Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Fluency Finder by Lantz, Glass, and Gaskins, LLC ($6.99)

Fluency Finder by Lantz, Glass, and Gaskins, LLC ($6.99 at time of review, iPhone and iPad)

iPod/iPhone screenshot of Fluency Finder

I was excited to trial Fluency Finder- especially with my son (a 3rd grader) so I could get an idea of how he is doing with reading fluency.  There are few reading fluency apps out there, and while there are quite a few reading comprehension apps- many with data tracking- this is the only one that I've found geared toward children  that allows tracking of reading fluency.  Originally I was not impressed by the tiny font and lack of passages, but I am happy to report that the latest update has addressed these issues-  I would now recommend this app for use on the iPad.

The app interface is easy to maneuver- there are four main buttons on the main screen: Home, Students, Passages, and Assessment; there is also an information button in the top left hand corner, and a Contact Us/ FAQ button in the top right hand corner.   The FAQ button includes Target Rates (words per minute) for each grade level (1st- 5th).  Fluency Finder can be used in portrait or landscape mode.  I like that is available for the iPhone, although once you have been spoiled by the iPad screen, you won't want to rely on the smaller screen unless you have to.

Under the Passages tab you can view each passage, along with its type, grade level, word count and reading ease.  To actually score a reader's reading fluency, enter the "Assessment" tab, select a student, then choose a passage.  Start the timer in the bottom left corner to track time spent reading,  and count mistakes by tapping the plus or minus symbols in the bottom right hand corner.  When the child is done, press the "Finish Assessment" button, and a screen will come up with the student's information, the passage read, the date, number of mistakes, words per minute, and the total time (in seconds).  It would be really handy if there was an "email" feature of some sort from this screen.  When accessed from within the Student Profile tab, the data displayed is slightly different- it will include date, passage title, type, grade, reading ease and reading level, along with word count, words per minute and mistakes.

Back to the assessment screen-the font previously was an issue, but is now a much more comfortable size on the iPad.  If you click on the Passages tab, they will still be a fairly small font, but the same passages can be viewed with a larger font through the Assessment tab.  According to the Information button on the main screen, the student shouldn't be reading from the device itself anyway- they should be using the same (printed) passage as the examiner, available at . The passages can be opened in Word or as PDFs.  (I was able to easily open a passage in Word and change it to a larger font.)  Now that the font is larger, I prefer the iPad- it eliminates the hassle of going online and printing the passages- it is a time saver to complete it directly from the iPad. You'll have to decide what works best as it may vary depending on the needs of the child- will he/she be distracted by your proximity/scoring during the reading for example?  (For home use, I found it a non-issue.)

 I would love to see the ability to adjust fonts from within the app itself, and also I wonder if this app could also allow for adjustment of spacing,- there has been some research showing certain spacing distances may be useful to dyslexics, for example.  So as to minimize the distraction, I think the scoring bar could be flipped to face the opposite direction from the student, with the student sitting across from the examiner.

Originally there were only a few passages for each grade level, but I am excited to say the latest update includes six passages for each grade level (1st through 5th grade), including two informational passages, two narrative passages, and two fables.  This means a choice between two different passages for each type, which is really appreciated.  The developer's website says there are more original passages to come as well- in fact, the next update should bring passages for grades 6, 7 and 8*   
If a few adjustments were made, I could see this app becoming even more versatile, but for now it does fill a niche. I may have my son use the app independently- to see if he can self-monitor his reading errors. It definitely removes the need for eyeing the clock continuously or making tally marks on scratch paper, and that is a very good thing.

*Note from Developer
 The next update will include 6-7-8 grade reading level passages. Next we will be adding a comprehension assessment to each passage for all grade levels. We will also be rolling out to the android market.

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