Student‐ and Teacher‐Friendly Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers 7th Annual Western Canadian First Nations Administrators Education Symposium Enoch Cree Nation, March 9, 10, 11, 2011 Douglas B. Rogers, Ed.D. Student Learning Assessment and Performance Measures Lead First Nation Student Success Program Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre After March 31, 2011: Literacy Education Director, BabyStepsToReading.com email@example.com 416‐697‐0533 “The elementary school must assume as its sublime and most solemn responsibility the task of teaching every child in it to read. Any school that does not accomplish this has failed.” ‐‐William John Bennett [S] 1 Teachers must understand how children learn to read and write to assess children and adapt instruction for fastest progress. A child will learn to read and write better if everyone significant in that child’s life can articulate his current reading and writing performance and how he can improve, and by everyone, I mean his teachers, parents, and himself from before he begins JK through high school. I hope that by the end of this presentation you will feel prepared to help the people in your community to do this. Right now, many teachers say that they are helping children learn to read by practicing balanced literacy, but that viewpoint has a significant weakness as an instructional perspective: It does not explain how children develop reading ability. Drawing on the work of Jean Chall (1966), balanced literacy practitioners posit that children move through stages, but the viewpoint does not say how, and it is clear that from very early their lives, children show that they have learned to read some individual words: A toddler riding with his family recently spoke up from his car seat. Speaking the longest sentence he could make, he said, “Want fries” as he gazed at the top of a tall pole at the golden arches advertising a McDonald’s restaurant. [S] And, once that word is learned, children will remember it a lifetime, or least until a stroke or degenerative brain disease robs them of the storage or route to that word. It’s not that beginner readers are at a different stage; they just can’t read many words, yet. There is one more way that beginner readers differ from mature readers, and we’ll address that later. Much of what balanced literacy enthusiasts say about reading is wrong! Practitioners say that they can teach comprehension, but comprehension is an experience. Toddler Dane certainly 1 In this handout, [S] and [pt] indicate when I show a new slide or a new point on a slide when presenting the paper.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 2 seemed able to understand the threat of monsters when I read Where the Wild Things Are. Four tots sat in front of me as I performed the story, making sure they could see the pictures. Dane was transfixed when he saw the first painting of the monsters. Dane was a biter at the ECE centre, and his mom reported that he fought a lot with his older brother, a preschooler. In fact, mom reported, they had to let Dane use the broom in the fights to even up the matches. As I read more of the story, Dane got up on his haunches and leaned toward the book. I flashed on an image of Neanderthals around a camp fire. Suddenly, Dane rushed forward, and clawed at the monsters on the page of the book, then hastily retreated to his spot on the carpet. Nobody had to teach 20‐month‐old Dane to visualize, predict, or infer. The balanced literacy advocates could be labeled Skillists: They see comprehension as comprised of skills that must be taught (e.g., Miller, 2002). Eruditionists say that even very young babies are already thinking well, but they don’t know much (e.g., Hirsch, 2003; Hirsch and Pondiscio, 2010). Look at these observations from Debra Black’s review of the Philosophical Baby: [S] "Weve discovered very young children–even babies–have powerful learning mechanisms such as the ability to do statistics, do experiments and use logic. They help them determine what the world is like. One of the basic questions is how do we get truth about the world. Well, we have brains that even as young children are designed to let us find out the truth” (2009). An infant shown a toy train travelling a circle through a tunnel is fascinated at first but soon loses interest. But if the examiner stops that train in the tunnel, the baby does a double take. Clearly the infant has predicted that the train will exit the tunnel. A teacher told me a story recently that shows that the differences between the thinking of adults and children is less a difference of thinking skills than how much they know. A child like the lad in the story that follows has not likely been read stories about farms, certainly never visited one. Here’s how a guide described his first moments on the farm. [S] “Before I was a teacher, I used to work on a farm giving field trips to classes. I would take classes through the farm, teaching about the animals, the role of the farm, the farm community, etc., and then we would pick pumpkins out in the field and go on a nature hike in the back forest. Since we were just in the greenbelt outside of Toronto, we did get many groups from the city. “One day, I had a kindergarten class from downtown take the bus up. I knew right away that the kids didnt have much experience on a farm when they stepped off of the bus, so I tried to make everything really accessible for them. When we got to the cow, I began to talk about it giving them facts about the animal as clues as to its identity, and as I did I noticed one kids eyes getting big. When I asked if anyone knew what the animal was, he started waving his hand frantically. “Now you have to picture the day—it was October, so a bit chilly and the cows breath was fogging up. This kid, too, was standing right up near the fence, starring directly up at the cow that towered over him. No one else had any clue, so I chose him. "I know I know! Its a dragon!" he shouted completely wide eyed.” Since starting kindergarten, he had heard stories about dragons, and he made a pretty good guess that this might be one, too. Eruditionists believe that the main difference between someone who knows almost nothing about, say reading education, and someone who speaks at conferences is 10,000 hours of quality instruction and study. This lad may be just 9, 999 hours away from lecturing on the prevention of mad cow disease.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 3 Teachers working from the Simple View of Reading [S], the dominant theory of how people read, aim to consider both how well children are learning to recognize and spell single words and how well they can understand and write text. Reading comprehension is simply the product of one’s proficiency in word recognition and one’s listening comprehension (Aaron, Joshi, Gooden, & Bentum, 2008; Coltheart, 2006; Roberts and Scott, 2006; Gough and Tunmer, 1986). Learning to read is really just learning to understand language we see rather than hear (Rose, 2006). [S] Knowing what happens in the brain helps us assess and teach literacy better. Here’s what they didn’t show you in teacher’s college or in additional PD you have participated in. [S] A quick glance at this time line Maryanne Wolf has created shows us that human beings store each meaning, pronunciation, and spelling of a word in different places in the brain and activate elaborate cell assemblies to connect all this information as more information comes in through the retina of the eye, all in the quarter‐second that it takes to read the word we focus on (Wolf, 2008, p. 144). Once we activate the meaning of a word we see, we have accessed the same language system we use to understand a word we hear. That’s mature reading, via the direct route. Let’s look more closely at another representation of the direct route to reading a single word (Rose, 2006, p. 86).
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 4 We have a simple test to measure how well a student can read words directly—and I’ll show you that momentarily. But what if you can’t read a word via the direct route? You’ll have to use the phonological recoding or non‐lexical route. You learned a new word this way recently. Let me test you on it: [S] [pt] Tahrir Square. Still sounding it out? I didn’t think so. This is the other way that beginner readers differ from mature readers: Beginner readers are not yet skilled at sounding out words. They don’t know letter‐sound correspondences as well nor how to blend sounds together for a whole word. And we have a test of ability to recode from the printed form of a word to its spoken form and connect to its meaning. Let’s test your recoding ability right now. [S of Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery] That’s it—the dual route to word recognition—not the triple route or the quadruple route. But the balanced literacy people recommend training children to use four cueing systems to recognize words in print (Clay, 1985; Clay and Cazden, 1990; cited in Rose, 2006). They believe that when children hesitate to read or misread a word that teachers should encourage children to try again to read the word after using these so‐called cueing systems by asking questions like, “Does that make sense?” (to encourage use of semantic cueing system), “Does that sound right?” (to encourage use of syntactic or grammatical cueing system), “Could the word you read look like that?” (to encourage use of the visual cueing system), and “Could the word be spelled that way?” (to encourage the use of the phonological cueing system). As we’ll see shortly, the science suggests that we can help children read and understand better following a different procedure when children misread a word.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 5 So now you have a theory based on research—and it will really help you assess and teach language arts better. It will show, concretely and in enough detail that you will leave the presentation feeling that you have an up‐to‐date, scientific, evidence‐based understanding of how to assess students to help them read and write better, from JK to grade 12. Let’s look at what really makes kids better decoders and better comprehenders. To help students understand increasingly sophisticated text, the main way we can help them learn about a new topic is to ensure that they begin with material that they can largely understand already so that they can learn a little new material at a time. Toward the end of the presentation we’ll look at how to promote the development of linguistic comprehension. But until students can read the words on the Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery, the more important job in literacy instruction will be to help the student learn to read single words. Throughout our assessment, then, we will consider both how well the student is developing word recognition and listening comprehension or verbal knowledge. Reading diagnosis, then, explores [S] current reading performance (word recognition and reading comprehension), listening comprehension, and related factors that we may have to take into account in reading instruction (e.g., autism, hyperactivity, intellectual deficit, depression, attitude toward school, and so forth). Analogously, writing assessment explores [S] handwriting, spelling, conventions of standard written English, listening comprehension, genre writing, and related factors. This approach to language arts assessment has four features important to realizing my aim to help the students learn to read and write well: [S] 1. Teachers can learn quickly how to implement the assessment to students from junior kindergarten through high school. 2. The costs of implementing the assessment are modest. 3. Teachers need little time to conduct language arts assessments of all their students, starting with those most at‐risk of failing to learn to read and write. 4. The assessment shows students, parents, and teachers precisely the instruction and practice that will lead to each student’s learning to read and write better, faster. The assessment procedure is presented chronologically from younger to older students, but once teachers are familiar with implementing it, they will be able to proceed more quickly by changing the order of testing and omitting some parts. I will tell you how you can get copies of the materials I show you today so that, if you care to, you can begin to implement the assessment immediately: [S]
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 6 Environmental Print Reading Test (Rogers, 2011) Knowledge of Text Conventions Subtest (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) Alphabet Knowledge Subtest (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) San Diego Quick Assessment (La Pray and Ross, 1969) leveled readers to determine independent and instructional reading levels Basic Sight Word Test (Dolch, 1942) Rogers Phonics Test (2011) Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) Fundamental Code Phonics Subtest (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) Variants Code Phonics Subtest (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) Phonemic Awareness Subtest (Rogers Phonics Test, 2011) leveled readers to determine listening comprehension level Reading Comprehension Exploration Test (Rogers, 2011) Ontario Writing Exemplars Project (Ontario Ministry of Education, 1999) Writing Assessment Determine Each Student’s Current Reading Ability [S] To begin to explore whether we should pay particular attention to the word recognition or listening comprehension aspects of reading—or both—we start the reading diagnosis by assessing the student’s current ability to read single words. If the student has just begun junior kindergarten, or if you know that the student is a beginner reader, begin by administering the Environmental Print Reading Test. [S] [See handout.] The Environmental Print Reading Test [pt] is a simple tool to help a teacher determine if a particular student has learned to read any words so far. Simply ask the student to look over the 3‐page test and read any words he recognizes. If the student can read a word, he can learn to read more, and those words can be used to teach the recognition of more printed words. If the student doesn’t seem to read a word—yet—the teacher can try teaching one, picking a word prominent in the child’s environment and important to him. If a student seems to read few or no words, the assessment should explore other early accomplishments in learning to read and write. Administer the Knowledge of Text Conventions Subtest [S] from the Rogers Phonics Test to explore how well the student is learning the meaning of words teachers use as they teach children to read and write. The subtest also reveals if the student has learned where on a page to begin to read and other information crucial to progress. The student is shown a page similar to this [S] word A Here is a sentence. ____________________________________________ Once upon a time, three pigs went out into the world. The first pig decided to build himself a house of straw. The second pig decided to build herself a house of sticks. The third pig decided to build herself a house of bricks. The examiner queries the student like this [S] • “Point with your finger at a letter that is all by itself.”
