evaluating their comprehension and understanding. While this is the mainstream method used in schools and placements tests, reading can be assessed in other ways. One example, being presented today, is called the One-Minute Reading. Below is an outline of the procedures to complete this evaluation method.

One-Minute Reading: Tests reading rate
Level: Any
Aim: To have students realize how much they have increased their reading rates after the extensive reading program/reading course
Preparation: Find an easy and interesting reading passage of about 600 words (two pages of a book). The beginning of a story is ideal. Make a copy of the passage for each student. Bring a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand to class. **Two reading passages are provided at the end of this post.
1. At the beginning of the semester, hand out the reading passage to each student and tell the students that they are to read it at a comfortable rate for one minute.
Tip: The reading passage should reflect the level of the class. For advanced students, a more difficult reading passage may be required to determine how much better they are improving in reading.
Tip: For younger students, you could turn this into a game where the student has to read without any mistakes as quickly as possible. I avoided the word “competition” because the students need to be assessed individually, so the goal should be to do better during the second reading than the first. Not to be the best in class.
2. Tell the students when to begin reading, and call time after exactly one minute. Students should draw a slash and write the date at the point they stopped reading. They should also write their names on their copy.
Tip: Students should read the passage out loud so the teacher can check where the student finishes reading. From my experiences, this does not give any type of advantage to students who read later and hear the other students.
3. Collect the copies and keep until the last day of the course/semester.
4. On the last day, return the students’ paper and repeat the one-minute reading.
Tip: If you are concerned that students might remember, even vaguely, the original one-minute reading when they do the second reading, give them another 600 words (two pages from the same book for the second reading.)

I find this form of assessment very useful for my students as they are able to actually see their progress in reading. Word counts help students see they have increased their reading rates. This has led to many students’ self-esteem improving and more confidence in using English in class.
At my school, students are tested for their language levels every three months and then are placed into new classes. I am able to assess my students three months at a time, and I see major improvements with their reading rates. The students I managed to keep for longer periods of time also improved.

Source: Bamford, J., & Day, R. R. (2004). Extensive reading activities for teaching language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Sample Reading Passage 1: 684 words

Once upon a time in a mountain far away lived a village of trolls. These trolls were not your normal trolls. These trolls were civilized and powerful warriors. This day was a special event. The Troll Academy was having their graduation and the Best Student was about to be awarded.
“As the best student at the Troll Academy, I am proud and honored to be chosen as the only protector of the luscious mountain from those who want to do harm! Throughout my years at the Academy, I have learned many skills and will do my best to make my teachers and family proud of my work!” Travis, the top student in his Academy, said after winning the award of protecting the cemetery of the fallen trolls. The President of the Academy stood up and gave a brief introduction about the job Travis would have. “Ever since my grandfather was alive, he always told me, ‘if the fields are green then the fallen are pleased with our town. If the mountain is upset, the fields will dry up and Mother Earth will release its anger.’ Now, our protectors in the past have always held their job successfully and we have no doubt that Travis is up to the task.”
Travis hoisted his award in the air and roars from the audience rumbled through the Academy and the town. Blasts of loud excitement could still be heard in waves as trolls from all over the land heard the cheers and responded. It was truly a special occasion for all of the trolls, and for Travis.

