60-Second Screening

A tutor for struggling readers asked me for a “60-Second Screening”, something she could use in a hallway or a casual encounter. Here’s a 3-part assessment that you can print out or display on your phone:


If you have trouble with PDFs on your phone, then here are the three pages as images:


The first page is short-vowel one-syllable CVC words, the second page are the same but with CVCC words.

There are no tricks to these two pages. A ‘skilled’ reader (by which I mean grade-3 or older, not missing any necessary skills) will find both lists effortless, even if he doesn’t know all the words.

Have your child read the first column of the first page as practice. We’re not trying to ambush them. Just don’t let them memorize the list.

We are interested whether they have automaticity in decoding unambiguous simple words, and whether they know the five short vowels. If they do, then they will be able to read these two pages smoothly, accurately, effortlessly. confidently. Worry if they do not, if they furrow their brows, start-and-go, make mistakes, and refuse to try certain words.

ANY mistakes on the first two pages indicate that they are guessing. That is *very* bad, because they will make guessing mistakes when they read texts and that clobbers their comprehension. Refusals mean they are using memorized words and checking their guesses from the first and last letter. That is better, but still unacceptable.

It is also bad if they are slow and effortful – even if they get the words right. Their comprehension will suffer because they must put too much of their available ‘horsepower’ into figuring out the words, and because their fluency will be low and they will struggle to remember the beginning of a sentence by the time they get to the end (messing up the grammar).

The third page is a test of morphology (units of meaning). No tricks, these are words with simple structures and unambiguous vowels. They only look hard. If your child struggles or refuses, then they don’t understand how to attack these words.

These examples were taken from the ASSESSMENT module on the Community Reading website, which has several more tests and lets you refresh the lists.

If your child struggles with anything on the first two pages, start with the free BLENDING program. If your child finds those effortless but doesn’t like the longer words, start with the free SPELLING program.

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