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 7 • “Point to the word that is all by itself.” • “Point to a sentence.” • “Show me where to begin to read here.” [Touch into the middle of the text below the line on the student copy.] • “If I read this word first [touch the word Once], show me the words I would read next “ • “When I get here, [Touch the end of the first line], point to where I should go to read more. The teacher can also administer the Alphabet Knowledge Subtest [S] of the Rogers Phonics Test to assess if the student can name and write the letters of the alphabet, because doing so is crucial to learning to read and write. Students should form each letter quickly, automatically, and legibly, the same way every time. Teachers need to know how well their students can handwrite because students will learn phonics faster if they can write for the lessons or explorations that the teacher provides. When a teacher suspects or knows that a child can already read some words, [S] she can start the reading diagnosis by asking the student to read a simple graded word list, like the San Diego Quick Assessment [pt] (La Pray and Ross, 1969), to [S] quickly begin to learn the most important information: What is the difficulty level of text that the student can read relatively easily, making the text suitable for instructional use or, indeed, the level of text the student can read very easily, making the text suitable for reading independently? [We want to identify text that the student can read easily because reading a lot of text easily is a powerful way to learn to read better (Allington, 2006)]. Here is the grade 6 list: bridge commercial abolish trucker apparatus elementary comment necessity gallery relativity Follow these procedures to administer the San Diego Quick Assessment, Beginning with a list two grades below the student’s class placement, ask the student to read aloud each word on a list. Go to even easier lists, if necessary, until a student reads all the words correctly. On the Teacher’s Copy, record phonetically all mis‐readings. Stop the testing when the student makes three errors on a list. The results of the San Diego Quick Assessment tentatively identify the student’s current reading achievement levels: [S] A students independent reading level is the grade level of the hardest list on which he misreads one or fewer words. A students instructional reading level is the grade level of the list on which he misreads two words.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 8 A students frustration reading level is the grade level of the list on which he misreads three words. Such results give crude, tentative estimates of instructional and independent reading levels, so the teacher will want to determine more precisely the book level a student can read instructionally and independently. Determine Book Reading Levels (instructional and independent reading levels) to Match Readers with Text of Appropriate Difficulty Teachers can ask students to read short books from a set of levelled readers [S] like those available at www.readinga‐z.com or passages from an informal reading inventory (IRI) to precisely match the current reading ability of a student to reading material of just the right difficulty level. Students will read more if they can read easily. An assessment of instructional and independent reading levels is more reliable when it is based on reading text, not just isolated words on a list. The teacher will also code the student’s oral reading mistakes to understand how the student attempts to read single words via both the direct route—accessing the meaning of the word directly from its printed form—and the indirect route—sounding out the word so that, if it is in the student’s listening vocabulary, it will activate the meaning. This information will be useful in tweaking instruction in word recognition. The teacher also asks questions to probe how well the student understands the passage, looking for information useful to helping the student develop greater understanding. Direct the student to read aloud a book below the level that the San Diego Quick Assessment identified as her instructional reading level. You can use the handout “Book Level Comparison Chart for readinga‐ z.com and Other Leveling Systems”—please see attachment—to choose a book that the student can probably read pretty easily, which is where you want to start so you do not discourage the student. The Learning A‐Z organization provides books that can be used for assessment from when students are just beginning to read until they can read introductory materials, at least, about any topic. Go to www.readinga‐z.com and sign up for a free trial account. Once you’re on the site, click on the “ASSESSMENT” tab at the top of the screen. Under the blue file folder tab “Level Assessment,” the second tab on the left side of your screen, choose “Benchmark Books.” Scroll down to the level with the books you want, and click on a fiction or non‐fiction Benchmark Book. Under the green lettering on the right side of your screen, “Book Resources,” click on “Single‐Sided Color Book” (under “Book Options”), and print it. Now you have a copy of a whole book. Or, under “Projectable Resources,” choose “Projectable Book.” At this point, you may wish to close the book after printing, and choose to print two more documents under “Lesson Resources”: “Running Record Form,” on which you can record the student’s oral reading, and “Benchmark Quick Check,” a few questions you can ask the student to gauge his comprehension. The Benchmark Quick Check is also available for viewing on a computer monitor or via a projector.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 9 We recommend this procedure to determine a student’s instructional and independent reading levels: As the student reads aloud the passage, record on a copy of the reading the child’s reading errors—remember: readinga‐z.com provides for each benchmark book a convenient version of the text on which to code the student’s oral reading behaviour— by circling words he omits, inserting a caret mark and writing out any word the student adds to the text, writing above each mistake a phonetic representation of that word attempt, and bracketing text you read for the student after he paused for more than a few seconds. (You may also want to underline text the student repeats and put a check mark or sc beside any words initially read incorrectly but self corrected, but don’t count these as errors.) You may not need the student to read an entire long book. After the student reads a minimum of 100 words, you could direct the student to complete the book silently and ask the questions when he’s finished but, generally, the more oral reading you assess, the more you learn that can help you differentiate instruction. Don’t take the time to determine the use of cueing systems because good readers don’t guess words much and when they are unable to directly access the meaning of the word, they are capable of phonologically recoding a word to its spoken form. Indeed, poor readers rely on context more than good readers and guessing words is seldom successful (Torgesen, Wagner, and Rashotte, 1999, p. 4). Good readers tend to use context as a check on reading accuracy. This monitoring of comprehension occurs very rapidly—automatically—with the eyes sometimes jumping back (regressing) to look more closely at text read previously. Ask the student questions to estimate the student’s comprehension. (Under the readinga‐z.com tab Assessment, click on “List of Benchmark Quizzes” to find comprehension questions for each text you use in your assessment.) Calculate the percentage of words read correctly and the percentage of comprehension questions answered correctly. Continue asking the student to read texts from higher book levels until the student reads with less than 95% correct word recognition or answers fewer than 70% of the comprehension questions. That level represents the student’s frustration reading level. Identify the instructional reading level (i.e., the highest level at which the student reads the words with between 95 and 97% success and answers the questions with at least 70% accuracy). Identify the independent reading level (i.e., the highest book level that the student reads with at least 98% word accuracy and 70% comprehension). Beginner readers may have no independent reading level: They will learn best if all their reading is supported by instruction. [S] The immediate, practical use of the oral reading analysis is that a teacher can assign reading that will help the student become a stronger reader through independent reading and know precisely the readability of text suitable for guiding the student’s reading. [pt] The information is also useful to consider information useful to helping the student do better lexical and non‐lexical word recognition and to decide how to help the student develop into a better comprehender. [pt] Here is a summary of the word recognition accuracy and comprehension that signal a student’s independent and instructional reading levels:
