Individual oral reading tests? Who has time?
The best tool for assessing what our students know and can do as readers is the ORAL READING RECORD, otherwise known as a Running Record or Informal Reading Inventory. It involves simply sitting beside a student and listening to her read a passage, while recording any errors, noting fluency and asking a few questions to assess comprehension. (We’ve all had students who could call out all the words, but didn’t have a clue what they read!) But how do you find time to individually test every reader in the class?
September is a time for establishing routines and here’s another good reason for getting those independent reading and writing routines in place as quickly as possible. When our students are working independently, we can be freed up to listen to individual students read. For most students it only takes about 10 minutes to determine an appropriate reading level for testing, especially after the first round of assessments is complete.
Ideally, we want to collect an informal oral reading record on our struggling readers once a month; for students on grade level or above, once per reporting period is generally adequate.
Why not just give a written comprehension test? Unfortunately, most of our struggling readers are also struggling writers, so a written response is usually not a realistic assessment of what they know about reading. The individual oral reading assessment enables us to ask the student questions about her reading, probe his thinking, and invite elaboration or explanation from the text in a way that can’t be done with a pencil and paper test.
Assessment time is teaching time. Ten minutes of one-on-one time with every student each reporting period seems like time well spent to head off problems at the pass and provide every student with the instruction he or she needs to become a better reader.