The dictionary definition

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The dictionary definition of a language is stated as a system of communication consisting of sounds, words and grammar, or the system of communication used by the people of a particular country or profession in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (2nd edition, 2005). And that means, learning a language to communicate properly in that language requires mastering all parts of a language system such the vocabulary, the grammar and the sound system. According to Dawani (2006) in order to communicate in a language one should study a balance of four basic language skills which are reading, listening, writing, and speaking. That's why teaching and evaluation of these skills have always been particularly important.

In this paper, the evaluation of one of the four basic language skills, namely "Reading Skill" will be discussed in detail. However it is essential to lay some basic facts about "reading" before starting to discuss its evaluation.

Reading in a different language has traditionally stemmed from the need of accessing the written literature of a higher culture. Later with the appearance of communicative approach, instead of high culture literature, reading texts started to be chosen according to the reading aims like using everyday materials such as newspaper articles, bus schedules, etc., for purposes to develop communicative competence. As a result, teaching of reading and reading drills at any levels became a fundamental part of language teaching.

As a definition, reading skill is called an expertise which turns writing into meaning and enables the fluency and comprehension of the owner. Agreeing that, Rasinski (2004) states, accurate and automatic decoding of the words by giving expressive interpretations of it to achieve maximum comprehension means reading fluency. Accordingly, reading does not merely mean accurate decoding of the words like teachers thought for years. And that's why the assessment of reading should involve the ability of fluency and comprehension, for sure.

From another point of view, according to Stages of Reading Development of Chall's (1983) Reading is a skill which develops through some stages and a continuous process. Agreeing that, Beers (2006) adds that in case of a skip in a reading development stage, students will struggle in their reading ability and eventually this will also affect their writing skills. That's why teachers should be exclusively attentive to students' comprehension of each stage of reading process before continuing with the next level. According to Carnine & Silbert (2004), "Assessments provide the information that will enable educators to provide children with instruction that starts where they are and then build on that base to help children advance to the higher levels."(p. 13-15)

As it is apparent from all these researchers' statements, the evaluation of reading is a crucial part of teaching a language. Although most of the researches of that field unite in the importance of evaluation, they differ in the opinions for the evaluation mediums. No matter how much a particular evaluation type is praised by educators, in reality all of them has some advantages and disadvantages and use of these evaluation types is only a matter of preference.

Hughes(2007) states that, all assessments are basically designed to develop the learning of students. As it is stated in Hughes (2007), assessment is the process of:

  • Gathering information from a variety of sources
  • Providing students with descriptive feedback for future development

Miscue Analysis

In this type of assessment, the errors a child makes during the reading process are diagnosed. Using this method, a teacher can be more easily aware of the students' comprehension by looking at the mistakes he/she makes.

The 6 Types of Miscues

Correction: A child self-corrects his/her error and re-reads the section/word without prompting.

Insertion: A child adds a few words which are not on the page.

Omission: A child omits a word while reading.

Repetition: A child repeats a word or portion of the text.

Reversal: A child will reverse the order of the text or the word.

Substitution: A child inserts a different word, instead of reading a specific word.

Some rules about using miscue analysis:

  • Use unfamiliar text, not something the child knows from memory.
  • Do not use miscue analysis on beginner readers
  • Give the student some choice in the reading selection.
  • You will need a quiet place without interruptions, it can be very handy to record the child which provides you with an opportunity to listen to the passage more than once.
  • Photocopy the selection the student will read, use this to record the miscues.
  • Record each miscue. (Use hypens for skipped words, record each substitution (ie, went for when), use ^ for insertion and record the word(s), circle omitted words, underline repeated words, you may also want to use // for repeated words.

What do the miscues tell you?

Correction:

This is good! We want readers to self-correct. However is the reader reading too fast? Is the reader mis-correcting accurate reading? If so, the reader often doesn't see himself as a 'good' reader.

Insertion

Does the inserted word detract from meaning? If not, it may just mean the reader is making sense but also inserts. The reader may also be reading too fast. If the insertion is something like using finished for finish, this should be addressed.

Omission:

When words are omitted, it may mean weaker visual tracking. Determine if the meaning of the passage is affected or not. If not, omissions can also be the result of not focusing or reading too fast. It may also mean the sight vocabulary is weaker.

Repetition

Lots of repetition may mean that the text level is too difficult. Sometimes readers repeat when they're uncertain and will repeat the word(s) to make sense of the passage.

Reversal:

Watch for altered meaning. Many reversals happen with young readers with high frequency words - of for for etc.

Substitutions:

Sometimes a child will use a substitution because they don't understand the word being read. Does the substitution make sense in the passage, is it a logical substitution?

In Summary

Using miscue analysis is an important diagnostic tool that should be done every 6-8 weeks to see how the reader is improving in the strategies used. Making sense of the miscues will help you with next steps to improve the child's reading. It is worthwhile to have a few questions prepared that let you know about the child's comprehension of the passage read as miscue analysis tends to rely on advising you of the strategies used. Miscue analysis may seem time consuming initially, however, the more you do, the easier the process gets.

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