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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles

Meaning Skills

young woman silently readingThe Meaning Skills are:

  • Word Meaning (Vocabulary)
  • Background Knowledge
  • Silent Reading Comprehension

In contrast to the Print Skills associated with decoding written language, Meaning Skills involve some of the oral language abilities we bring to understanding written language.

Meaning Skills across the NRS Levels

Beginning Level readers (GE 0-3.9) usually know the meanings of more words than they can read. If texts are read to them, they may be able to understand higher level texts than they can read themselves. Beginners are rightly focused on learning to decode and read with Fluency. But their Meaning Skills instruction should not be neglected. Talking about word meanings will strengthen their oral vocabulary, and discussing current events and popular culture will build their Background Knowledge.

As Beginning Level learners approach GE 3, they are able to read more challenging texts and take part in oral and written activities to improve comprehension of those texts. These include making predictions, drawing inferences, and giving summaries. Written comprehension activities can also be assigned if they are accompanied by discussion and support.

Intermediate Level readers (GE 4-8.9) are focused on developing the ability to read to learn, the ability to use reading to gain new knowledge. To do this they not only need to become more fluent decoders, they also need to acquire more literate vocabulary. Direct teaching of academic words (aka "general words" or "Tier Two words") can speed this development.

Background Knowledge can be built by emphasizing readings in social studies, science, and literature. Intermediate readers can benefit from learning and applying straightforward comprehension strategies such as previewing, predicting, questioning, and summarizing.

Non-native Speakers of English (NNSE) at this level usually have lower levels of overall vocabulary knowledge than native speakers, and they are more reliant on context for figuring out Word Meanings. In addition to the activities discussed for native speakers, NNSE who are literate in Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Italian can benefit by explicit instruction in the use of cognates (words with similar spellings and meanings in two different languages).

Adult Secondary Education (ASE) (GE 9-12) learners are focused on acquiring Background Knowledge, reading strategies, and writing skills to prepare for the tests of General Educational Development (GED). Some learners at this level may also need instruction in academic words (aka "general words" or "Tier Two words"). Background Knowledge is usually addressed in the readings that prepare for the GED.

Comprehension strategies such as previewing, predicting, questioning, and summarizing should be taught, along with note-taking and study skills in preparation for the GED and post-secondary education.


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