What Is a Diagnostic Reading Assessment?

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A diagnostic reading assessment is used to measure students' skills in each of the five components of reading: vocabulary, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension. It is given several times throughout the school year and helps teachers drive instruction toward specific needs of their students.

1 Letter Naming Fluency

This test is a timed assessment in which the student has one minute to call the names of randomly printed letters, both upper and lower case. This test is given to kindergarten and first-grade students.

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2 Initial Sound Fluency

This is also a timed test. The tester will show the students four pictures and ask them which one starts with a targeted letter. For example, which picture begins with the sound "a?" This test is given to Kindergarten students to assess awareness of beginning sounds.

3 Phoneme Segmentatino Fluency

This test is primarily for Kindergarten and first-grade students. The time is set for one minute, and the tester says a word. The student then has to say each sound that they hear. For example, "What sounds do you hear in the word cat"? The student should say c-a-t. This helps the teacher know if the student cannot hear and produce sounds.

4 Nonsense Word Fluency

This test is similar to the phoneme segmentation test, except that the words are nonsensical. Students have to look at words and say either the individual sounds or the entire word. For example, the word may be "hoj." Hopefully, by first and second grade, the student will be able to read the word as a whole. This test gives a true measure of whether students are hearing sounds in unfamiliar words.

5 Oral Reading Fluency

This test is given to first through sixth graders. The student has to read passages already printed and measured for reading rate. There are targeted reading rates for students in each grade. A first grader should end the year reading 40 words per minute (wpm). A sixth-grader is expected to be reading 125 wpm.

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.