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Clinical Assessment of Reading Abilities of Elementary Aged Children

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Image result for kid readingSeveral years ago I wrote a post about how to perform clinical reading assessments of adolescent students. Today I am writing a follow-up post with a focus on the clinical reading assessment of elementary-aged students. For this purpose, I often use the books from the Continental Press series entitled: Content Reading for Geography, Social Studies, & Science.   Texts for grades 2-7 of the series are perfect for assessment of struggling elementary-aged readers.


A number of specific details have been edited from below in order to protect the client’s privacy.  

A 5th-grade clinical reading assessment was administered to JB on a supplementary basis in order to further analyze his reading abilities for the purpose of formulating detailed goals in this area The examiner presented JB with a 5th grade, 5 paragraph long text. She then asked him to read it aloud and answer factual and inferential questions, summarize the presented information, define select context embedded vocabulary words as well as draw conclusions from text.

Content Reading: ScienceReading Fluency: During the reading assessment, JB reading fluency was judged to be significantly adversely affected by the following factors:

  • Omissions of entire lines of text (3 lines in __ and __ paragraphs)
  • The omission of an entire paragraph of text (__ paragraph which the examiner later prompted JB to reread)
  • Same word as well as syllable rereadings
  • Misreading of morphological endings of words (e.g., read ‘increasing’ as ‘increased’; ‘star’ as ‘stars’, etc.)
  • Insertions of extra words into text (e.g., ‘the’, etc.)
  • Omissions of articles (e.g., /the/) as well as prepositions (e.g., /on/) from text
  • Substitutions of similar looking words in text (e.g., ‘closest’ for ‘closet’; ‘there’ for ‘then’)
  • Intralexical (word) and intrasentential (sentence) pauses and hesitations
  • False starts (typically marked by addition of extra sounds or reading the first sound in a word only before reading the word again in its entirety correctly such as ‘p’ ‘people’)
  • Lack of pausing for end-sentence punctuation (reading past the period mark onto the next sentence)
  • Impaired lexical as well as syntactic sentence stress which resulted in significant prosodic disruptions at sentence level

During the reading, JB’s oral reading rate of 84 WCPM (words correct per minute) was judged to be in a below-average range for a 5th-grade student, especially because he misread five words during that 1-minute period. According to the updated Hasbrouck & Tindall, 2017 Oral Fluency Norms, JB’s reading rate falls in the 10th percentile bracket for the 5th grade Winter WCPM. Given that JB is in 5th grade, it is important to understand what the average reading rates of 5th graders look like in the middle of the school year. An average 5th grader is expected to have an oral reading rate of approximately 133 words correct per minute (or 50th %) in the Winter of the 5th grade (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2017).

While JB’s reading rate is presently significantly below that mark, it is important to note that recent research on reading fluency has indicated that as early as 4th grade reading faster than 90 WCPM will not generate increases in comprehension for struggling readers.  Consequently, JB’s current reading rate of 84 words per minute is judged to be only slightly below average for reading purposes. *Thus, rather than working on significantly increasing his reading speed at this juncture it is far more important to improve his accuracy of read words as well as his sentential prosody in order for his reading to sound more natural. This is especially important because of his reading fluency difficulties JB’s reading was judged to be unintelligible to unfamiliar readers in the absence of text. 

Main Idea and Verbal Text Summary: After JB completed reading the five-paragraph text, he was then asked to identify its main idea. JB produced a main ideas which was too simplistic and abbreviated given his grade level. He was then asked to provide a retelling of the story in his own words. JB immediately responded, “I don’t know.” The examiner then asked him, ‘Can you tell me everything you remember?” JB then produced a highly abbreviated response and added that he had forgotten the rest of the story.

Analysis: JB summary focused on an isolated detail from the 5th paragraph text rather than take the form of an organized retelling with a clear introduction, middle, and the conclusion.  Similar to his production of fictional narratives, JB’s expository retelling was significantly abbreviated and was not commensurate with grade-level expectations.

Text Comprehension: JB was then asked a number of factual questions regarding the text with the benefit of visual support (the passage placed in front of him).  During this task, JB was able to limitedly respond to a number of factual questions.  It was judged that JB’s impaired reading fluency adversely affected his comprehension of the text. As a result, JB produced many erroneous, abbreviated, imprecise or invented responses to the presented questions. JB was also unable to recall a significant portion of the story, nor use the text placed in front of him effectively in order to respond to the presented questions.

Analysis: During the comprehension portion of the assessment JB’s responses were often judged to be vague, nonspecific, and highly abbreviated.  Based on JB’s responses it was judged that he presents it with a highly limited comprehension of the text, and is only able to grasp the very general gist of it as commensurate with the abilities of a significantly younger child.

Reading Comprehension (with text access): For this portion of clinical assessment, JB was provided with a worksheet containing 6 multiple choice questions that accompanied the text and asked to complete it, given the benefit of written support. It is important to note that even when given the multiple-choice format JB was only able to complete this assignment with 33% accuracy (only 2 out of 6 answers were correct). His ability to complete this assignment was commensurate with his performance on the open-ended text comprehension task and was characterized by significant difficulty comprehending the presented information.

Impressions: Clinical grade-level reading assessment revealed that JB presents with numerous reading fluency and reading comprehension difficulties as compared to grade-level peers.  Deficits were observed in all areas pertaining to reading, including rate (either too rapid or too slow), accuracy (excessive number of various errors), fluency (impaired reading prosody), as well as reading comprehension deficits. Consequently, in addition to improving aspects of reading fluency, reading comprehension strategies should continue to focus on increasing JB’s opportunities to learn domain knowledge via use of informational texts; purposeful selection of texts to promote knowledge acquisition and gain of expertise in different domains; teaching morphemic as well as semantic feature analyses, increasing discourse and critical thinking with respect to informational text, as well as trial the use of graphic organizers to teach text structure and conceptual frameworks.

There you have it. This is how I clinically assess grade-level reading abilities of my elementary-aged students. For information on how to assess adolescent students’ reading abilities, you can read my previous post entitled: Adolescent Assessments in Action: Clinical Reading Evaluation HERE. 

What about you?  What type of clinical tasks, materials, and questions are you using to assess your elementary-aged students’ reading abilities and why do you like using them? Please feel free to comment below to share your knowledge with our readers.

5 thoughts on “Clinical Assessment of Reading Abilities of Elementary Aged Children

  1. […] into the student’s shallow knowledge of the passage and may result in an illusion that the student understands the passage,  but are not adequate enough to ascertain true comprehension of passage […]

  2. I’ve recently taken in an interest in reading and writing disorders and have found all of this information invaluable!

  3. I appreciate the information regarding oral reading fluency, and how increasing time is not necessarily beneficial. I wholeheartedly agree as I work with students who are hyperlexic and do not comprehend what they read. Prosody is hugely important–and I have not delved into the research as far as best practices to teach it–outside of most notable occurrences of rising and falling intonation to reflect questions and statements. These issues are relegated primarily to my kids on the autism spectrum.
    Do you have suggestions for books/texts for the assessment of students before third grade?
    Thank you as always for your excellent insight!

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