TExES Science of Teaching Reading (293) Ultimate Guide2020-11-05T21:50:27+00:00

TExES Science of Teaching Reading (293) Ultimate Guide and Practice Test

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Science of Teaching Reading

Quick Facts

Domain I:  Reading Pedagogy

Domain II:  Reading Development: Foundational Skills

Domain III:  Reading Development: Comprehension

Domain IV:  Analysis and Response

Quick Facts

Overview: 

The STR is a new certification exam starting January 2021. It is for teacher candidates who are seeking elementary or middle school certification in Texas. The STR tests your knowledge and understanding of reading pedagogy and the skills related to reading development.   

Unsure whether or not you need to take the STR exam? Find the answer here.

Format: 

The STR is a computer-based test with 90 multiple-choice questions and one constructed-response question. You will have four hours and 45 minutes to complete the entire exam. There are no subtests in the STR exam but it does cover information from the four different domains discussed in this study guide. 

Cost: 

$136

Scoring: 

Since the STR is a new exam, a passing score has not been established yet. This means that there will be an interim period during which test-takers will receive a “pass/fail” status until a passing scaled score is determined. Most of the current TExES exams have a passing score of 240, with a score range of 100-300. 

Study time: 

Study time will vary for each individual test taker, but keep in mind that there are many different concepts covered in the STR exam. You will likely need to start studying several weeks before your exam. Start by taking our free diagnostic test. This will help you determine the concepts that you’ll need to spend the most time studying. Next, create a study plan that ensures you will have enough time to cover all of the material. 

What test takers wish they’d known: 

  • Any personal items (including purses, watches, and cell phones) will be stored in a locker outside of the testing room, so keep the number of items you bring to a minimum.  
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is better to guess than to leave the question unanswered. 
  • Keep an eye on the time. There are no subtests in the STR, so you’ll need to manage your time wisely in order to complete all the questions. 
  • 240 Tutoring offers free preparation videos for the STR!

Information obtained from the TExES website.

Domain I: Reading Pedagogy

Overview

The Reading Pedagogy domain accounts for about 13% of the entire exam. 

There are two competencies on the Reading Pedagogy exam:

  1. Foundations of the Science of Teaching Reading
  2. Foundations of Reading Assessment

Let’s explore a few of the specific concepts that are highly likely to appear on the exam.

The Construction of Language

Language is constructed in different ways in order to convey meaning. Some of the basic principles of language include morphology, orthography, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and segmentation. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

  • Morphology is the way words are formed by different morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. Morphological awareness includes the ability to break a word into parts, such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words. For example, the word unreadable can be broken down into the prefix un-, the root word read, and the suffix –able. 
  • Orthography is the set of conventions used for writing a language. This includes correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. 
  • Syntax is the way words are ordered to form a logical and grammatically correct sentence. For example, the sentence “He went to the car” would not make sense if it were written as “He the car went to.” 
  • Semantics refers to the literal meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence. For example, the sentence “He hit the ground” has a literal meaning of a person hitting the ground with either their hand or body. 
  • Pragmatics refers to the meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence based on the context of a situation. For example, the phrase hit the ground has a different meaning in the sentence, “He tripped over his shoelaces and hit the ground,” than it does in the sentence “As soon as he got approval, he hit the ground running.”

Segmentation refers to the ability to break a word into its individual sounds or syllables. For example, the word fit would be segmented into its phonemes /f/ /i/ /t/, and the word upstairs could be segmented into the syllables up and stairs.

Process of Learning – Spelling

Children progress through specific stages of spelling development, as described below. It is important that educators are able to recognize what stage of spelling development a child is in so that they can provide appropriate instruction to help move the child from one stage to the next. Let’s take a look at each stage of spelling development. 

  1. Precommunicative spelling – In the precommunicative spelling stage, children will use letters of the alphabet, but without understanding that letters produce specific sounds (letter-sound correspondence). A child at this stage will write random letters to represent different words. For example, a child might write “g Xj B” to represent “I went to the park.” 
  2. Semiphonetic spelling – As children begin to understand that certain letters are related to specific sounds, they will begin to use semiphonetic spelling. At this stage a child will often use one letter to represent each word, with a basic understanding of letter-sound correspondence. For example, “I am playing with you” might be written as “I M p U.”
  3. Phonetic spelling (invented spelling) – In this stage, children use a letter or group of letters to represent each sound that they are able to hear in a word. While their spelling may not follow conventional patterns, the words can often be understood by the student’s teacher or will make sense once the student reads their writing out loud. An example of phonetic spelling would be a child writing “My dog is running” as “Mi dog iz rune.”
  4. Transitional spelling – In this stage, children begin to use conventional spelling patterns and letter-sound relationships that they have learned. While their work will still contain spelling errors, most adults will be able to understand what the child intended to write. A child in the transitional spelling stage may write “We might get to jump on the trampoline” as “We mite get to jump on the trampolean.” 
  5. Conventional spelling – Children at this stage will follow conventional spelling patterns the majority of the time and will spell most words correctly. Spelling errors at this stage are reserved for uncommon words or words that follow nontraditional spelling patterns. A student at this stage might write “I am going on an airplane to visit my grandparents in Tenisee.” Note that the only spelling error in this sentence is “Tenisee” for “Tennessee,” which is not a word that the student would be frequently exposed to. 

