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Assessment in Reading Issues #1

 by hilton on 27 May 2012 |
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I have heard a lot of discussion lately from teachers about the merits and otherwise of running records (emergent and early readers)  and  informal Prose Inventories (early and fluent readers). It is great that teachers are challenging the status quo and making sure they are spending their time and energy on worthwhile assessment practices.  But I also hear what I think is a lot of misinformation.
The following series of Blogs is my contribution to the debate.
Issue #1: There is a difference between a running record and an Informal Prose Inventory
It helps to be very clear about the tools we are using and the purpose they are intended for.
A running record (Marie Clay) is designed to get a window into the decoding practice of the reader being tested. It was intended specifically for ‘emergent’ and ‘early’ readers for whom the big focus in their instruction is learning to crack the written code placed in front of them.
An Informal Prose Inventory (at least the informal Prose Inventory that we have designed) is for ‘early’ and ‘fluent’ readers and provides a check on the use of those decoding strategies (the first oral reading) AND THEN some insight into whether  the student is constructing meaning as they read (student retells after a second silent reading of the passage).
The important thing to remember is that fluent decoding doesn’t necessarily equate with understanding. Fluent decoding can be a mechanical skill that doesn’t involve any cognitive energy. How many times have you read a page and realised that you have no idea what you have just read. A bit like driving a car across town and having no recollection of the journey.
Apart from the very few of us with photographic memories, the student’s ability to retell what they have just read is an indication that they have processed the text as they are reading it; that they are being active with the text rather than mechanical.
This of course becomes the focus of instruction once decoding has been mastered – teaching and habitualising mental strategies to process text and make it memorable. The Informal Prose Inventory provides us with an efficient means of screening what the needs of our older students are.


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