5 Ways to Assess Reading Comprehension Without Constantly Testing

During the average school year, students complete a state standardized test, a few benchmark tests, and several summative assessments for the end of a unit, chapter, or textbook. Although informational, these scores cannot provide all the detailed information educators need to accurately assess students’ appetite for reading or their ability to read. Simultaneously, testing consumes valuable teaching and learning time educators that can’t afford to spare.

Is it an art or science to measuring reading comprehension? Many educators are forced to teach to the test, to ensure students can answer questions correctly on a standardized assessment. But there is more to the story and most importantly an art to enhance a student’s comprehension through nurturing and observing students’ love for reading. Here are five suggested ways to do just that.

Motivate Your Mobile Readers

According to a 2010 study by Dominican University, when students are motivated to read, they read more because they perceive it as an enjoyable and appealing activity. When students are motivated, they use higher-order comprehension skills more than students with lower motivation levels do.

Try kick starting your students’ passion for reading by providing them with opportunities to read independently, and let them choose books that match their reading level and interests. Also, take advantage of the fact that today’s generation of students love using technology. They think it’s fun to have the ability to read anytime and anywhere using devices. Using a reading tool is sure to engage and motivate students like never before. If students are begging to read, you know you did your job!

Use Data, Not Test Scores

In a recent eSchool News article, Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak explained how he measures reading with reading, not reading assessments. The district tracks students’ reading time and the book levels that they are choosing. “We’ve found the more time students spend reading, the higher their reading levels get,” said Marczak.

The district also supports student choice by allowing kids to read books on topics they’re interested in and providing options for assigned reading. Having a wide library of print or digital books on a variety of topics and reading levels encourages students to read. Data gathered while students read, provides a complete picture of learning -at a time when action can still be taken to help students improve.

Read, Read, Then Read Some More

The more students read, the better readers and learners they become. Studies show that the amount of time students spend reading independently is the best predictor of vocabulary development and reading achievement gains. Today’s digital literacy tools can measure reading stamina and reading frequency, which are critical when increasing student achievement. Teachers can look at this data and provide interventions to help students read more books, more often, for a longer period of time, and further push gifted students in increasing their comprehension.

Inspire Reading Comprehension

We know that quizzes don’t effectively measure a student’s ability to comprehend what they read. Instead, educators can measure comprehension by encouraging active reading skills such as:

Taking notes;
Using graphic organizers;
Keeping a list of questions, words, and ideas from their reading;
Asking students to journal and reflect on their reading while exercising writing skills; and
Sharing their understanding of reading assignments with a peer.

Active reading also builds students’ overall literacy skills, which further assists in increasing student achievement in all subjects.

Provide Feedback

In a recent SmartBrief article, Billy Spicer, a fifth-grade teacher at Isaac Fox Elementary in Chicago, said, “Feedback is most valuable when it is specific to the individual.” His article also highlights how providing feedback to students helps them focus on the process of reading as opposed to reading to pass a test. “It’s amazing how students will ‘puff up’ a bit when they know their teacher will not only see the visible work they are doing, but will get a response!” he wrote.

He’s right. The key to effective literacy instruction is not preparing students for standardized tests—it’s motivating students to want to read that will eventually springboard their learning to new heights.

Ready to start planning your personalized literacy initiative? We created a checklist that will guide you and your leadership team through your personalized literacy planning journey, offering step-by-step actions and ideas necessary to effectively and smartly plan, set-up, implement and measure any personalized literacy initiative big or small.