Individual oral reading tests? Who has time?
The ORAL READING RECORD, otherwise known as a Running Record or Informal Reading Inventory, is the best tool for assessing what our students know and can do as readers.
An Oral Reading Record involves simply sitting beside a student and listening to her read a passage, while recording any errors (“miscues”), evaluating fluency and noting reading behaviors. It’s also important to have students retell what they’ve read or ask 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?
A good time to conduct individual assessments is while students are reading on their own. That’s why it’s important to get those INDEPENDENT READING routines in place as quickly as possible. While the class is reading independently, we can be freed up to meet with one student at a time. Within a week, it should be possible to listen to every student and assess his/her reading level and reading needs.
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 does not accurately reflect what they know about reading. The one-on-one test allows us to ask the student questions about her reading, probe her 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.