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Using Informal Assessments in RF. IRI. Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia. Sharon Walpole University of Delaware. Today’s Goals. Define informal assessments and describe their role in reading.

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Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia

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Using Informal Assessments in RF

IRI

Michael C. McKenna

University of Virginia

Sharon Walpole

University of Delaware


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Today’s Goals

  • Define informal assessments and describe their role in reading.

  • Become familiar with a variety of informal assessment tools available to Reading First teachers.

  • Critically evaluate these instruments in terms of their usefulness to teachers.

  • Plan to acquaint teachers with the most useful.


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Back in School . . .

  • Present selected informal instruments to teachers.

  • Help the teachers create a system for using these instruments to follow up DIBELS screening results.


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What is an informal assessment?

Informal assessment is defined as “appraisal by casual observation and other nonstandardized procedures”

– The Literacy Dictionary (IRA)

An informal assessment “is one in which teacher discretion plays a major part. The teacher, for example, may decide to modify how the test is given, based on early responses given by the student.”

– McKenna & Stahl (2003, p. 24)


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Characteristics of Informal Assessments

  • Criterion referenced

  • No strict rules for administration

  • No strict rules for interpretation

  • Reliance on teacher judgment

  • Subject to modification during testing


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Examples of Informal Assessments

  • A sight-word inventory based on an established word list

  • An inventory of phonics skills

  • An oral reading fluency test based on a current reading selection

  • An untimed letter recognition inventory, consisting of all upper- and lower-case letters

  • An untimed phonological awareness test comprising tasks at several levels


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An informal assessment can serve as a diagnostic test if it identifies skill deficits. In GARF, an informal assessment would follow a screening test that has identified a weak area. The informal assessment breaks that area down into specific skills.

How do informal assessments fit into GARF?


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Some GARF assumptions . . .

  • Assessments used in Reading First must have acceptable reliability and validity.

  • Many informal assessments possess these qualities.

  • Informal assessments are diagnostic when they can help teachers identify skill deficits to address instructionally.


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Coaches’ Corner

  • To what extent are your teachers using informal assessments?

  • Which are most popular? Most useful?


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An IRI combines a number of informal assessments of word recognition and comprehension. It can give tentative answers about certain questions. Let’s look at one …

What about informal reading inventories?


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An IRI contains …

  • One or more sequences of graded word lists

  • One or more sequences of graded passages

  • Questions accompanying each passage

  • Criteria for interpreting comprehension and oral accuracy


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An IRI can provide . . .

  • Estimates of Reading Levels

    • Independent

    • Instructional

    • Frustration

  • Estimates of Listening Level

  • Information about Decoding Development


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Overall Strategy for Giving an IRI

Estimate

Independent Level

(usually by giving word lists)

Give Corresponding

Passage

Move Up

(continue to

frustration)

Move

Down

Independent?

No

Yes


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But is an IRI reliable and valid?

A published IRI has many components. Some may be more reliable and more valid than others. It may be better for a teacher to keep a “toolkit” of informal assessments.

Let’s read about why.


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Walpole, S., & McKenna, M. C. (2006). The role of informal reading inventories in assessing word recognition. The Reading Teacher, 59, 592-594.

Read this article. It critiques the traditional IRI and suggests some cautions and alternatives.


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What have we learned?

  • What are some of the drawbacks of an IRI?

  • What do Walpole and McKenna see as the proper role of an IRI?

  • What is a chief way IRIs tend to “overreach”?

  • An IRI can screen in what four areas?

  • What “tools” should a teacher include in a toolkit of informal assessments?


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Let’s Plan . . .

  • Together, let’s examine sample reproducible instruments that we might include in a toolkit.

  • We’ll use four old sources:

    • McGee and Morrow (Kindergarten)

    • Lapp, Flood, Moore, and Nichols (Grade 1)

    • Paratore and McCormack (Grade 2)

    • McKenna and Stahl (K-3)


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Some Informal Reading Assessments


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Back at School . . .

  • Decide which instruments would be useful at which grades.

  • Plan to present these instruments at grade-level meetings.

  • Explain their connect to screening tests.

  • Seek a commitment to administer the instruments, perhaps just one to start with.

  • Facilitate planning based on the results.


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References

McGee, L. M., & Morrow, L. M. (2005). Teaching literacy in kindergarten. New York: Guilford Press.

McKenna, M. C., & Stahl, S. A. (2003). Assessment for reading instruction. New York: Guilford Press.

Paratore, J. R., & McCormack, R. L. (2005). Teaching literacy in second grade. New York: Guilford Press.

Tyner, B. (2004). Small-group reading instruction: A differentiated teaching model for beginning and struggling readers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Walpole, S., & McKenna, M. C. (2006). The role of informal reading inventories in assessing word recognition. The Reading Teacher, 59, 592-594.


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