Ways to Assess Children in Reading Comprehension

Written by karen hollowell
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Ways to Assess Children in Reading Comprehension
Classroom discussions about books help children improve comprehension. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Assessment is one evaluative tool that teachers use to measure comprehension. Children learn how to apply specific strategies while reading, and teachers assess their students to determine if they understood the text. The results of these assessments enable teachers to adjust lesson design and delivery or offer more assistance if necessary. Assessments vary in format, but all give teachers a definitive picture of each student's overall knowledge of the reading material.

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Formal Assessment

There are many standardised tests schools choose from to help assess reading comprehension. One of the most-utilised is Dynamic Indicator of Basic Reading Skills (DIBELS). The DIBELS Retell Fluency provides a comprehension check of children's oral reading. Students read a passage then retell or summarise the main ideas. The Woodcock-Johnson assessment measures comprehension by the responses children give to sentences or short paragraphs with a missing word. This test measures the level of inferential and contextual comprehension.

Informal Assessments

Some oral response assessments are informally designed and administered. Teachers select text to be read in or outside of class then lead discussions about the reading. Teachers ask open-ended questions that encourage children to express opinions and connect the book with real-life experiences. The instructors then observe students as they respond and interact with each other, which indicates their level of understanding.

Written Response Assessment

Written response tests give teachers another way to assess comprehension. Teachers develop questions based on a text recently read, then have students respond in writing. While the writing process is important to show adequate understanding, grammar and usage are not the focus of grading for this assessment. Completeness of thoughts and use of strategies like predicting, summarising and determining main ideas are the main criteria for success. Teachers should encourage students to use pre-writing tools like Venn diagrams, idea maps and webs to organise their compositions.

Alternative Assessments

Teachers may also choose other testing methods that allow children to display creativity along with comprehension. These alternative methods are especially effective for students with learning disabilities who may not score well on a standardised or written assessment. Children draw pictures or create art that depicts some aspect of the story they read, or re-enact an important scene by writing and performing a brief skit that retells part of the story. By participating in activities like these, students develop a stronger interest in reading and are more likely to retain what they read.

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