— Helene Goldnadel Classes

Helene Goldnadel on Evaluating Your Child’s Reading Skills!

Everybody wants their child to read well. The question is how can you help, right? Well, if you understand a few basic concepts, you’ll be able to evaluate your child’s reading skills and support their literacy goals just like a pro!

 

When checking to see how a child is reading, a good teacher looks at several key items that can tell some pretty important information of where that child is at with their reading development. Remember, to properly manage and instruct, we have to be able to measure progress. Evaluations help us with that.

 

First, before we begin, let’s take a look at the prize. Our goal is ultimately about the Big F…. That’s right, fluency. This is the grand prize. To achieve fluency, a lot of little steps have to occur and a lot of little parts need to work together.

 

Fluency? What does fluency really mean and how can we break it down for us enough to help our own child? Some might tend to think that fluency is about how fast somebody can read – how someone can go through the mechanics of decoding. While this is a partially correct, it’s certainly not the whole story.

 

Fluency is composed of two parts, the first of which may not sound too familiar – will be our biggest focus now: Automaticity. The word itself is mouthful, but it’s important so lets say it aloud again: Auto-ma-ti-city!

 

Automaticity simply refers to the speed and accuracy of word recognition and spelling. Achieving automaticity in the mechanics of reading and writing frees up a child’s brain for comprehension, the second part of fluency. And there you have it. Fluency equals automaticity and comprehension.

 

For now, let us focus on automaticity. Have you ever heard the axiom: “We’re learning to read, so we can read to learn”? Children are in fact learning to read, so that when they’re older they can read to learn about new and wonderful things.

 

Automaticity is the first step makes it all happen, and this is where you will be evaluating your child’s skills. (Now just for the record, comprehension skills are also simultaneously developing as well)

 

A good way to look at automaticity is like seeing the process that goes into developing a habit. We work on developing good habits during our learning time, our practice time, our reflection time, and our warm up times. Spending time explicitly learning the correct way becomes second nature or automatic after awhile.

 

Take for example an ice skating performer who beautifully twirls on the ice in front of large crowds. Though she makes it look easy and graceful, we didn’t see all the hours she spent, all the weeks and months she sacrificed in order to break down the parts of the routing in the smallest of units, so that when she expresses herself out on the ice, it’s automatic and beautiful. In fact, she performs most of her routine, without even thinking about it – with automaticity.

 

Here are a few key points by Helene Goldnadel to evaluate your child.

 

Be a good observer: What letters to do they have trouble sounding out or spelling? Make a note of them. Do they omit words when reading a sentence?

 

Don’t assess your child at his or her level of frustration: Try not to evaluate your child when she/he is at her point of giving up. You are evaluating in order to find the sweet spot of instruction, called the instructional zone.

 

Okay, now your evaluation will change as your child progresses, but here are a few tenets to keep in mind:

 

Phonological awareness: Observe your child’s ability to pay attention to and identify, and reflect on various sound segments of speech. Are they using blends correctly? (Blends are two letters joined together to make another sound, such as sl as in sling or fl and in flag.)

 

Consonant-Vowel Patterns: How is their use of consonants -vowel patterns shaping? For example, vowel patterns could be the ea as in team, ee as in seen, ai as in rain or train, and finally, ou as in shout. Make a note of these and review them when you are reading together.

 

Ultimately, there are a number of different ways to assess your child, but the best way to do this would be give your own spelling test, which is a lot easier done than said.

 

How would you do this? Well, write down twenty words that your child may or may not be able to spell. If you don’t know which words to use, look at one or more of their books and identify twenty from there. Then, give your child a blank sheet of paper and have him or her number the paper all the way up to the number twenty. Read the chosen words aloud and have your child spell the words out. If you wish, you can use the word in a sentence to help give your child a context for the word usage. Complete the spelling list and make your assessment. Mark which ones they missed and how they missed it. Did they leave out a letter, add in a letter, or omit a letter? Keep your child’s test and make the corrections. Keep the same word list and revisit the test in a couple of weeks. Again, make the corrections and repeat until all the words in the list are correct.

 

To strengthen your child’s skills with developing phonemic awareness and patterns, the use of flash cards can significantly help. Flashcards strengthen a child’s ability to sort, categorize, and recall information quickly – leading to automaticity. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to understanding where your child is and how you can support them in getting to where they need to be – fluency.

 

Also read: Childhood Exploration and The Benefits of Learning and Education

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