First, Next, Then, Finally

Posted by Big Universe on Sep 5, 2011 3:33:20 PM

Assessments at the beginning of the year provide teachers with valuable information on how to instruct students at their present level of understanding. In previous school years, I began quite early with these types of assessments so that I could begin my instructional approach designed to move each child toward independence in reading. This year, I plan to rethink my strategy for assessment, and first allow my students the time and opportunity to understand what it means to give an effective retelling of a story.

Recently, I attended a training session on how to administer the Developmental Reading Assessment 2 with Joetta Beaver, author of the DRA2. The information I gained during the training session clearly explained how critical it is for teachers to spend instructional time during the first few weeks of the school year explicitly teaching students how to give an accurate retelling of a story.

After investigating the DRA2 to greater detail on the Pearson website, I came across the following information related to the administration of the assessment:

"Should the retelling expectations be the same for a first grader and a third grader?

Yes, but on varied levels of text difficulty. In other words, a first grader reading DRA2 text Levels 4 to 16 would still require a score of 20 on the Comprehension section of the Continuum to demonstrate an Independent response, but he or she would be retelling text that is simpler/less complex. A third grader would be extracting the information from text that is longer and more complex. It is important to model and teach how to give a retelling, as well as have students practice giving retellings."

For more information related to the DRA2, visit the Pearson website at and search keyword DRA2.

Regardless of the level of text complexity and length, the same principles are true for a good retelling of a story. The ability to accurately retell a story should be taught in the first few weeks of school so that the students understand what is expected of them during the assessment. Students can then clearly communicate their comprehension of the story and provide teachers with accurate comprehension data.

I plan to incorporate and model the keys of effective retellings daily when reading orally to my students. In addition, I also plan to use wordless picture books with my students so they can create their own retellings of the story using the picture cues to guide them. Students will be working in pairs to come up with a retelling of the wordless picture book, and then present their unique retelling to the class. Students will be prompted with transitional words such as first, then, next and finally. Regardless of the students’ reading level, all students can use the pictures to help guide their retelling. This project should serve as a great way to instruct students on what is expected during a retelling of a story.

Note: Big Universe has categorized many titles on their site to match the Developmental Reading Assessment tool. Educators who wish to assign books to students based on reading level criteria can search for titles on the site that Big Universe has matched to specific DRA levels. It should also be noted that assigning books to students based on levels is just one way Big Universe has made it easy for educators and students to search for books. Additional categories do exist beyond leveling systems.

Topics: Personal Experiences

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