May 28, 2012

The Importance of Assessing Students Reading Ability Individually

Tags: Teaching Reading Tips

Guest Post by Jamie Menard, MA in Reading

Over the years, most elementary schools have made it a priority to assess students' reading skills and, if students are below grade-level expectations, to administer more detailed assessments that help them figure out exactly what's going on so that they can provide those students with appropriate interventions.

A vast majority of elementary schools have administered computer-based screening tools to their students. Many even have a team of Reading Specialists that assess students at the beginning, middle and end of the year benchmarks. Some elementary teachers are thankful that assistants and volunteers offer to administer both formal and informal assessments. This assistance results in teachers breathing a sigh of relief because it seems as though part of their heavy workload has become lighter. However, there is a possibility that teachers are in turn doing themselves a disservice and in turn, struggle to understand why their students are indeed below grade level.

After students are assessed, teachers receive data sheets that place their students into specific categories. The students are identified as below, at or above grade level. They are almost always given a number or score and sometimes even a color. Teachers often do not know how to successfully recognize the meanings of these scores and placements of their students. They are left with data and graphs and many questions. The teacher often wonders did the student read quickly and skip over words. If they are at grade level, did they comprehend the text they read? Were they able to read all grade-level sight words? Which phonics skills did they use to help them figure out unfamiliar words? Is the child aware of the silent –e or possibly even the adjacent vowel phonics rule? Teachers are left unequipped with essential information and have to begin their guided reading groups based off of these scores.

If a teacher takes the time to listen and assess each student they are able to learn about each and every one of their students and therefore can tailor their teaching in order to meet the needs of each student immediately. They can begin finding students that have similar needs and place them into small guided groups. Some information that teachers want to take note of would be whether or not the student…

  • is aware of print concepts such as tracking left to right (for beginning readers)
  • stops at punctuation/ending marks
  • recognizes when a word does not make sense
  • uses context clue
  • knows how to read the dialogue
  • uses decoding strategies and phonics skills (if not, give a phonics screener to determine which skill to teach)
  • can decode multi-syllabic words
  • self-corrects
  • maintains fluency

Before a classroom teacher can effectively begin tailoring their teaching to meet the needs of each and every student in their classroom, they have to take the time to listen to each of their readers. The internet offers a wide variety of ideas for obtaining valuable information about students reading abilities. Dedicated teachers want to be the best educator they can be for each child in their classroom. The time and preparation it takes to meet individually with every reader and zero in on their reading abilities are very great however, the end result is well worth it to both the students and the teacher.

Reading assessments drive instruction in the Reading Horizons elementary reading curriculumreading intervention program and structured literacy instruction.

Jamie Menard

Masters in Reading

Taught Kindergarten for 2 years

Taught Second Grade for 2 years

Worked as Reading Specialist for 4 years in grades K-4


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Cata said

Hi, I really believe that reading in voice will help a lot English students. Sometime they read fast because they are bored or they don't like the content of the text. I want to build more reading circles online, using skype, second life, or other platforms. All the time I ask to my students to choose their favorite book and to read together in voice from it. I believe teachers have to give to the students oportunities to choose their favorite books, topics, so on. I believe if the students we'll love what about they read for sure they will pay attention at how they read. If you really enjoy reading in voice from a book we can read together. I read a lot in voice online. I can tell more about that, is my favorite activity. Hope to see you soon! Cata

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Drina Madden said

Thank you for your wonderful emphasis on the teacher actually seeing/understanding the reading strengths and weaknesses of their students so they can best help them. I would change the order and add a few items to your list necessary reading components. First, the student must be able to attend - to both auditory abstract (phonemes) and visual abstract (symbols). It could be that remediation requires work on concrete, real attention development before sounds or symbols can be tackled. Then, you must determine how well they can remember - concrete to abstract. Attention and memory must be strong enough to support the rudiments of reading. Next on the list is eye movement/tracking ability - not awareness of the concept but actually being able to move their eyes fluently from left to right, up to down on a page, up to board and down to paper. Tracking exercises and activities can be fun and need to begin without the sounds/symbols adding to the mix. Then, you can deal with decoding skills, self-correcting, recognizing when a word doesn't make sense and use of punctuation and dialoguing. Teachers need to be taught the components of reading so they can recognize reasons for struggling with reading. Children need to be worked with directly so the teacher can actually tell if they are saying the correct sound that goes with the correct symbol. Multisensory techniques must be used so the reading brain can be strongly connected, repetition is essential to build connections that will remain. The process must be sequential so the children are slowly building a workable foundation. If they are receiving speech/language - many of those who have articulation problems are having auditory processing issues - have the reading and speech person work in tandem so the same sequence is being mastered. Once the rudiments are in place, with memory having been strengthened, THEN comprehension can begin as they VISUALIZE the ideas presented in their reading - again, using both sides of the brain. Thanks for listening.

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LInda said

I am a Paraeducator that is responsible for helping to adiminister the reading assessments. How can I make sure the teacher gets the information she/he really needs?

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Terry Bernstein said

I'd extend the context cues aspect to include anticipation in context, and with regard to that I'd always want to know how well the child combines partial cues, e.g. anticipating a word by using the initial sound plus context.

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Robben Wainer said

The student who provides response when the subjects change has probably attempted to keep up with the reading. When conversations in class refer to new subject material the student who responds insightfully is at least literate in the method of instruction the Teacher is providing. A response by a student which exhibits critical thinking when a hook in a topic aim is delivered may indicate the student is also assessing their own prior knowledge. The student who proposes a thetical comment is probably attempting to ask the Teacher for direction and guidance in how to proceed with the course of study. In a sense it is that simple, a student that remains eager and motivated to learn from the Teacher has probably kept with their study of literacy.

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Peggy Smeltz said

I have been a reading specialist in grades k-12 and I still fail to see how three one-minute reads could show anyone anything. You need to spend time with your studenys and get to know their strengths and weaknesses. A swat team approach to testing makes the process impersonal and information to class room teachers is not gleaned. A better system of testing needs to be found.

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Susan Herbert said

I have had the advantage of using computer tests to determine reading level and to give the Developmental Reading assessment (DRA) as a follow-up. (1 on 1 setting with books in hand) I believe the DRA is the more reliable measure and bring small groups into a pull-out setting who need similar tutoring. Sitting with a student, listening to that student read and answer questions (oral), and to answer a few discussion questions on paper is the most informative and true measure of current reading status.

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