Reader Erika Chapman tipped me off to an excellent site called Literably. It allows students to read a text and have it automatically assessed for accuracy and words-per-minute speed. Plus, and this is what was most surprising to me, it also provides a fairly accurate indentification of student errors — in other words, what word they said instead of the word in the text. You’re able to provide the student or parent a link to the recording. And it’s free.
It’s extraordinarily easy to use. Teachers register and add names of students. Then they choose which reading and which level they want to assign to the student. The student signs in, records (and can choose to re-record) and the teacher can access it through a dashboard.
As I have already mentioned, the site seems remarkably accurate based on my testing, and I’ll have my students try it out later today. We use a similar system to assess student fluency levels periodically now, though the present readings available seem presently only suitable to students reading at an elementary school level (which makes them great for English Language Learners). I hope they add high school level texts soon.
I’ve previously posted about how I have had students record their reading of the same text several times during the year as a self-assessment, using tools from The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English list. Literably, though, is superior for this purpose since it provides the detailed feedback (though the trade-off is a much more limited selection of texts).
And, now, for my cautions….
A words per minute number can be dangerous if students are just racing through the words. By having students read individually to us, we can reinforce the concept of prosody (reading with feeling, etc.). Software is not able to recognize or support this incredibly important element of fluency. If you have students use Literably, it will be important to say and often repeat that they shouldn’t fixate on that number.
The second danger is that having students use the site, it eliminates an opportunity for the teacher/student to connect on an individual level. Having students to me three times each year is an excellent way to also make time to check in with them about how they are doing in their lives and in other classes. Of course, those should not be the only times for this interaction. However, when we use Literably, we just want to make sure we’re creating those other times, too.
I’m adding Literably to several “The Best” lists, including: