Magazine article Practical Literacy

Help for Vlad: Reading Assessment and Improvement

Magazine article Practical Literacy

Help for Vlad: Reading Assessment and Improvement

Article excerpt

Reading is central in students' school life, but many children reach upper primary grades without developing independent reading skills. In schools, struggling readers face many disadvantages if they cannot read and readily understand. On the other hand, independent readers can control their reading and comprehension, and manage problems that arise while they are reading. Following is a description of my work with Vlad (pseudonym), a struggling Year 4 reader, and the methods I employed in weekly reading conferences to improve his general reading ability. These conferences, which took place on weekends, were carried out for two hours, twice a week, over a period of four months. During this period I implemented reading and comprehension assessments, self-selected reading tasks and writing activities.

Vlad is from one of the Eastern European countries and he speaks English as a second language. His oral language English competency is good, but he was identified as a 'weak reader' by his teacher and parents.

At our first meeting, I identified Vlad's reading interests and learned that he liked reading about sharks, dinosaurs and cats. Consequently, I brought many fiction and non-fiction books for Vlad to choose from for following meetings. I believed that self-selected books would be more enjoyable and comprehensible for Vlad.

At the second meeting, I conducted a running record to assess Vlad's oral reading strategies (Clay 1993). Using this technique, the teacher listens to the student's oral reading, records errors and self-corrections and determines the reading strategies used by the student. In addition, the analysis of the running record serves to reveal the student's semantic, syntactic and visual miscues. The running record reading assessment technique is easy to implement because it requires little preparation from the teacher; simply the selection of an appropriate text and a blank piece of paper for recording reading behaviours. An experienced teacher can easily implement a running record. Running records are generally carried out with students reading aloud from texts containing 100 to 200 words. (Hill and Ruptic 1994) and, according to Clay (1993), if a student reads between 95 and 100% of the words correctly, the text is deemed to be easy. Oral reading with an accuracy rate between 90 and 94% indicates that the text is at an instructional level for that student, and below 89% word reading accuracy indicates that the text is too hard, or at a 'frustrational' for the student. Vlad's first running record revealed that his reading accuracy was 71%, which showed that the selected text was too difficult for him to read independently.

After the third and fourth meetings, I determined that Vlad was making many visual errors while reading; his over-reliance on visual cues prevented him from reading the words correctly. For example, many times, instead of 'with' he said 'which,' and instead of 'humped' he said 'bumped.' Furthermore, Vlad frequently omitted words as he read. I followed up by conducting a mini-conference with Vlad on his reading miscues, in which I discussed his errors with him. I asked him, 'Do you realise when you make a reading error?' He replied, 'Sometimes I realise my mistakes.' After hearing this, my aim was to assist him to self monitor for meaning and to self-correct as he read. The mini-conference was very helpful in assisting him to focus on correcting his reading errors, a task he came to enjoy.

I focused on determining Vlad's reading comprehension during and after the reading of a text. I did this by asking 'Who, why, where, when, and how' questions and by getting him to carry out written summaries of the text read. Through these written summaries, Vlad was required to reconsider and reorder the content, identify the most important ideas in the reading, and distinguish more important ideas from the less important ones. McKenna and Robinson (2006) highlight these opportunities in written summaries of texts. …

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