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How to Test Your 3rd Grader's Comprehension in Reading

by Nadia Archuleta

Reading comprehension, your child's ability to understand the text he is reading, relies on interacting with a text before, during and after reading it. For text comprehension, students learn a variety of strategies to help them make sense of what they are reading. You have several options if you want to test your third-grader's reading comprehension.

Oral Reading

Teachers conduct reading diagnostics to determine children's reading level. One diagnostic that you can do with your third-grader is an oral reading fluency test. For this assessment, you and your child each have a copy of a grade-level text; the website Super Teacher Worksheets has an ample supply. Your child reads the passage while you listen, marking any mistakes. At the end of the passage, the child retells what he remembers of the reading. Ask him questions related to main ideas and details; reading comprehension worksheets usually include these.

Reading Competency Test

To aid parents in assessing reading levels, the National Right to Read Foundation developed a test that anyone can administer. The Reading Competency Test is based on the reading inventories used by teachers. In the first step, the child reads a series of sentences containing words chosen according to phonological decoding. Next he reads a passage while follow along, noting mistakes, mispronunciation and skipped words. Since this is a more formal test, the oral reading is timed. Finally, match the information to a given guideline to determine at what level your child is reading. The goal is that he reads at least third-grade level texts with accuracy.

Online Comprehension Tests

Some schools have access to literacy software. Teachers can use this software as a diagnostic to determine a child's reading level. Renaissance Learning, a common brand in use, guides students through a STAR test. The Internet4Classrooms website has several leveled reading comprehension tests along the same idea as Renaissance Learning. The tests start with questions based on recollection, move to comprehension and even test the students' critical-thinking skills. Some tests offer the option to re-create the story based on the child's level of comprehension. All links give a score of the child's comprehension level.

Third Grade Outcomes

By the end of third grade, your child should read aloud fluently and with expression, versus robotically. You want him to find the main idea, summarize major ideas and draw conclusions. At school, he learns a variety of reading and word-identification strategies such as correcting himself when reading aloud and identifying root words. He should be able to draw comparisons between characters, texts and settings and also identify the author's purpose for writing. Third-graders read silently for 15 minutes and read longer stories or even chapter books. Reading specialist Jennifer Thompson suggests encouraging students to read appropriate texts by using the "five-finger test" to choose suitable books: "Have your child open the book to any page. If he can find five words that he does not know, the book is too difficult."

About the Author

Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.

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