Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reading Assessments for the Start of the Year

     Another school year has begun! At the start of the year I am always eager to find out as much about my new readers as I can. I know that I need to hit the ground running if I want to move my readers and help them grow. At the same time, I don't want to burden kids with too many assessments. My goal is to keep things light and fun.

The Read-Aloud Test
    This is as easy as it gets. Read aloud an an interesting text with very few pictures. Watch how kids react.
    It's that simple! Well--not really. The book selection is the key part. With one group of readers I'm reading aloud Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children. If you have never met the Tollins, this book is well worth it. It has a very dry, British feel to the humor and is wonderful for helping me gauge the reactions of my readers. Which kids are laughing? Which are staring at the wall? Which readers look shocked at the treatment of fairies?
    In my other class I am reading aloud Toys Go Out. I've written about this book before, and I still love starting with it. This book is excellent for helping students to understand how readers build mental models. (It's funny, too.)

"What was the last book that you read that you liked?"
    I ask this question as I am trying to match books to readers in the first few days of reading class. Sometimes kids speak confidently about books and series. Sometimes they will describe a book that will help me to choose the next book to give them. And sometimes they will look at the floor and mumble a bit. Each of these is an important thing for me to know about a reader! By watching how readers interact with books, I can get a good sense in the first few days of which readers will need more targeted help.

Visualizing Assessment
    Fourth graders are good at using picture clues. So good, in fact, that I really need to pull away picture clues early on to see what they can do with simple text. A visualizing assessment is a wonderful tool for this.
    I tell readers: "I really want to know what is going on in your head as you read. Because I can't see inside, I'd like to you to do your best to draw a picture of what you visualize as you read. It doesn't have to be perfect, and I'm not looking at your artwork, so feel free to add labels if you want to."

 Another visualizing assessment in my book The Forest and the Trees: Helping Readers Identify Details in Texts and Tests. I've found that it's helpful to have several different versions to use throughout the year.

QRI Word Reading
    I learn so much about readers when I administer the QRI (Qualitative Reading Inventory). In the first few frantic days of school, I don't really have time to sit down and give a QRI my full attention. But I can give the first part of the assessment--the word reading part! This gives me some very early information that I can use to help students with book selection, and helps me to pull the right selections to use with students.
    I never do the QRI with all students. However, it's very helpful for students who seem to be struggling or seem to reading well above grade level. I love to sit down and really listen to these students read.

These quick assessments help me to find out some basic information about the readers in my room, early in the school year. They help to get me through the first few weeks of slow going as we look at routines and procedures. These assessments are a nice balance to my other main job of the first few weeks--getting books to readers! What assessments do you like to use early in the school year?


  1. Thank you so much for your post! I'm teaching visualizing right now and your slideshare is very helpful!

  2. I'm so glad to hear that! The visualizing assessment is a nice way to find out what kids can do on their own--I'd love to hear how it works for you!