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 10 • The highest readability level of text the student can read with at least 98% word recognition is his independent reading level • The highest readability level of text the student can read with at least 95% word recognition is his instructional reading level • Poorer performance will frustrate the student. Richard L. Allington (2009) presents convincing evidence that reading more text at the independent level—easily—permits fastest progress, concluding “High levels of reading accuracy produce the best reading growth” (p. 46). [S] Ehri, Dreyer, Flugman, and Gross (2007) describe a fine experiment that leads them to favour lots of easy reading as the route to reading better: [S] “The reading achievement of students who received Reading Rescue tutoring [a program that emphasized lots of easy reading and phonics lessons] appeared to be explained primarily by one aspect of their tutoring experience—reading texts at a high level of accuracy, between 98% and 100%” (p. 441). Further, [S] “These findings indicate that high text‐reading accuracy during tutoring was the strongest predictor and the only unique predictor of students’ reading achievement at the end of first grade” (p. 440). This study shows this; so does other work going back decades, including Betts’ work quantifying the original designations of independent and instructional reading levels—from 1949! There’s no doubt that the marvelous, parallel‐processing brains children use to read their first text do attend to sense and grammar as they read, but these processes largely occur below consciousness. Perhaps the reason why there is so little evidence for the efficacy of teaching cueing systems is that the practice reduces the time that teachers help children read text, and that time‐on‐task is the most important factor in helping children read better. Establishing the independent reading level using one levelling system can help a teacher find other material that a child can also read easily. As Singer pointed out years ago (1975), if the student or teacher examines a sample of text identified as appropriate for independent reading, an eyeball estimate will be good enough to recognize other reading material of similar difficulty. Teachers can also seek reading material of appropriate readability by referring to a chart that shows the different designations of several book‐leveling systems for books of comparable readability. One of the best kinds of instructional reading help is helping a student read instructional‐level text or even independent‐level text. How can a tutor best help a student while he reads easy text? [S] When he makes an error, correct it and have him say the word and reread the sentence (Heubusch and Lloyd, 1998). Grossen and Carnine [S] (1990) say that “every oral reading error should be corrected, not just the ones that alter the meaning” p. 18). [S] After he reads the passage or short book, study each word misread by talking about how the letters spell the sounds of the word and reading the word several times (Stuart, 2003, p. 3). [S] Then the student should re‐read the book for further experience reading with high word recognition accuracy (Allington, 2009). How can we ensure our students do greater amounts of easy reading? [S]
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 11 Match each student with text he can read easily and arrange for lots of reading, including having students read in trios, assigning text that the weakest reader of the trio can read easily. Arrange for students to read to a buddy. Encourage students to read to parents and volunteers. Do you find it hard to believe that reading must be so easy for children to make optimal progress? Consider some information Allington presents (2009, pp. 51‐52). Would you want to read a book where you had to struggle to read words every page? Reading the Secret Life of Bees at 99% word recognition accuracy would mean that in 300 pages you would encounter more than 1000 words that you couldn’t read correctly or only by slowing to decode! [S] [pt] A child reading the Magic School Bus series—each book is about 40 pages long—with 95% word recognition accuracy would encounter 250 words that he couldn’t read easily! [pt] Even at 99% word recognition accuracy, he would still meet almost 50 words hard to read, if he could read them at all! Determine the Students’ Ability to Read Words on Sight and to Sound Them Out If the student is reading below the fourth grade level, the teacher should look closely at his ability to read single words. [S] Progress in reading is inhibited as long as students cannot read most words directly and quickly. If a student often misreads the most common words of English, [S] many of which are less phonetically regular than many English‐language words, the teacher will want to take a closer look. Administer the Basic Sight Word Test list of high‐frequency words to show whether a student needs additional help in learning to read these common words (Dolch, 1942). [Please see the handout “Basic Sight Word Test,” which presents a five‐level version of the Basic Sight Word Test for easy recording by the teacher.] Here are the ten most commonly printed English words: • the • to • and • a • I • you • it • in • said • for Simply ask the student to read each word, beginning with the pre‐primer list or a PowerPoint presentation of those words. When the student makes an error, you may wish to write the child’s reading error phonetically to consider later how well he can recode words from the printed form to the spoken form, but you are primarily interested in learning how well the student can rapidly read the most common words of the language. Note if the child reads the words slowly because readers need to read them rapidly.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 12 How common are these words? The 100 most common words make up about 50% of English printed materials, and the 220 most common words on the Basic Sight Word Test comprise perhaps two‐thirds of the running text in a community newspaper. The Dolch words are among the first that a student does and should be able to read directly, that is via the direct route, the lexical route, to word recognition (Coltheart, 2006). The Basic Sight Word Test is identified as a list of words that children should know by early grade 3. That may have been true when Edgar Dolch compiled his list in 1936, but many now expect that students can read all these words by the end of grade 1. If students are to learn all 220 words during the 35 weeks of a school year, they must learn slightly more than 6 words a week, not an unrealistic goal, especially if there is lots of easy reading going on in the classroom and teachers use a word wall for study and drill or display the lists themselves—and ensure that students know why they’re working to read these words. [S] [S] Such procedures will help the student develop the ability to directly activate the word meanings for each of these high‐frequency words. If the student often misreads phonetically