Wednesday, 26 March 2014

How do we assess reading?

When my daughter was two, she passed those famous golden arches and immediately pointed and said "McDonalds!" I was of course, very proud of her and considered that at that point, she had begun to 'read', that is, she was able to see a previously abstract symbol, make sense of it and assign appropriate meaning to it.

Reading is always a very emotive subject for parents. Of all the skills we teach at school, it is probably the one that causes most concern for parents...and for good reason. Being able to gain meaning from text is essential for us to be able to make sense of our world, as so much revolves around this important skill that most of us take for granted.

Reading is actually an incredibly complex and sophisticated skill. To gain meaning from text helps us feel connected to the world around us, able to make sense of where we are and to some extent, who we are. When I visit Thailand or China, to be unable to read any of the words around me makes me feel quite powerless!

So how do we assess a student's reading ability? One important way is through a running record (RR), developed way back in 1960 by a teacher/researcher called Marie Clay. Clay describes a RR as a way to capture what a reader does and says while reading. "They capture how readers are putting together what they know in order to read. They allow teachers to describe how children are working on a text." (Clay 2000)

At Bradbury, RRs are seen as a vital way of collecting reading information and are regularly used to assess both decoding and comprehension skills until a student is considered to have achieved reading mastery- typically this is in the upper school.

There are six levels to a RR analysis:
1. Looking at print- is the child looking at and scanning print in consistent ways?
2. Accuracy- how difficult is the text for the reader?
3. Self- correction- the outcome of cognitive 'reading work' done by the child
4. Analysis of errors and self corrections: information sources used and neglected- visual, semantic and meaning. Is the child using a variety of cues to work out unknown words and make sense of what they are reading?
5. Analysis of the child's reading strategies- what is the child doing with their information sources to make meaning of the print?
6. Analysis of the child's orchestration of processing behaviours- how does the child put together all aspects of reading, for example, eye movement, visual perception, language & phonological knowledge and strategic problem solving, into a balanced, efficient and fluent process to construct meaning from print?

Quite a process! From this analysis, our teachers are then able to work out a reading level and pinpoint areas of reading behaviours that a child may need support with. It may not be about simply moving up a reading level- a child may have difficult with fluency and phrasing and so the teacher may correctly assess that a child needs to stay on an 'easy' text until this is established.

Your child's teacher will be able to show you a completed running record- please ask to see one if you are interested!

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