In December we worked on the story A New Coat for Anna and last week we read Koala Lou.
Since report cards are going home next week, my friend's teacher asked if I would do a running record on her so we could evaluate her progress and how she is doing in reading. My school subscribes to the Reading A to Z site, so I was able to pull off a story at her level with an accompanying running record sheet and comprehension questions sheet. The convenience of Reading A to Z is great, but I dislike the lack of authenticity of most of the stories. They are okay, but they lack the spirit of real children's books, so I only like to use them for assessments. The rest of the time, we read real literature.
My little friend read the story at level K, which is definitely below the 4th grade level where she should be. I want to say that according to the website. level K is more appropriate for a 1st or 2nd grader. She read the first few pages out loud to me while I furiously recorded her correct words with checkmarks and documented her errors on the appropriate column. This particular running record has a column to record errors and another column to record self corrections. Then there are two more columns where you are supposed to write MSV and circle what type of error was made or what skill was used to correct the error (meaning, syntax, or visual).
My friend made 19 errors. For every 8 words she read correctly, she made approximately 1 error. Not bad. Her accuracy was 88%. Again, not bad. She had a little trouble with the names of the characters and kept referring to the dog "Duffy" as "Buffy," but in the land of running records, only the first error on a proper name counts and the rest do not.
What fascinated me the most, or I should say, what made me the most proud was that despite the errors (most of which were visual meaning substituting a word like "there" for "where" or "break" for "bark"), my little friend got every single comprehension question correct.
She rocked it out.
After reading the first few pages out loud to me, she read the rest of the story silently. When she was finished, I asked her the questions on the comprehension sheet (which are accompanied by acceptable answers in case the teacher cannot determine whether or not the answer is sufficient...as if teachers do not know what they are doing...). Anywho, there are three different types of questions: text-based, inferences, and critical thinking. Not only was she was able to remember simple pieces of information from the story, but she was able to critically think about a question and provide a response with an extended answer based on her own background knowledge.
Yes, this student is not at grade level.
Yes, she makes errors when she reads and her fluency is not quite there.
Yes, she requires extra practice and assistance when it comes to reading.
and Yes, despite her disability (dyslexia), she gets meaning from text, which is fantastic.
Isn't constructing meaning the most important, overall goal of reading??
Although it is satisfying and excellent when students are at benchmark in their fluency and decoding, being champions in these areas does not necessarily indicate excellent comprehension. Have you ever come across a student that was a super speed demon that could read an incredibly large number of correct words per minute, yet couldn't remember a single detail about the passage and didn't have a clue what was just read?
I ask you, which is better?
Flawless reading without understanding...or...a rocky road marked by comprehension?
I know that typically errors lead to a decrease in comprehension because they interfere with the flow which interferes with the student's ability to make sense of the text and put it all togehter to get the whole picture. I get that. In the case of my little friend, because of her disability, and how her brain is functioning when she reads (her brain is using different areas and working harder than the typical person's brain has to work when reading), the fact that she can read a text and have high comprehension is a great, great thing.
We need to work on some strategies such a re-reading, using context clues to figure out unknown words, stopping at unknown words and asking for clarification or using a dictionary to discover the meaning so that her comprehension remains at a high level even when she moves onto harder, perhaps grade level texts. She still needs to practice and improve her fluency and decrease her errors when reading, but honestly, reading aloud is not the be-all-end-all of life.
Working with this friend brings me back to the past three years when I taught my first grade friends how to read. I cherish the moments when I can be part of that learning process for my new friend because there is nothing better than helping someone acquire the skills to be an indepdent reader, no matter what their age!