regular words, and, again, this is particularly likely in a beginner reader, the teacher should administer the Rogers Phonics Test to assess the student’s phonics skills (i.e., knowledge of letter‐sound correspondences and the ability to blend them to sound out a word). Using this test allows the teacher to see how well a student is able to use the other procedure for reading single words, the route to word recognition that we all use when we don’t recognize a word on sight: We try to determine the spoken form of the word from its printed form; in other words, when we can’t read a word on sight, we sound it out, we phonologically recode the word from print to speech (Coltheart, 2006); we use the non‐lexical route, as illustrated earlier by Rose (2006, p. 86). [S] The teacher must decide whether to administer the Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery, the first subtest of the Rogers Phonics Test, a list of polysyllabic non‐words (pseudo words) that are spelled phonetically. [S] If the teacher knows that the student is very unskilled at looking at a word in the English language and reading the word aloud with a credible pronunciation, the teacher should skip asking the student to read the Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery. Children who can read the words on the pre‐test will almost certainly be able to decode words that are in their listening vocabulary, even when they have never previously read them, just as we read Tahrir Square the first time we saw it in print. The pre‐test is used only to quickly identify students who are so proficient at using the phonological route to reading single words that there is no need to administer the rest of the phonics test. Teachers can focus on helping such proficient decoders increase their comprehension and ability to learn from text. Next, the teacher should administer the Fundamental Code Phonics Subtest [S], to determine if the student knows the most common letter‐sound correspondences for our English dialect and can apply them to read words with the most common spelling patterns (e.g., sib, slin, nope, and so forth). [Please see handout, “Rogers Phonics Test.”] [The next few slides show some details from the subtest.] Students who perform perfectly have mastered, or nearly mastered, automatic word recognition, so teachers should administer the Variants Code Phonics Subtest. [S] Simply ask the student to read aloud each word and record phonetically all errors. Every item the student fails on that subtest indicates a less common letter‐sound correspondence that the
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 13 student does not seem to know and cannot use to sound out words and, thus, should be considered for exploring or re‐teaching. For students who are unsuccessful on many of the phonic analysis test items or are unable to read the basic sight words, the teacher should continue testing by looking at the child’s phonemic awareness skills [S] with the Phonemic Awareness Subtest. [Please see handout.] [Two slides show details from this subtest.] When students have phonemic awareness they can isolate and manipulate the sounds of the language. Although recent research (e.g., Castles et al, 2009) shows that alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness, and phonics are best taught simultaneously, teachers gain useful knowledge when they identify students who are just beginning to have this knowledge and skill. Teachers can, for example, help students improve their spelling of and reading of words and syllables by singing the alphabet song and listening to a lot of alphabet books repeatedly, spelling and decoding words in the consonant‐vowel‐consonant pattern (e.g., mat, tas), and reading decodable books with the phonic elements taught to date. Students with automatic word recognition—who can easily read all the Dolch words, for example, and the pseudo words of the Pre‐test of Decoding Mastery—enjoy reading casually. Third graders who can recognize automatically any word in print that they know when they hear it or speak it may read a hundred Animorphs books over a summer vacation. Other children will be excited by opportunities to read books [S] from the Goosebumps or Choose Your Own Adventures or Magic School Bus or Junie B. Jones series. When students have strong word recognition skills, they find reading an interesting book for recreation is as easy and enjoyable as watching a TV sitcom or playing a computer game. They are reading casually, not intending to apply the information learned while reading or even to remember it for long. Rather, they focus on their immediate sensations of being amused or frightened or sating curiosity. Determine the Student’s Listening Comprehension Level [S] When students demonstrate automatic word recognition, teachers must shift the focus of reading assessment from students’ progress in learning to read to students’ ability to learn from reading. The assessment focus will become considering how well students understand what they hear and read and how well they can read to learn more and express themselves in print. The Simple View asserts that reading comprehension is the product of a student’s ability to read single words and his listening comprehension. [S] As Rose (2006) put it, [S] learning to read is just learning to understand language we see rather than hear. Junior kindergarten students can read very few words, but they can understand a lot of language about many topics if, for example, they listen to someone talking about these topics. If we assess their linguistic comprehension, we can determine the level of text that they could read if they learned to read the individual words. We use the same procedure to assess the listening comprehension of kindergarten children as we do older students: We simply read passages—like the leveled books on the readinga‐z.com site—of increasingly higher readability and ask them to summarize them or ask them questions about the material until we find the hardest passage for which they can still demonstrate about 70% comprehension. [S] Even if a student can directly read thousands of words and efficiently sound out new words, he may still struggle with school work, so a teacher will want to consider the student’s ability to
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 14 understand discourse, including text. Once a teacher finds the highest readability text that a student cannot adequately read and understand—the frustration level at which he answers the questions with less than 70% success—she can look more closely at what is inhibiting his understanding. Why do some kids not understand school texts? [S] Use this procedure to find out: Read the passage or book to the student and then ask the questions. Ask the student to define some of the words. Hart and Risley (cited in Hirsch, 2003, p. 16) suggest that students are unlikely to adequately understand a reading passage unless they already understand some 90‐95% of the vocabulary. (Hirsch expresses it this way: [pt] “Vocabulary experts agree that adequate reading comprehension depends on a person already knowing between 90 and 95 percent of the words in a text. Knowing such a high percentage of words allows the reader to get the gist of what is being said and therefore to guess correctly what the unfamiliar words probably mean.”) To help a student study a topic for which the textbook is too hard for the student to understand, the teacher would have to help him find more introductory text or other media. Students will have difficulty understanding passages on topics about which they know little. Before they can understand such materials, they will need to fill in gaps in their background knowledge. That’s why schools must support every topic of curricula with rich materials about those topics: DVDs, books to read to students, books kids can read themselves to research to do and present projects, all to explore this remarkable world in which we live, all to help them develop more verbal and non‐verbal knowledge of our world. As we saw earlier, helping to boost