This is a great question that comes up all the time. So there's really no right age to test the student but there is a best time to test a student.
I would always recommend mid-to-late second grade. It's just giving the student a chance to get those basics of phonemic awareness and those basic reading building blocks that you need before you assess. So if students have been given a good general education curriculum -a rigorous and robust reading curriculum - and maybe they've received a Tier 2 intervention, then by second or third grade, if they're not making that expected progress and they're not meeting those expected benchmarks, it's time to test. You want to test to see what is holding the student back from meeting expectation.
Remember - you learn to read in K, 1, and 2, and in 3rd grade you transition into reading to learn. This is when we start direct instruction in comprehension. So if student doesn't have those basic building blocks and/or have advanced phonemic awareness skills, then a student won't make progress and phonics. If a student doesn't have phonics skills, a student won't be able to decode, and if a student is unable to decode, a student can't fluently read and without fluency, a student is unable to comprehend a text, which is Is the ultimate goal of reading...right? So it's time to test and that's what you're looking for at those age levels.
Now, with that said, there are students who will demonstrate lagging skills in phonemic awareness and not make progress despite intensive intervention in kindergarten. We should refer these students for Special Education testing as well. It is important to identify dyslexia early as early intervention is key for all!
Second language learners should be given a chance to learn the language before we test, but if it does appear to be a need for testing they should always be tested in their native language. So do dominance testing first to determine which language they are dominant in and then test them in their own language.
An oral reading retelling is a great progress monitoring tool to use for second language learners. We use a retelling to see if there is a need then to refer them for special education testing. You can use it to determine if they're kind of following a typical second language learning trajectory. And if not, then you can refer for testing we can talk about that more another time.
I have a great blog about determining the difference between disability.
There are a ton of apps and different AT tools out there for every need. But I am going to give you the very basic tools that can benefit most students with reading disabilities.
So Kami is up first. It reads aloud PDFs and allows you to modify PDFs.
Google should be your best friend. It's obviously seamlessly embedded on most Chromebooks which is part of what makes it easy to use. Google offers simple extensions that you can teach students to help them access the curriculum, and they can really own and make the skill independent. So Google Read and Write will read aloud documents. You can use speech to text. So it takes out that written like fine motor component and the spelling and all the other stuff.
Grammarly is a great app. This one is especially helpful for language-based learning disabilities.
Another amazing resource is Bookshare. They have audio books for students, but not just fiction texts. They also have academic textbooks on there. For example, our social studies book can be read aloud because it's on there. Our science text can be read aloud because it's on students' Bookshare account.
Yes! This is called Stealth Dyslexia. So basically this is students who are cognitively gifted, but not demonstrating this on academic ability assessments. If students are performing at a gifted level cognitively and their academics are just meeting grade level that's still a significant difference and it could be an underlining learning disability or dyslexia.
Some things to look for with students that have stealth dyslexia are that they're really very high verbal abilities and average academic performance. Some other things might include poor spelling and a mix of upper and locate lower case letters when writing. Poor handwriting in general and just kind of general fatigue around and a little frustration level around academics. They may also demonstrate an inability to memorize math facts.
These students often get overlooked because they have this strong cognitive ability and they're doing well academically, so we say they are "fine." But why are they not demonstrating their cognitive ability? Ask more questions for these students.
Start by teaching students to use a tool that they always have with them - their finger. Teach a student to point to a word as the student reads the word.
You can also increase student engagement with fun pointing tools like witch fingers!
EZ Readers are also great tools to support students tracking of words.
When teaching remotely, use a doc cam to show the text on the screen. Point to the words for the student as the student reads. Essentially, you will be the student's finger tracker!
Learn more about these ideas HERE!
Paraprofessionals are often are connections to the general education setting. Because of this, it is our job to support them in supporting our students!
One way you can do this is by giving them an IEP at a Glance for each student they work with. You can grab a free IEP at a Glance HERE! After giving the IEP at a Glance to a paraprofessional, review it with them, model how the accommodations, and continually check-in with them to make sure they feel as supported as our students should!
We all know that knowledge is power so connect paraprofessionals with good PD too! You can find some free webinars HERE!
How do you fit it all in? Easy!
Check out my lesson plan template:
You can read more about how I use this model on the BLOG:
AND you might also like these lesson plan templates: