How the “Big Five” Tackles Student Reading Fluency


Reading is one of the hardest skills to learn in early development. Any parent or teacher can attest to the struggle students go through on their journey to reading fluency and comprehension.

So, what is the secret to successfully teaching English in schools? Guests Dr. Victoria Locke, director of research at Istation, and Dr. Bill Fahle, SVP of development research at Istation, attest that the science-backed method of the “Big Five” is the solution to student and teacher struggles.

MarketScale’s EdTech Podcast dives deep into this education strategy, unpacking how the “Big Five” foundations for reading can help every student become a proficient reader.

In 1997, the National Reading Panel distilled years of research and studies into the groundwork for the “Big Five,” a series of steps that evolve to fluency:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency with text
  • Comprehension
  • Vocabulary

Like scaffolding, Dr. Locke said, the steps build upon each other, starting first with the early skill of phonemic awareness. Perhaps the most standout feature of the “Big Five” is its ability to cater to each individual student.

“(The) Big Five helps to meet students where they are,” Dr. Locke said.

An adaptive assessment test determines the student’s level of understanding in each individual step, resulting in a custom overview of a student’s weaknesses and strengths. Dr. Fahle explains how a computer algorithm curates the test as the student is taking it, measuring their ability on a highly customized level.

Grounded in science, it’s clear the Big Five carries weight. With proper support from the school system and adequate teacher training, the Big Five can have a successful implementation in any school.

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