Determining where a student is currently operating in the area of reading can be an arduous task. It is challenging because students are all operating at different levels, have different likes and dislikes and they also have different attitudes about reading which are shaped by their varying experiences. All of these factors can make the process can seem overwhelming or impossible at the time. However, as an Educational Specialist and Reading Interventionist, I have found that it can also be the most rewarding experience in teaching. It just has to be organized, focused and there needs to be time allotted to really dig into the data to determine the student's areas of weakness and strength.
Reading is not just about reading a piece of text and regurgitating what the author stated. There are many facets to reading comprehension and truly understanding and learning about a piece of literature. Therefore, when I am attempting to assess a student's areas of need in reading I have to look at the process holistically. I get to know the student, not just the reader. Then I assess the reader's oral fluency, accuracy, silent processing speed, auditory comprehension, and their inferential reasoning and factual recall comprehension across content areas. I focus on language arts, social studies, science, and math. I truly believe a well-rounded reader has the skills necessary to be successful in every single class, not just the ones he or she is the most interested in at the time.
So, to begin I utilize multiple assessments I have gathered throughout the years. There really is no rhyme or reason why I have chosen the specific ones, except I have tried many and the ones I have stuck with gives me the best picture of my readers. I have used the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test before, and loved it. It was great at creating a good picture of where students were across all areas of reading, but it is no longer available through my AEA. So, now I use different screeners to help me to determine where my readers are and gather same baseline data, and then I can create a program based on the needs of my specific learner.
However, I do not jump right into major assessments the first day. As I said before, holistically speaking, I have to get to know my student and then my reader. So, on the first day, we meet it is about introductions and learning who they are. I introduce who I am, give them my credentials so they know that I am not just some lady torturing them with reading material that may be really challenging. Then I share some information about how he or she was selected to receive services from me. I explain that my job is to give them the boost they may need to help them be successful in their courses throughout the year.
Then I get their perspective on their own reading skills. I ask them if they have felt like they have a hard time reading material in classes, do they read books on their own? do they like to read? How do they feel when they read aloud in a class?
I ask them which is their favorite class / best class. Then I have them explain why. I prompt them with other questions to help me get a picture of what skills or strengths they already have, which can help with future reading strategies. I then ask them about their most challenging or difficult class. Which do they dislike and have them explain why they struggle. I prompt with questions like, "What makes it hard? Do you do better in small groups? Do you struggle with the work or assessments or both?"Then I ask them if they could read about any topic in English what would it be and why?
I explain that as we work together I will try to incorporate some of this subject into reading to help make our time together more interesting and relevant. Then I explain the last thing we will be doing today is reading some words. I use this as my first formal assessment because it allows for me to ascertain the students recognition of words out of context. I have a few different lists, and I never have them just read one list as I ant to get some different data points. So, first I decide based on time and on the nerves of the student if we will read 2 or 3 different lists.
The wordlists I use are free word lists I have pulled from online resources. The first is called the Examiner Word Lists by Pearson. It is broken down into grades Pre-Primer through high school. Depending on the age of the students I like to start out two 2-grade levels below their current level. However, if I have a student who already has some data in the system I will drop three to four grade levels down. The first 5 words the student misses in a row is where they stop. Then I move onto 40L Quick ScreenReading Grade Level Test. This is not a normalized test but I feel it is very good at pinpointing where a student is operating in reading fluency and decoding. I have the student start 2 levels below grade level and stop them once they miss five words in a row. The last assessment I use is the San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability. This list goes from pre-primer to 11th-grade level. Therefore, it is a great quick assessment for all levels. I follow the same practice as before by choosing a few levels below grade level only this time I stop them once they have missed three words in a row.
Finally, I explain to the student that for me to do my job well I want to get to know him or her better. So, I send them with a homework assignment they need to return for our next meeting (and I give them the date we will meet again here) The homework assessment is a reading inventory. It really digs into their reading experiences, their attitudes about reading and what they enjoy reading. This reading inventory actually came from a course I took in Reading Apprenticeship and I have yet to come across a better one.
That is the first day. The introduction and gathering the grade level of words the student is operating on. This helps me to choose the text I will be using with him or her for our next meeting. Happy reading.