Over the Shoulder in Under 15

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Delma Martinez

Reading comprehension is the foundation of all subsequent education.  Without it, reading is just reading words that make little or no sense.  So, with teachers being so busy teaching and inundated with paperwork, how can they find the necessary time to check their students’ reading and comprehension skills?  This semester, I have learned of a relatively quick way to assess a child’s miscues.  This assessment is called the Over the Shoulder miscue analysis, or OTS, and it takes between ten to fifteen minutes to complete.  This analysis focuses on a reader’s miscues and their impact on comprehension.  I think this is a great tool for teachers because it provides a view into a child’s reading process and responses to unfamiliar or confusing words.

To begin this assessment, a teacher should have the child bring a book he/she is presently reading.  As the child begins reading, the teacher looks over his/her shoulder and for each miscue, writes what the reader reads and what the actual text said.  The teacher then checks whether the miscue was corrected and if it was not, then the teacher should determine whether the meaning of the text was changed.

Photo credit: 123RF ©
Photo credit: 123RF ©

During the Over the Shoulder assessment, the teacher may stop the child to ask the child what he/she is thinking or to clarify the meaning of the text if needed.    At this time, the teacher should also make anecdotal records of the child’s comprehension.

After the reading, the teaching conversation takes place during which the teacher discusses the student’s understanding of the story, clarifies and unfamiliar or confusing.  The teacher also discusses the miscues the child made, and any patterns that may have surfaced.   Reading strategies should also be discussed at this time.   It is also important to celebrate what the reader has done well.  Like anyone else, children like to receive compliments and teachers should focus on an aspect of the child’s reading that he/she did well.

The Over the Shoulder miscue analysis also requires a cover page for scribing notes from the teaching conversation, a miscue page for tallying the miscues but this page also serves another purpose. There is a space for noting the graphic similarity of the miscues to the correct text.  I like this part very much because it provides additional insight into the child’s reading by asking ourselves: Why did the child read a word completely differently from the text? Or, we can note that the child made a miscue but it has high graphic similarity.   The final page, the insights page provides a space to make the final observations notes and instructional suggestions.

The ultimate goal of the OTS analysis is to provide the child with the strategies to become a better reader through comprehension. This analysis, then, with the written observations and notes, works well because of the short time required and the great benefits it provides for the emergent reader.

Photo credit: 123RF ©
Photo credit: 123RF ©

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