The luscious mountain was separated from the town to the North as the troll’s land was far and wide. The mountains used to be inhabited by the trolls, but after a bloody war, it was decided they would leave the land alone and inhabit the plains to the South beyond the river. Since the departure, the land surrounding the mountain became the healthiest field of pasture and vegetation, a tribute believed to come from the fallen warriors of the past.
The only way to get to the mountain was by crossing the single bridge across a deep and dangerous river which led to the ocean. The rapidly rushing water surrounding the mountain was feared even by the trolls. Rumors say if anyone would get stuck in the rapids, their body would be torn into pieces as it washed down stream. Travis, however, was not scared when he arrived at his job site. He examined his surroundings and made mental notes of the landscape and especially the rapid river. For days, he guarded the bridge and never let a single traveler pass. Little did he know, a wicked plan was being formed in a nearby forest by some villainous creatures.
Near the mountain was a deep forest of unknown creatures and stories. Inside the dark forest lived three brother goats. Consumers of everything, the Brother Goats Gruff moved with the forest animals from plains to grasslands and ate all the food. Wherever they went, they left the place a deserted wasteland. Recently, they attacked an old farm and ate the land dry. Then they moved to the next place that had green grass and lots of food.
Led by Brighty, the brains of the group, he and his brothers would terrorize anyone who stepped in their way, and their next destination was the luscious mountain which Travis guarded. While in the meeting with his brothers, Brighty was creating a plan. “Baby brother, tomorrow you will go check the mountain and report back here what you found. Be swift, we need the forest animals on our side still if we want to conquer more land. We are running out of places to eat from,” he said, looking at a small goat. The luscious mountain could be seen from afar, but Brighty wanted to make sure the area was safe. Seeing the bridge, Brighty was worried someone or something was nearby. “Older brother, let’s wait and see what we are up against before we advance. I heard there are trolls in this area.”

Sample Reading Passage 2: 625 words

Travis was enjoying a nice evening meal when he heard noises coming from the foot of the bridge. Quickly, he hurried to the bridge and saw a very small and weak looking goat. “May I help you little traveler?” Travis asked. The goat looked at him and in a blink of an eye the goat was in front of Travis. “My name is Blinky, and you’re standing in my way.” Confused by this little creature’s actions, Travis became defensive and ordered Blinky to leave. With a smirk, Blinky ran very quickly towards Travis, trying to attack him, but Travis was prepared. Blinky was hit by Travis’s club and flew into the air back to the foot of the bridge. Travis stood up straight holding his club over his shoulder and yelled, “You are not allowed to pass. If you disturb this place again I will not be kind to you. Leave NOW!” Travis felt victorious as he watched the injured goat leave.
Blinky, pride hurt and limping, returned to the forest. “Clearly we need a different strategy,” he said as he met with his two brothers. “Let me see this troll and I will think of something,” Brighty said.
The next day, Travis was patrolling the bridge when Brighty walked up. “Hello there, troll. My brother was here yesterday and I don’t really think you understand what is going on.” Travis looked at the goat. “No, I don’t think your brother understands. This mountain belongs to the trolls. I am Travis and I am here to protect it from everyone trying to cross this bridge. If you do not wish to leave, I will be forced to use brute strength against you, little goat.” Brighty stood still and examined the surroundings and the troll. “I admit I am not much bigger than my speedy little brother, but let me present to you a real challenge. I have an older brother who is waiting for a good fight. Let me talk to him and if he comes and beats you, then the mountain is ours. Deal?” Travis sneered at the goat. “This mountain will never belong to your kind. You can bring 300 of your family and you will never own this mountain. As the protector, it is my duty to stop your attacks. Be warned little goat, you do not want to anger the trolls. Bring whoever you want, you will not win.” As Brighty returned to the forest, he made a little smirk, and went to gather his brothers.

The following day, Travis stood on the bridge and patiently waited for the goats. Deep in the forest, animals big and small began appearing at the clearing until a small army of forest animals stood before the troll. Then, Blinky and Brighty showed up and demanded to take over the mountain again. Travis, a little hesitant and intimidated by the sheer number of attackers, held his ground and gave a thunderous roar that could be heard for miles, even as far as his home town. “I will never give this land to you! These forest animals have no chance at defeating a great warrior like myself…” but just as Travis was finishing his sentence, a deep voice and loud “click, clack, click, clack” coming from the forest burst out, “We will see about that.”
Out came a gigantic goat. “You are very brave Travis, however you are no match for us. This is our oldest brother, Buffy.” Brighty said gleefully. Full of muscle and pure strength, Buffy was half the size of Travis but clearly a strong opponent. Buffy flexed his muscles and Travis stretched his arms and legs. “Prepare to die!” Buffy said in an evil voice. An epic battle was about to begin!

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