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Definitions, graphs, and references for various topics found on this website. Please feel free to browse the list below.


Information from assessments drives instruction. Assessments are tools that help teachers collect information for the purposes of specifying and verifying problems. Assessments allow teachers to make informed decisions. Assessments can be conducted formally or informally using many types of methods. A few typical ways information can be gathered are: surveys, interviews, observations, and testing. There are three types of assessments that are typically used to inform instructional decisions:

  • Screening: a beginning assessment of a student’s preparation for reading instruction which determines where instruction needs to begin.
  • Progress monitoring: a quick sampling of critical reading skills to determine student’s progress and to inform teachers if modification to instruction are needed.
  • Diagnostic measures: a detailed measure of reading and language skills which provides a more precise and detailed picture of a student’s knowledge and skills so that instruction can be more precisely planned.

We use the Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised as both a screening instrument and a diagnostic measure. It is a comprehensive assessment for all reading skills. It is a standardized test that when administered properly provides standard precision scores that are well respected as reliable and accurate measurements. It provides information that allows us to know where to begin instruction and what skills need to be stressed.

We use DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy Skills) as our progress monitoring assessment. DIBELS has been extensively tested and developed to provide critical information in only one minute. It is highly valued and used among literacy experts. DIBELS helps us know if our instruction is working.

MAZE is a progress monitoring instrument used to help determine comprehension. We supplement DIBELS with MAZE.


Comprehension is the whole reason for reading. Good readers read for a reason as they actively think about what they are reading. Comprehension can be taught using five research based strategies that improve comprehension. Those strategies are:

  • Make use of prior knowledge
  • Asking question about the text
  • Summarizing parts of the text
  • Clarifying words and sentences not understood
  • Predicting what might occur next in the text

Block, Cathy C., Pressley, M. (2002). Comprehension Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices. New York: Guilford Press

Fluency Training

  • Working towards reading that is fast, accurate, effortless, and expressive.
  • Fluency is best achieved when orally rereading.
    • Someone needs to be listening so errors are immediately corrected.
  • Fluency can also be achieved by reading books that are on the independent level of the reader.

Learn More >

Oral Language Proficiency

Two Elements of Oral Language Proficiency

  • Social language
    • The ability to communicate with others socially
    • The ability to get basic needs met
  • Academic language
    • The language of school
    • Content area vocabular

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Phonemic: An adjective referring to phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest sound unit in our speech structure. An example of a phoneme would be /k/ as in cat. Cat has three phonemes /k/, /a/, and /t/. Phonemic skills refer to the ability to discern these small sound units within words, to be able to blend them together to make words or segment them apart to spell words. Phonemic skills are done by just listening to the sounds we speak and without print, but once children learn their letters, letter knowledge strengthens phonemic skills.


Phonetic: An adjective referring to phonics. Phonics is a system of letter and sound associations. Phonics includes rules associated with the English writing system and applies phonemic skills as one learns to read and write.

Poor Readers

Poor Readers  - Shankweiler et. al., 1999 - Bar Chart depicting decoding skills to comprehension.

Shankweiler and his colleagues (1999) asked the question, "What do poor readers look like?"

  1. Are they mostly word callers (the bottom bar)? These are readers who decode well but do not understand what they read.
  2. Are they mostly children with strong background knowledge and extensive vocabularies, so they decode poorly but they comprehend fine (the middle bar)?
  3. Or are they poor decoders as well as poor comprehenders (the top bar)?

Shankweiler sent out a call for children with learning disabilities. He ended up with 176 struggling readers that were between 7 and 9 years old. All of the children had an IQ of 80 and above. These children had an average to above average intelligence but were having trouble cracking the code. He gave the children assessments that measure reading and listening comprehension, and assessments that measure phonics skills. He found that more struggling readers have problems with decoding and comprehension. Shankweiler's findings led to an acknowledgement that phonics is a major culprit in poor reading. The bar graph provided illustrates his results.

Scientifically Research Based (SRB)

Scientifically Research Based (SRB)

Learn More: What is Scientifically Based Research? A Guide for Teachers

Sight Words

There are two types of sight words.

  • 1st Type
  • 2nd Type
    • Automatically recognized words (e.g. any word you no longer decode but know immediately upon seeing it.)

Time and Practice

Amount of time spent reading linked with reading achievement of 5th graders - Anderson, et. al. (1988)


Vocabulary refers to words we must know to be able to communicate effectively. Oral vocabulary refers to words we use in speaking or recognize when listening. Reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print.

Vocabulary is developed indirectly when student engage daily in oral language, listen to adults read to them, and read extensively on their own. Vocabulary is also developed directly when students are explicitly taught both individual words and word learning strategies.

Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G. & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York: Guilford Press.


Writing is the ability to express oneself through print and to communicate ideas with others. Writing allows us to maintain heritage. Writing is a life skill that is often not taught. We are often required to do a lot of writing but are seldom taught how to do it.

  • Writing genres require different structure, knowledge and skills
    • Genre examples: Informational, persuasive, cause and effect, biographical, fictional story, poetry, etc.
  • Less is more
    • One genre taught at a time
    • In depth with many different opportunities to practice
    • On topics of choice
  • Process writing used
    • Planning, organizing, drafting, editing, revising, publishing

Graham, S., MacArthur, C. & Fitzgerald, J (2007). Best practices in writing instruction. New York: Guilford Press.

6+1 Traits Writing

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