students’ comprehension is not teaching them skills: Dane didn’t need any visualization training to anticipate that Sendak’s monsters could mean trouble. The highest readability level of text at which the student can answer at least 70% of the questions is his listening comprehension level. [S] If it is higher than his current independent reading level, the teacher knows that if she can help the student improve his word recognition, the student will be able to read and understand more advanced material. If a student’s independent reading level is sixth grade or higher, his general language comprehension is sufficient to learn about any topic—providing that he starts with material at an appropriate introductory level so that he already knows some 90% of the word meanings of the text (or other discourse, for that matter). Determine How to Help the Student Read to Learn [S] If students can recognize the words in the text—read them aloud, for example, with mostly correct pronunciation—they will understand the text at least as well as they would understand if someone read it to them. The appropriate response if students cannot understand text that you are using in their classroom —even if you read it to them—is to provide them with material at a more introductory level. However, there are other ways, too, that teachers can explore how students are attempting to understand text and, possibly, help them understand it better. To assess how well students are able to read text to learn or to report to others something they’ve learned—as for situations like learning biology for a high school science credit or reporting progress to a manager they work for in a bank—the teacher must observe students while they research, read, and write, and ask them questions: The points made in the discussion that follows have been incorporated into the Reading Comprehension Exploration Test, which teachers can complete to note a student’s current
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 15 reading performance to plan how to help them learn even better from their reading. [See handout.] When the student is puzzled while reading, does he routinely try harder to understand? [S] Does the student reread puzzling text? Does the student skip a few words to see if it makes sense when one reads on a bit? If still puzzled, does the student seek out material at a more introductory level? Does the student show an understanding of how to learn effectively? [S] Does the student pause in reading to ask questions to determine if he has been able to build a mental representation of the passage topic? If he can’t visualize and summarize the topic with the appropriate words, he has not really understood or remembered the material. Does the student use a dictionary to clarify the meaning of the puzzling words in the passage? Does the student seek to talk about material read to better understand and remember? Does the student highlight what must be remembered to limit material to review for a test or just to remember for life? Does the student use mnemonic tactics, such as creating acronyms, to remember information (e.g., Remembering the word HOMES can help one name the great lakes)? Does the student use study procedures, such as previewing text, setting questions before reading, trying to answer the questions after reading, and reviewing the text to re‐study points still not understood? Does the student know that he should pay vigilant attention when his teachers teach a guided or directed reading lesson before assigning reading, that such lessons may help him fill in some of the background material and vocabulary he must know to make sense of the reading? Does the student realize that there are ways other than reading to learn information (e.g., Does the student know that if he cannot read the words, he can still learn the information if he can get someone to read and discuss the text with him)? Very importantly, does the student understand that if he reads widely on many topics he will learn more information and vocabulary so that he will be able to listen to or read more and more material, including text that is increasingly sophisticated (Rogers, 2002)? Does the student take responsibility for studying by practicing good study habits (e.g., setting aside adequate time to study for tests and to prepare projects)? Does the student make notes, document sources, make graphic aids, outline, draft, and revise writing as a way to learn? Perhaps most importantly, does the student know that if he cannot understand the text (or lecture or videotaped material), he will be able to understand a more introductory presentation of the information and begin to learn about the topic? A rational reading assessment will also include a look at a student’s ability to locate information (Rogers, 1984) [S]. Can the students find the text he must read to learn? Teachers should determine if a student can use book parts, for example, to find the title of a work, as well as the author, publisher, city of publication, edition, copyright date, and so forth. Can the student quickly locate and understand the function of book parts
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 16 such as preface, foreword, introduction, table of contents, list of figures, chapter headings, subtitles, footnotes, bibliography, glossary, index, and appendices? Does the student locate information in a dictionary (e.g., use guidewords and a thumb index, locate root words, use the pronunciation guide, select the word meaning appropriate to the passage)? Does the student use encyclopedias and other reference works? Does the student use information retrieval tools such as an electronic card catalog in a library, an online database, or an Internet search engine? Teachers can also assess students’ specific ability to understand the graphic aids that authors often use to augment text when they try to communicate their thoughts. Does the student read graphs, charts, tables, cartoons, pictures, diagrams? Some standardized reading tests assess such skills, but simple questioning can reveal whether a student is skilled at interpreting such graphic aids [S] (Rogers, 1984). Determine How to Help the Student Write—and Write to Learn Just as assessing reading is more powerful when we assess students while they are reading words and trying to understand text, the assessment of writing will be more powerful if we observe students while they are writing. Consider a brief piece of writing that a teacher might help students write as early as kindergarten. After reading There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, [pt] the teacher gives each child a big piece of paper shaped like a stout lady. [S] The children are encouraged to brainstorm and write a page for an expanded book about other things that lady might have swallowed. As the children learn to spell from copying text, inventing spellings based on memories of the visual appearance of the word and knowledge of letter‐sound correspondences and orthographic patterns, the teachers can scrutinize the students’ work to decide how to help them write better. Books that we read to children can often lead to interesting writing projects for even our students just beginning to learn English language arts. [S] Students who had listened to Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug were asked to write and illustrate their most vivid memory of the story and to tell about a time they were grouchy. [S] [S] Students will learn to write fastest if they are helped to write projects like one sketched below about interesting animals in this part of North America. [S] [pt] Reading about this writing project will help you in planning lots of the kinds of writing that will help students become better at reading and writing. This work will stretch out over a couple of weeks and give all the children in a grade 3 or 4 class many opportunities to read and write. The teacher provides both a purpose and an audience for the writing. After reading Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, finishing with the memorable phrase “even in Australia,” the teacher shows the students where Australia is on a globe. She tells them that a third‐grade teacher in Australia has proposed a project: Her students will write and illustrate a book about the animals the students would see if they visited Australia; she hopes Canadian kids will write a book describing the animals students would see if they visited northern Ontario.