Response to Intervention (RtI)

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is a process used by educators to identify and support students’ academic and/or behavioral needs. Using the RTI model, students receive varying degrees of academic or behavioral support. This support is referred to in terms of tiers. RTI includes three tiers, with tier three being the most intensive. Let’s take a closer look at each RTI tier:

  • Tier 1: This tier includes all regular classroom instruction. All students receive Tier 1 support. Students are regularly assessed or screened in order to identify students who may need additional interventions. If students are not making adequate progress, they should be monitored closely to determine if Tier 2 interventions are needed.  
  • Tier 2: Students who are not making adequate progress with standard Tier 1 classroom instruction may need Tier 2 RTI support. Tier 2 includes frequent small group instruction in addition to regular classroom instruction. The small group instruction can be done by the classroom teacher or by a campus interventionist. Progress monitoring should occur frequently to determine whether the student can return to Tier 1 or whether Tier 3 interventions should be considered. 
  • Tier 3: Students at the Tier 3 level receive intensive, individualized intervention along with regular classroom instruction. This is typically provided by a campus interventionist who specializes in the area that the student needs support in. Tier 3 support should be customized to meet the student’s specific needs. If Tier 3 support is ineffective, further evaluations may need to be considered. 

The RTI process should be ongoing and flexible. Teachers should continuously monitor student progress and make adjustments to their RTI plans as needed. For example, a student may need Tier 2 support for a time, then successfully return to Tier 1. 

Key Assessment Concepts

There are several important factors that educators should keep in mind when developing or administering assessments. Let’s take a look at some of these concepts: 

  • Congruence means that an assessment relates to the specific learning goal that is being evaluated and aligns with what was taught. For example, a spelling assessment should only evaluate spelling patterns that have previously been taught. 
  • Reliability means that an assessment will consistently produce similar results for the same test taker. If a test has high reliability, a student taking an equivalent test on different days might score an 88%, 86%, and 89%. On the other hand, if the test has low reliability, a student taking the test might score 90% one day, 48% the next day, and 71% on the next day. 
  • Validity means that an assessment accurately measures what it is intending to measure. For example, a kindergarten teacher evaluating students’ listening comprehension skills should read a short passage to the students and ask questions, rather than asking students to read the passage by themselves. Asking students to read the passage by themselves would assess their reading level and/or fluency, which is not what the assessment is trying to measure. 
  • Absence of bias – While it is difficult to eliminate all bias in testing, educators should try to make assessments as unbiased as possible. This means that tests should not automatically favor one population over another. For example, a test that asks students to read a passage about a skiing vacation and answer comprehension questions will be easier for students who have been skiing, giving these students an unfair advantage. 
  • Clarity of language – Questions should always be clear and easy to understand. Tests should assess a student’s knowledge and skills rather than their ability to decipher the intended meaning of a question. 
  • Appropriate level – Assessments should be age- and grade-appropriate. Teachers should take into account subject matter, length, and the type of question or activity when determining if an assessment is appropriate for a particular grade level. 

And that’s just some very basic information about the Reading Pedagogy domain.

Domain II: Reading Development: Foundational Skills

Overview

The Reading Development: Foundational Skills domain accounts for about 43% of the entire exam. 

There are six competencies on the Reading Development: Foundational Skills domain:

  1. Oral Language Foundations of Reading Development
  2. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
  3. Print Concepts and Alphabetic Knowledge
  4. Phonics and Other Word Identification Skills
  5. Syllabication and Morphemic Analysis Skills
  6. Reading Fluency

Let’s explore a few of the specific concepts that are highly likely to appear on the exam.

Measuring Reading Fluency

Reading fluency can be divided into three key components: accuracy, prosody, and speed. Each of these aspects should be considered when evaluating fluency. 

