Since January of this year, I have worked one on one with a student from Elsie Mironuk School here in Regina through a program called READ and it has been a wonderful experience. This was an after school reading program aimed at promoting the joy and importance of reading. My student partner was behind grade levels from where he should be reading at and we worked together reading a large variety (approximately 40) of books each Monday and Wednesday when we met for approximately 45 minutes of reading time. It was an enjoyable time where he would read books to me, I would read books to him, we would read together and each time we met, the READ group was first given a snack and group story was read to the students. From reading, I would also ask comprehension questions, for brief summaries, and we ended up drawing a lot in a notebook some of our favourite characters from stories. He also read books online through RAZ Kids – an online guided reading program. This program provides a variety of levelled books for students to read and quizzes to test their comprehension. Students can have the book read to them, they can read the book and click to hear challenging words and then they can participate in the quiz. Each time they read a book and take a quiz, students are rewarded with points that they can use to buy items for a space themed game type of room. My student loved this and from what I have seen of the program, I would recommend and would like to use it with my own students one day.
Through out the 3 months, we worked on various reading skills including looking at phonics, spelling and text structure, all within the books we were reading. My student, while he struggled with reading, was always smiling and was actively engaged. The books he read were from a specific grade level and were generally of interest to him. Sometimes, we also chose high interest, low level books for him to read. One of his favourites was Dr. Suess books and I have to say I enjoy them as well. All in all, I think my student learned some skills for when he is reading and that he had fun reading.
One thing really made me think:
I had not been the one to assess my student, nor am I familiar with the specific reading test which was used, but the level he was placed at, I soon discovered was too low for him. He was reading a level higher, but was still below grade level. Having interned in Yorkton, I was familiar with the Fountas and Pinnell assessment system and the level of books it provided which were alphabetical and corresponded to certain grade levels. Here in Regina Public schools, their books were levelled using numbers.
I found it interesting how different schools and divisions use different reading assessment programs and books. I wonder which one is better and how similar they are? Also, with there being a variety of reading assessment programs available for use, I question if the variety is needed?
I have just taken an ERDG 425 course here at the University of Regina focusing on assessing and treating reading difficulties. We looked at a variety of reading tests and assessments, deconstructed them and looked at them critically. My class also worked with students on improving their reading, but creating authentic assessments and tasks as well. Most of the reading tests are performance based – which means students are reading orally and are marked on this. This type of assessment is not authentic and puts students on the spot. They are performing for you, and often, students don’t have a chance to correct their mistakes. I have learned about authentic assessment – assessing students on what they know, what you have taught them and creating meaningful assessment (tasks as opposed to tests) that apply to the real world and their lives, and which move away from standardized testing.
And so from all of this, I question if there is a better, more authentic way for teachers to assess their students reading levels other than using reading tests. As well, if we can select books that draw on students’ funds of knowledge, prior knowledge and their interests rather than from certain books in a program? I think this can be done. Do you?