Resources to Assess Struggling Readers


Resources to Assess Struggling Readers

Guest Blog by Lorna Wooldridge

Resources to Assess Struggling Readers

Having read Lynn Given’s excellent blog, “How to Assess Struggling Readers,” I have compiled a list of the related resources to assess struggling readers for the first time.

I have collected and used these resources over several years of tutoring students with Dyslexia. I also video or record audio for all of my assessments, apart from the writing and spelling sections, and find this essential to insure I haven’t missed anything, and for preparing a written evaluation. I aim to repeat the assessment annually, but supplement with Marisa Bernard’s benchmark assessments, as students complete each section of the Orton Gillingham Online Academy Level 1 Course.


A Phonemic Awareness Test for Blending and Segmenting Words:
Yopp-Singer PA Test

I have adapted this test to also make it a test of a child’s blending ability. For example when saying the word ride, I give the child the individual phonemes /r/ /ī/ /d/ and ask them to blend the word. I space these tests out during the session. I also use unifix cubes and ask the child to pull out a cube for each phoneme in a word when they are segmenting, and to pull out a cube to represent each phoneme as they repeat it after me for blending. They then sweep the cubes as they blend the word.

A Single Word Assessment:

I use these four tests:

  1. The San Diego Quick Assessment
  2. The 40L Quick Screen Reading Grade Level Test
  3. Dibels Nonsense Words, Grade 2 (Pages 2 and 3.) The Dibels Risk Level Chart is handy to have alongside.
  4. Ruth Miskin’s Nonsense Word Test


List of High Frequency WordsI haven’t included this in my assessments, but after reading Lynn’s article, I plan to do so going forward, using the Dolch Sight Word Lists.


Short Decodable Passages:

2. My assessments are ongoing, just as Lynn described, but when I first assess a student’s reading I’m looking to ascertain their fluency and whether they are reading at independent, instructional or frustrational level. For this I use The Dibels Oral Reading Fluency Passages from Grades 1-6.

3. I ask students to read each of the passages for one minute, and tally total words, errors and words correct per minute. These results can be compared to The Hasbrouck & Tindal Oral Reading Fluency Data to give a reading fluency grade level. This LearnNC resource will give you an idea of how to assess a student’s independent, instructional and frustration reading level.

After fluency and reading level, I review comprehension as a student reads each passage. I have created literal, reorganizational, inferential, evaluative and word meaning questions to go with each Dibels’ text.

A Spelling Inventory: Primary and Spelling Inventories are available from the LA County Office of Education.

Writing Samples

1. My students provide two samples, one completed at home which they bring to the session and the other undertaken as part of the assessment. For the home part, I ask the parent to time the student for five minutes, but also to make it clear that this for quality and not speed or quantity. The students writes on a familiar topic, which the parent can choose. I ask the parent to observe any letters formed incorrectly, for example from the bottom up. In addition to legibility, I look at sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. I ask the parent to provide a translation, if it is going to be difficult to read.

2. For the second sample the student writes on a topic of their choosing, but the the parent should discuss it with the child before they come, so they are prepared. They are timed for five minutes and asked to write as quickly as they can. I’m looking at pencil grasp, pressure, letter formation, speed (in words or letters per minute,) legibility, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. After completion, I ask the child to read it back and record words that might be difficult to read when I’m going through it later.
To assess speed, I’ve been using Kathlyn Reed’s presentation on Handwriting and Keyboarding Speeds.

Lorna has a Bachelor of Education degree from Bath College of Higher Education in England, and holds a Certificate of Professional Practice from Roehampton Institute in London: Teaching Children with Reading and Writing Difficulties/Dyslexia. Lorna taught for many years in England, as both a classroom teacher and then working with small groups or individuals, teaching children with special educational needs. Lorna is certified by the Dyslexia Training Institute, and is experienced in the Orton-Gillingham approach. She has completed the DTI Dyslexia Advocacy Certification Course and is currently training with the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy, and working on her Level 1 Certification with Handwriting Without Tears®. She is also listed as a tutor on the Learning Ally Reader Tutor Network. Lorna is dyslexic herself, which gives her a unique perspective.

Thank-you, Lorna, for sharing your compilation of resources to assess struggling readers. This is a wonderful bundle of tools perfect for collecting benchmark & progress monitoring data.

Keep doing what you’re doing because the world needs what only you have to offer…


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