This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Automatic Word Recognition: The Defining Feature of Fluency




Johnson, N. Melinda

Type of Degree



Curriculum and Teaching


This study investigated automatic word recognition as the defining feature of fluency, with speed and expression as results. Fluent readers are able to perform more than one task at a time. They are able to recognize words automatically, freeing attentional resources that can be used in other areas such as comprehension and prosody. In this experimental study, participants from intact classrooms were randomly assigned to one of two reading conditions: passages with considerable word overlap and passages with little or no word overlap. The reading teacher called one group at a time to the reading table and guided their reading, making sure they knew all the words and asked guiding questions to help students focus on meaning. Then, the group went to practice by themselves or with students in the classroom who were not part of another group. Students read the passage with the goal of reaching 85 words per minute. After each reading, students moved their markers on a chart to mark their progress and motivate them to continue reading. The treatment lasted 6 days. I administered the posttest on the seventh day. I administered the delayed posttest 30 days later. As I hypothesized, the word Overlap condition made the greatest gains. The word Overlap condition from pretest to posttest produced a statistically significant average gain of 30 correct words per minute (CWPM) (t(25)=3.053,p< .01) while the Nonoverlap condition averaged about 7 CWPM. Both groups produced gains of approximately 19 CWPM overall in measures of general fluency. The large gains made by the Overlap group during treatment along with the much smaller gain in general fluency support the hypothesis that automatic word recognition has a direct effect on fluency and is the defining feature of fluency.