  • Accuracy refers to a student’s ability to read words correctly and automatically. Accuracy is usually measured by listening to a student read out loud and tracking how many words they read correctly within a specific time frame. 
    • To be a truly fluent reader, students must accurately pronounce words with automaticity, which is the ability to read words effortlessly.
  • Prosody refers to using appropriate emphasis, tone, and expression while reading. This includes pausing at appropriate punctuation marks. Prosody can be difficult to measure using quantitative methods, but should still be noted and taken into account when measuring fluency. 
  • Speed refers to the pace at which a student reads a text. Students should read quickly enough to remember what they read in previous sections but slowly enough to understand what they are reading. Speed is typically measured using words per minute (WPM). 

Accuracy and speed are often combined in order to get a student’s “words correct per minute” (WCPM).

ELL Teaching Tips for Oral Language

English language learners, or ELLs, benefit from specific reading fluency instruction. These instructional strategies include:

  • Modeling – Teachers can model good fluency and expression through shared reading. During shared reading, the teacher reads a text aloud to students while students follow along, either in their own books or by following a book with print that is large enough for the students to see while the teacher is reading. 
  • Rereading – Reading a text multiple times allows students to practice fluency and improves comprehension. Teachers should guide students as they reread a text by asking questions that focus on different levels of comprehension each time through.
  • Filling in background knowledge – While background knowledge is important for all students, it is important to remember that some ELL students may not have the same background knowledge as their classmates. Before reading a book, teachers should consider whether the text has any concepts that their ELL students may not be familiar with, such as a particular holiday or sport. These concepts can then be explained to students ahead of time through the use of pictures, videos, or real-world examples. 
  • Providing multiple opportunities for students to read aloud – Any time students read aloud, they improve their fluency and expression. This can be done in various ways, including:
    • Echo reading: The teacher reads a portion of text aloud (usually one or two sentences) and students repeat it back, following the expression and intonation that the teacher used. 
    • Choral reading: Students read a text aloud together at the same time. This can be done with a small group or with the whole class. 
    • Reader’s Theater: Students are assigned different character roles from a book. Students practice reading their character’s “lines” with expression and fluency, and then read their parts to the class or to an audience. 
    • Partner reading: Two students work together to read a text by taking turns reading aloud to each other. 

Focusing on vocabulary development – ELL students benefit from specific vocabulary instruction. Previewing new vocabulary words before a read-aloud or guided reading can improve comprehension and make a book more enjoyable for ELL students.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is one of many components included in phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate phonemes (the smallest units of sounds in a word). When assessing a student’s phonemic awareness, a teacher will often say a word or a set of phonemes aloud and ask the student to identify or manipulate the individual sounds. Let’s look at some examples of how this can be done. Each phonemic awareness skill is listed below, along with an example of how to evaluate the skill.

Importance of Phonological Awareness on Literacy

Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate different units of sound in a spoken language. This includes the ability to count syllables, generate rhyming words, and isolate phonemes within words. Phonological awareness is a crucial skill for students to develop. Strong phonological awareness can lead to increased fluency, improved comprehension, and effective spelling strategies.

Syllable Awareness

Syllable awareness is an important component of phonological awareness. All words can be broken down into syllables, with each syllable having a vowel sound. Children are often taught to “clap out” the syllables by saying the word aloud and clapping one time for each syllable. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Concepts of Print

Concepts of print are early literacy skills that help children understand the function of letters, words, sentences, books, and other types of text. Concepts of print include:

  • Print awareness: Understanding that print or text conveys a message
  • Directionality: Understanding that text is read from left to right and top to bottom, and understanding how to move from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next line (the “return sweep”)

Book awareness: Recognizing that books have a cover, a back, and an author and that the pages of a book are turned from left to right

Diphthongs

A diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds within the same syllable. Examples of diphthongs include the ou in cloud, the oi in foil, and the au in taught. While many diphthongs may initially seem like one single sound, they actually involve the tongue moving from one position to another when saying the sound out loud.

Sight Words vs. Decodable Words

Sight words are words that students should be able to recognize automatically, or upon first sight, without having to use decoding strategies. Sight words are seen frequently in text and sometimes don’t follow conventional letter-sound patterns. Examples of sight words include the, should, know, and was

Decodable words are words that students should be able to decode, or “sound out,” by using letter-sound relationships that have been previously taught. The number of words that a child should be able to decode will increase as the child learns additional phonics rules. For example, at the beginning of the year a first-grade student should be able to decode words such as sat and big. As students receive additional phonics instruction throughout the year, the number of words they can decode will expand to include words like watching, coin, and reach.

R-Controlled Vowels

R-controlled vowels occur when any of the five vowels are followed directly by the letter r. The r changes the sound that the vowel makes. Examples of r-controlled vowels include the –ar in car, the -ir in bird, and the -or in form. 

And that’s just some very basic information about the Reading Development: Foundational Skills domain. 