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 17 The teacher proposes that the entire class will collaborate with the teacher to create a page together about an animal that visitors might see. Then the students will work in pairs to create a page for the book they will write together and send to the class in Australia. The teacher has assembled a lot of material about animals of Canada. There are DVDs and books ranging in difficulty from short and simple enough for the weakest readers in the class to so high in readability that it will be best if the teacher reads them to everyone. The teacher passes out pads of Post‐It notes and suggests that each student make notes about what they learn about bears from the DVD of a Discovery program that she shows to introduce the topic of brown bears, the topic of the first page of their book—or PowerPoint—for the students in Australia. After showing the DVD, the teacher reads a few introductory books about bears to the students. On another occasion, the teacher and students visit websites run by zoos to see what zoos say about brown bears. All the while the students are recording notes and temporarily posting them in a notebook so they don’t lose them. After exploring the topic for a while, the teacher says, “Let’s start our writing. Who has some interesting information that we might share with children in Australia, children who have never seen a brown bear.” She listens as her students read aloud from their Post‐It notes. “Hmm,” she says, “What if I start to write down everything you say as you tell it to me? Would that make a good report?” The teacher engages the children in the idea that the class needs to decide how to organize the information so that it is easy for readers to read through it. “Let’s draft our title right on the chart paper,” she says, “I’ll write The Brown Bear” at the top. What should we tell first about the bear?” The teacher coaches the children to decide that telling what a brown bear looks like is a good place to start the report. “Let me make an outline here: I’m going to create a table with a column called appearance. We’re probably going to write several paragraphs, so I’ll make a chart for our points. [s] Everyone who has a Post‐It note about appearance, please come up and attach it to my appearance column.” Once the teacher has all the notes displayed in the column about appearance, she can go on to say, “Let’s talk about our topic sentence. What is the main idea of this paragraph we’re going to write about the appearance of brown bears?” Talking with the students, working from their notes, the teacher gradually writes for the students a whole paragraph about the appearance of brown bears. You can imagine the similar work to write notes for the organizer and then to draft with the students the additional paragraphs about the diet, habitat, and family life of brown bears. The students can also suggest an illustration for the entire page about the brown bear. Once students have written with the teacher, they can begin to read and view materials with a partner to research the other animals that will be included in the book about animals one might see in northern Ontario. In turn, they will make notes and organize them on a chart like they completed with their teacher. After the teacher vets the chart, the students are ready to draft their paragraphs. Over and over again, teachers will help their students become stronger readers and writers by working through projects with them: science fair projects, diaries about pre‐contact life in Canada, newspaper accounts of survival in the wilderness sparked by novels like William Stieg’s Abel’s Island, and so forth. Students can work in pairs or groups or individually. Along the way they can read one another’s work. They can examine the rubric the teacher uses to assess their
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 18 work. When students study the rubric their teacher used to mark their work—perhaps like the one below by Westby and Clauser (2005, pp. 288‐289)—they can see more clearly how to write better for the next project. Students can help the teacher to create the rubrics. Students can help one another proofread and edit good copy for display for parent nights. Project by project, students will become more literate.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 19 Two documents on the Ontario Ministry of Education website will be of particular help in assessing and teaching writing. [S] The document at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/task18.pdf, [pt] The Ontario Curriculum Exemplars Project Writing Exemplars: Year‐end Writing Tasks, shows the procedures teachers followed to guide students’ writing for several projects and the materials that they used, a project for each grade. Teachers can work through one of these exemplary projects. The sixth grade project takes the students through a process to help them summarize what they read about Nunavut, a common school assignment from middle school through university and into the work world. The Ontario Curriculum Exemplars—Grades 1‐8 Writing at [pt] http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/writing18ex.pdf shows examples of work created by students from grades 1‐8. Not only does this document show real student work; it shows the assessment of the level of writing demonstrated in each example of student work. The examples of student work make it easier to compare how a particular student is progressing in learning to handwrite, spell, punctuate, capitalize, paragraph, take notes, draft, revise, and edit writing, against provincial expectations. Comparing these exemplars to the work your student writes can help you assess current writing capacity and make it easier the instruction that will help the student write better. Teachers and parents can consider the language arts expectations for third and sixth grade students another way, too, by visiting eqao.com, the site of the Education Quality and Accountability Office for the Ontario Ministry of Education. Past tests are posted, complete with
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 20 the rubrics used to score them and examples of actual student work marked with those rubrics. Some of the rubrics focus on the content of the writing; others focus on how well the student is observing the conventions of standard written Canadian English. Ontario aims for 75% of its students to attain level 3, and studying the work on this site makes it easier for teachers and parents to see what level 3 and 4 writing looks like. Teachers who help students work their way through some of the test items are helping their students develop the qualities necessary to communicate effectively in writing. Teachers must take certain steps to assess writing in ways that are not conflated by students’ reading ability. This is not always done. For example, students’ writing scores on the EQAO tests depend partly on how well the students are able to read the material used in the test items. Some low scores will be due to reading difficulties more than writing difficulties. The easiest way to get a cleaner look at writing is to ensure that a student’s independent reading level is at least as high as the material in the writing test items or, at a minimum, to read to the student all text in the test item and the instructions for completing it. Teachers can arrange for students to participate in the lesson and writing assignment of the Ontario Writing Exemplar Project at the same grade level as their independent reading level. An exemplar writing project could also be chosen at the student’s listening comprehension level, if someone reads for the student