Wherever possible, I use valid, reliable, standardised tests for assessment. However, I once administered a Running Record to a child with selective mutism, because she would talk to me, but not other adults at school (we were working on it). Her class teacher thus asked me to administer the assessment required by the school, which (sad face) used a multi-cueing model of reading and a text level gradient approach to reading assessment. Continue reading →
Last day of the school holidays. Time to summarise David Kilpatrick’s third excellent seminar, “The Nature of Reading Development and Reading Difficulties”, presented at the 2017 Reading in the Rockies conference.
Here it is on Youtube, if you just want to cut to the chase:
Numbers in brackets refer to the time on the video clock, to help you find sections of particular interest.
(2:14) Tens of millions of dollars are spent on reading research, and the findings go into journals, never to be heard of again, unless you’re a reading researcher.
Working as both a school psychologist and a university lecturer gave Dr Kilpatrick access to these journals, and made him think about their practical application to kids sitting across the table from him in schools. Continue reading →
I’ve just made up a free, low-frequency word spelling test which you can download here and use to explore learners’ spelling skills and knowledge.
It’s not a standardised test, so won’t tell you whether a learner’s spelling skills are behind, on a par with or ahead of peers. Its purpose is to focus your attention on the things that matter most for spelling:
speech sounds (phonemes),
letter patterns that represent these sounds (graphemes),
word structure (positions and combinations of sounds in words/syllables),
parts of speech e.g. “pact” is a noun, “packed” is a verb,
meaning (especially for homophones like see/sea),
meaningful word parts (morphemes such as prefixes, suffixes and word stems/roots).
This should help you work out which key skills and knowledge learners already have, and which they need to learn, and thus help teach them to spell explicitly, systematically and effectively.
Don’t do the whole test with anyone, it’s far too long (390 items). Start at your learner’s estimated current skill level, and work forwards if they get words mostly correct, and backwards if they don’t. Stop when you hit a floor (most words too easy) or ceiling (most words too hard). Continue reading →
The 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results came out yesterday. They show that Australian Year 4 kids are better at reading than they were in 2011. Excellent.
However, only 81% reached the “proficient” benchmark, and about 7% of kids are still reading very poorly*, a number unchanged since 2011. Far too many of them are indigenous.
What did PIRLS 2016 involve?
One Year 4 class plus all indigenous Year 4 students in 286 schools (6341 kids in total) across the country took part. The school sample was selected to represent all states and territories as well as Australia’s geographic, school sector and socioeconomic diversity. Continue reading →
Also on my reading list at the moment is The Influential Mind, about how to persuade people in the face of Confirmation Bias, our tendency to ignore or dismiss evidence that’s not consistent with what we already believe. Confirmation Bias is why presenting scientific data to the climate sceptic in your life never works. You can watch a video about it here.
Reading the Clark et al e-book thus also became an interesting exercise in thinking about my own thoughts. I’d set aside time to read the book in order to write what I hoped would be a thoughtful, informed response, but my brain kept coming up with other ideas. Did it keep switching off because of my own confirmation bias, or because of the standard of what I was reading? Continue reading →
Loud protests, of course. Not another mandatory test, etc. But I agree with his advisors that this short, simple test will be a good thing. I’m optimistic that once it draws teachers’ attention to not-currently-obvious gaps in their students’ reading knowledge, they’ll move to fill them.
This is a big problem for teachers as well as children. Teachers lose a lot of sleep over children in their classes who just keep falling further and further behind in reading, and who they’re not adequately trained or equipped to help.
It’s often very confusing for parents to work out whether to be concerned about their young child’s reading and writing skill development.
If the parents I talk to are reliable informants, advice from schools often goes like this:
Age 5-6: Yes, your child is taking a while to catch on to reading and writing, but let’s wait and see, she could just be a “late bloomer”. Just keep reading predictable texts and encouraging her to look at the pictures and guess, memorising high-frequency words etc.
Age 6-7: Your child will be attending individual or small group intervention, for more intensive activities of the type that didn’t work last year, e.g. Reading Recovery or Leveled Literacy Intervention.
Age 7-8: You need to pay a Psychologist $1000+ for a comprehensive cognitive and educational assessment, because we think your child might be dyslexic. If she is, you’ll have to pay a tutor to help her, because the school spends all its literacy intervention money on the program for 6-7 year olds.
I’m really tired of hearing this story, and aware that the “late bloomer” is usually on a path to failure, so I want to provide parents with earlier, more evidence-based advice. However, I’m too busy to offer a new service myself, so I’ve hired another Speech Pathologist, Nicole Erlich, to offer a reading/spelling assessment package for 6-8 year olds that’s fairly quick, focuses on the things that matter most for beginners, and doesn’t cost the earth. Continue reading →