If your child is struggling with their reading assignments, it may mean that his or her actual reading level is different from the level of the assignments. That can be a scary feeling for a homeschool mom! The first step to catching up to the correct grade level of reading is to determine his or her current reading level. Following are a few steps that can help you determine a general grade level for your child’s reading.
How to Determine Your Child’s Reading Level
1. Analytical Reading Assessment—Determining your child’s analytical reading level means finding out what words the kid can actually decode, or sound out and read. This method is based on the San Diego Quick Assessment. At this stage, simply ask your child to read the following list of words from beginning to end without staying on one word for more than five seconds. Make notes of the child’s mistakes. If he or she makes 0-1 mistakes on a word, you can consider them “independent” at that level. Two mistakes indicate that this level is “instructional,” or about where the child needs to be taught. Three mistakes, however, indicate that that level is too high and would frustrate your child. If your child is particularly young, you can use your judgement to exclude the higher-level lists. Remember, your child doesn’t have to know what the words mean—for this exercise, it only matters that they can read the actual word.
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2. Vocabulary Assessment—When choosing texts for a student to read, it’s important to make sure that they won’t be confronted by a page full of words that they are unfamiliar with. To test vocabulary for your child, gather together samples from several texts just below, just above, and right at where your child’s reading level should be. Explain that some of the samples will be really easy, and some will be really hard, but that they should underline any words that they don’t know the meaning of. In order to eliminate decoding problems, you can read the text along with them. Start from the lowest level and work up to the highest. When the child starts to underline most of the words in a sample, then that passage is too difficult. You can select your child’s texts from the levels below that passage.
3. Comprehension Assessment—Even if a child can read the entire passage, it does not mean that he or she has necessarily understood all of it. With a comprehension assessment, you can gauge the level of story complexity that your child can understand. Choose a 3-minute assessment a few levels below where your child should be and ask your child to read the passage. Afterward, ask your child to retell what happened in the passage. Your child doesn’t have to include every detail, but give his or her response a score from 0-3, with 0 being “I don’t know at all” and 3 being a good, comprehensive summary. Ask some higher-order thinking questions about the passage—questions that ask the child to recall details, paraphrase parts of the passage, apply knowledge from the passage, compare and contrast, make predictions, or appraise the passage. Score these questions similarly to the summary. Work your way up through the grade levels until your child begins scoring ones and zeroes on the summaries and questions. Your child’s reading comprehension level should lie at the passages that scored mostly twos.
If your child is reading below grade level, don’t panic. By providing them with material that they can read successfully on their own, it gives them the confidence and practice to be able to improve their reading skills. Conversely, pushing them into a higher reading level before they are ready can lead to a lot of frustration and tears for all involved. Finding out where to start is always the first step. You can do this!