throughout the writing assignment. Teachers will also assess their students’ writing more effectively when they teach writing more effectively. For example, students will be more likely to show their best writing if teachers show students examples or exemplars of the kind of writing they are doing, the rubrics that the teacher will use, and the marks assigned for the writing. Assess Factors Related to Literacy Learning [S] Once teachers have identified what children know already and what they must still learn, teachers can consider factors that may necessitate modifying instruction. Literacy proficiency is influenced, for example, by children’s ability to listen and speak. A child with a small vocabulary during his preschool years, for instance, may, even if he learns word recognition effectively, slump in fourth grade or later (Chall et al, 1990, cited by Hirsch, 2003, p. 10) because he may not know the meaning of words he can read. He can read the words aloud correctly but doesn’t understand the text. We can explore a child’s oral language capacity by simply asking children to summarize or answer questions about informal reading inventory passages we read to them. (Children showing pronounced difficulty talking should be referred to a speech and language pathologist.) These are other factors that should be taken into account as the teacher plans language arts instruction: Physical disabilities Developmental disorders (hyperactivity, autism, and so forth) Differences in memory and rates of automatic naming may also explain differences in the pace of learning to read and write, and university reading clinics often administer tests to measure these constructs. The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) is frequently used when children learn language arts very slowly despite instruction. The CTOPP may be used, for example, to assess phonological memory via measures of recall of both digits and phonemes. If the student seems to be able to hold less information in working memory, perhaps that slows
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 21 phonological recoding or learning to connect the written form to the spoken form. Slower rapid automatic naming (of digits, colours, and objects) may make it harder for all the information to get into working memory from the places in the brain where the forms, sounds, and meanings of words are stored. Science has reached no firm conclusions about how to remediate these observed differences, but teachers who assiduously encourage their students to read easily at their independent level, who help students read at their instructional levels, who systematically explore with students how the sounds of the English language are spelled, who help students learn to read directly the most common words of the language, and who help them to develop their listening comprehension and writing skills are already providing the kind of instruction that the clinics advise. More elaborate assessments are not necessary for a fundamental literacy assessment useful to classroom teachers. The case history of language development gathered from interviewing the child and parents and guardians in the literacy assessment may also reveal information that will lead to recommendations to adapt the language arts instruction: The teacher may choose to speak into a microphone for the benefit of a child with hearing loss. She may schedule shorter, more frequent lessons and motivate with concrete reinforcers like candy to help an active child learn. A teacher may arrange extra lessons for a child who learns more slowly. As teachers adjust reading instruction as they learn of relevant related factors, they can continue to observe students’ reading, writing, and general behaviour to further refine the literacy lessons. Write a Learning Plan for Each Student [S] The last component of an effective system of student learning assessment of English language arts is, I think, a learning plan, or life plan, an LP, for each student. I envision a record that would be passed from teacher to teacher so that each reception teacher could quickly learn key information about a student new to her so that she could begin immediately to provide appropriate instruction. Several components would make the LP worth the work. The basic information should certainly identify the most important information relevant to literacy learning: current reading performance (word recognition and reading comprehension), listening comprehension, handwriting, spelling, conventions of standard written English, listening comprehension, genre writing, and related factors Here there will be statements like “Albert achieved a level 3 for writing he did on the grade 4 Ontario Writing Exemplars Project assignment”—whether Albert is in grade 2 or 6. In conjunction with materials like the handout “End‐of‐Year Reading Level Targets for the Primary Grades,” teachers can use these results to arrange for more instruction for students who are falling behind their peers.
Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 22 The LP should be more than this. It should be a digital file, including a portfolio of the students’ work. It could even include the cover and comments about every book a student has read. It should include year‐by‐year statements by students of their plans for living a good life in the upcoming year. Conclusion You’ve explored a comprehensive approach to assessing the reading and writing performance of students: [S] assessment of beginner readers and writers, the growing word recognition prowess of students, limits to students’ ability to comprehend discourse, how well students are learning to write, and related factors that educators must consider in planning instruction. If schools assess and instruct language arts effectively, the students will show their literacy proficiency on any tests we put them to. [S] Students will learn best when they and the people who care for them, most especially their teachers, have a solid, modern, scientific understanding of the reading process. If you can fill in the blanks in this next paragraph, you’re well on your way to that understanding—and to being able to ensure that your students can articulate it, too. Capable readers can look at words and understand them as easily as they do when they _____ them. Mostly readers look at a word and connect directly to the word in their _____ vocabulary: They can understand language through their eyes as well as language they hear. When readers see a word they don’t recognize on sight, they can figure out quite accurately the _____ form of the printed form. If the word is in their listening vocabulary, they will recognize this word because their brain will have connected the spoken form with the word meaning stored in their _____. Reading is the product of our ability to _____ single words and to _____ them. If students can read the text aloud but can’t summarize it or answer questions, they need to find more _____ materials, either simpler books or other media.
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Assessment that Turns Kids into Readers, p. 24 Phonics Seminar on March 17th 2003. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://core.roehampton.ac.uk/digital/general/finetune.pdf Torgesen, Joseph; Richard Wagner; and Carol Rashotte. (1999). Examiner’s Manual of the Test of Word Reading Efficiency. Pearson. Westby, Carol E. and Patricia S. Clauser. (2005). The Right Stuff for Writing: Assessing and Facilitating Written Language. In Language and Reading Difficulties, pp. 274‐345. Ed. Hugh W. Catts and Alan G. Kamhi. Boston: Allyn and Bacon—Pearson. Wolf, Maryanne. (2008). Proust and the Squid. New York: Harper Perennial‐Harper Collins. Attachments: Basic Sight Word Test (Dolch, 1942) Book Level Comparison Chart for readinga‐z.com and Other Leveling Systems End‐of‐Year Reading Level Targets for the Primary Grades Environmental Print Reading Test Reading Comprehension Exploration Test Rogers Phonics Test San Diego Quick Assessment Graded Word List WCFNAES Paper complete version WCFNAES PPT complete version