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How to Assess Reading for a Struggling Third-Grade Student

by Susan Rickey, studioD

The third grade is a pivotal year in a young student's life. Most third-graders have accomplished the basic building blocks of reading and are classified as independent readers. They are choosing chapter books, reading for fun and reading for information in content areas -- history, math and science. The shift from learning to read to reading to learn is made in third grade. A struggling reader will suffer in all other areas of his academics. Assessing the student's reading skills to determine his needs will help him in other areas of his school life.

Conduct a running record with the student. A running record is a way to assess many reading behaviors by having the student read aloud and making observations during the reading. Choose a reading passage thought to be at the student's current reading level. Explain to the child he will be reading the passage aloud.

Sit next to the student as he reads. Time the student to gain fluency data. A third-grade student should be reading 110 words per minute. Note on the running record the place the reader read to in one minute. The assessor has a copy of the passage and makes notes above each word that is read incorrectly. The reader may omit a word, repeat a word, change it to an easier word or add words. If the reader self-corrects an error, mark it on the running record also. Numerous self-corrections leads to a loss of comprehension. Each error helps the assessor determine the basis for the struggles.

Count the number of errors and subtract the errors from the number of words he reads in one minute. This is his accuracy rate, or the smoothness, speed and ease of reading, according to Reading A-Z. If his accuracy is low, the passage was probably too difficult for him. Find a passage written at a lower grade level and repeat the running record process.

Ask the reader to retell the story to test his comprehension skills. Make a note of the details recounted by the reader about the plot, characters, setting and the lessons to be learned in the passage. The tester may have to prompt the reader for more details -- "What happened next? Where were the characters when that happened? Who else was in the story?" If the assessor needs to prompt for these details, record the questions asked.

Make a note on the running record about the reader's intonation and phrasing. Third-graders who struggle with these two aspects of reading have trouble with comprehension. Without proper timing and expression, a passage's meaning is changed.

Items you will need
  •  Stopwatch
  •  Running record at appropriate level

About the Author

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.

Photo Credits

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