Domain III: Reading Development: Comprehension

Overview

The Reading Development: Comprehension domain accounts for about 24% of the entire exam. 

There are four competencies on the Reading Development: Comprehension domain:

  1. Vocabulary Development
  2. Comprehension Development
  3. Comprehension of Literary Texts
  4. Comprehension of Informational Texts

Let’s explore a few of the specific concepts that are highly likely to appear on the exam.

Levels of Comprehension

There are three levels of comprehension that occur when reading: literal, inferential, and evaluative. 

  • Literal comprehension involves recall of information from the text. Questions at this level can be answered by recalling information or looking back at the text. Literal comprehension questions might ask about character names, dates, facts, main idea, setting, or details. 
  • Inferential comprehension involves interpretation of the text. The answer to questions at this level cannot be found directly in the text, but can be inferred based on clues within the text.  Inferential comprehension questions might ask the reader to make predictions, infer how a character is feeling, or explain the reasons for a character’s actions. 

Evaluative comprehension involves the reader forming opinions in relation to the text. Evaluative comprehension questions might ask the reader to argue a particular point of view, judge whether information is credible, or form an opinion about a character.

Teaching Active Reading

Active reading is reading with the intent to understand and connect with the text. Active reading improves comprehension and increases student engagement. Teachers can help students develop active reading strategies by asking comprehension questions, by encouraging students to make connections to the text, and by modeling good metacognition during read-alouds or guided reading. For example, a teacher might pause during a read aloud and think out loud by saying, “I wonder what will happen next. I know that the wolf is clever and wants to get Little Red Riding Hood, so I predict that he will try to trick her somehow.” Teachers can also encourage students to make connections to the text by asking questions such as “What does this story make you think of?” or “When have you felt like this character?”

Tiers of Vocabulary

There are three main tiers that can be used to categorize vocabulary. 

  • Tier 1 includes common, everyday words that are used in conversation, such as jump, sad, or chair. Tier 1 words are usually learned through conversation and typically do not require specific vocabulary instruction. 
  • Tier 2 includes words that are used frequently in academic settings but less often in conversation, such as beneficial, contrast, or necessary. These words usually require explicit vocabulary instruction. Students will encounter Tier 2 words across multiple content areas, so it is important that they understand their meaning.

Tier 3 words are content-specific words that are used infrequently outside of a certain topic, such as meteorologist, photosynthesis, or circumference. Tier 3 words should be taught within the context of a specific subject or lesson.

Nonfiction Texts

Nonfiction texts are factual texts that are typically written to inform or explain. Nonfiction texts cover real events, real people, or facts. Students are often taught to recognize specific features of nonfiction texts such as headings, bold font, captions, indexes, or charts. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of nonfiction texts:

  • Expository texts discuss specific topics, events, or subjects. Examples include textbooks and news articles.
  • Procedural texts explain how to do something step-by-step. Examples include cookbooks or instruction manuals. 
  • Persuasive texts use facts and opinions to convince the reader to either do something or to take a particular stance on a subject. Examples include opinion articles and campaign advertisements. 
  • Biographies describe important events in a person’s life and are written by someone else. The subject of the biography is usually a well-known person or a historical figure. An example of a biography is Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.
  • Autobiographies are similar to biographies, but they are written by the person whom the text is about. An example is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin. 
  • A memoir is a self-written text about part of a person’s life, usually focusing on an emotional or significant life event. An example is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. 

Choosing Culturally Responsive Texts

When selecting texts for the classroom, it is important that teachers consider diversity, cultural sensitivity, and appropriateness of the text. The books in a classroom should reflect the various interests and backgrounds of the students. Classroom books should include characters of different races, nationalities, backgrounds, cultures, and family structures. It is also important that the teacher evaluate the sensitivity and appropriateness of the texts used in their classroom by examining the topics covered in the text and by looking closely at how a group or character is portrayed.

And that’s just some very basic information about the Reading Development: Comprehension domain.

Domain IV: Analysis and Response

Overview

The Analysis and Response domain consists of one constructed-response question, which accounts for about 20% of the entire exam. 

The constructed-response question will center around the case study of an imaginary student. You will be presented with an overview of the student, a description of the skill being assessed, and exhibits that show the student’s work and/or excerpts of student-teacher conversations. Using the information provided in the overview and exhibits, you will construct a 400-to-600-word response in which you:

  • Identify one academic need for the student related to foundational reading skills.
  • Describe an effective instructional strategy for the student’s need related to foundational reading skills.
  • Identify one academic need related to reading comprehension skills. 
  • Describe an effective instructional strategy for the student’s need relating to reading comprehension. 
  • Explain why each strategy would be an effective method for addressing the student’s academic needs. 

Want more information on the constructed-response question? Check out this video

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