The TExES Reading Specialist Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine if an individual has the skills and knowledge necessary to be a reading specialist in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses an individual’s leadership and communication skills as well as the individual’s knowledge of methods to improve the reading ability of students with a variety of different needs. This exam is required in order to become a certified reading specialist within the state of Texas. The exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:
- Instruction and Assessment: Components of Literacy (57%)
- Instruction and Assessment: Resources and Procedures (14%)
- Meeting the Needs of Individual Students (14%)
- Professional Knowledge and Leadership (14%)
The exam-taker will have five hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The Reading Specialist Exam is administered in a computer-based format and the registration fee for the exam is $131. However, there are usually other exams and fees in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level reading specialist within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Discuss the difference between high literacy and low literacy home environments.
High literacy students (i.e., those who live in homes surrounded by books, magazines and other reading material, and who were read to when they were young) learn to read earlier, more easily and with better comprehension. They start school knowing the alphabet and have relatively large vocabularies; some may already be reading. Fluent readers recognize words and expressions and understand their meaning automatically. They don’t focus on the words, they concentrate on the meaning. They make connections between knowledge they already have and ideas and concepts discovered in the new information. Low literacy students come from homes where little reading material is available. These students were probably not read to very often and usually have limited vocabularies. Their parents may use broken English, speak with a pronounced accent, or use a dialect filled with non-standard vernacular. Readers who are not fluent read word by word, because they have to sound out each word. Because less-fluent readers must concentrate on decoding the words, they usually don’t understand the information in the text and have difficulty processing and integrating the new data.
2. Discuss the importance of fluency and vocabulary in learning to read.
Fluency is the ability to comprehend the written word accurately and quickly. Fluent readers recognize words and expressions and understand their meaning automatically. They don’t focus on the words, they concentrate on the meaning. They make connections between knowledge they already have and ideas and concepts discovered in the text. Vocabulary is vital to comprehension. In order to read, a student must be able to decode the letters, arrange them in a logical sequence, and know what each word means. Readers need to recognize what spoken words look like when they see them written. If readers don’t recognize the words they see in print, they won’t understand the ideas and concepts being discussed. As students are introduced to unfamiliar subjects, they must expand their vocabulary in order to understand the new content. Research has shown that most vocabulary is learned indirectly through conversation and reading. Complex words, words related to a specific subject, and words not relevant to daily life are learned by instruction or direct learning.
3. Explain direct and indirect vocabulary learning.
Indirect vocabulary learning begins at birth. A child learns to recognize and understand words by how they are used, who is saying them, and what is going on around him when he hears them. He adds to his vocabulary:
- Through conversations, especially with adults.
- When adults read to him, explain new words, answer questions and discuss the content.
- By reading on his own. Encouraging a child to read is one of the best ways to help him expand his vocabulary and improve comprehension. A student is taught unfamiliar words by direct vocabulary learning in an effort to help him understand and comprehend new information. A teacher enhances the experience by:
- Explaining unfamiliar words to help comprehension before he reads the assigned text.
- Encouraging the student to look for the new words and use ones just learned.
- Providing the same words in different contexts to help understanding, memory and retrieval.
- Defining new words, using them in sentences, and relating them to familiar scenes and situations.
4. Discuss the importance of background knowledge in reading comprehension.
Background knowledge is the understanding of social and cultural influences in the world, which comes from being read to and reading for pleasure. To encourage reading, students should be allowed to select topics and media they find interesting and relevant. Any reading helps build a foundation of basic knowledge, expands vocabulary, and improves fluency. Participating in discussions helps activate background knowledge, integrate and connect new data with previously-acquired information, and leads to necessary revisions in understanding. For students to remember a word and add it to their active vocabulary, it should be relevant to them and essential to understanding the text. Students should be able to make a connection to information they already know, relate the term to personal experience, or use it to solve a real problem. Discussing examples and/or applications of the word in a different context, along with examples of how not to use it, help students understand. Requiring a written explanation of new terms is also effective, and makes new ideas easier to remember.
5. Define phonics and the whole language approach to reading.
Phonics is an analytical approach to reading. Students take words apart to study individual letters and how they come together to make sounds. Learning to decode or “sound out” letter combinations enables students to visually recognize words they already hear and speak in every day conversation. It gives them tools to sound out unfamiliar words. It helps expand students’ vocabulary by giving them a way to pronounce new words. Phonics helps them learn to spell, because most words are spelled like they sound. The whole language approach to reading instructs by building on knowledge previously acquired, encourages active learning, and emphasizes working in groups to develop social and communication skills. It brings together speaking, listening, reading and writing experiences to create a rich literary environment that emphasizes quality literature and cultural diversity. When students connect new data with information they already know in a meaningful manner, they understand the new material better and are able to use it more effectively. They integrate new information with the old information more quickly, retain it for a longer time, and are able to retrieve it more easily.
6. List some ways to combine phonics and the whole language approach to teach reading.
There are pro and cons to both phonics and the whole language approach to reading. Phonics provides a dependable way for students to sound out unfamiliar words, but often requires monotonous memorization. The whole language approach emphasizes learning the meaning of words in context but doesn’t provide students with a method to figure out new words. Reading teachers usually end up using a combination of both approaches even if they aren’t aware of it, so students get the benefit of the positives and avoid some of the negatives of each one. Teachers help stumbling students take words apart and sound out each syllable (phonics); they also ask probing, open-ended questions about the context in which the new word appears in order to help students figure out what the word means (whole language). It is important for teachers who use both approaches to balance phonetic instruction with other activities like reading from a variety of fiction and non-fiction literary works, encouraging lively discussions of stories or dividing the class into groups and assigning a written report on a story everyone reads together.
7. List some ways a teacher can improve students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
READ with expression and enthusiasm; share a love of reading. Assign novels, poetry, short stories, essays, editorials and biographies to keep boredom at bay. Let students decide what to read and lead a class discussion about the topic. Encourage critical thinking, ask probing questions, and pose different scenarios. Share personal experiences to diminish students’ WRITING fears. Assign essays, reports and term papers. Giving students the latitude to choose subjects encourages creativity. Critiquing and editing helps them learn to think critically and assess their work more accurately. Set a positive example by LISTENING carefully to what each student says and what they say to each other. Paraphrase to make sure meaning and intent are clear. Set up listening situations: one-on-one, small groups, formal speeches, oral reading, student presentations, and class discussions. Students learn good SPEAKING skills by listening to good speakers, so always use proper English when lecturing and during conversations with students. Assign a variety of activities: speeches, skits, debates and storytelling. Have students take turns leading class discussions, reading out loud, and making formal presentations.
8. Describe the guided oral reading strategy.
Guided oral reading is an instructional strategy used to improve verbal reading skills. Its main function is to improve fluency. This approach can be used with students of any age and grade level, and will help both native English speakers and English language learners. This exercise can be used at home, in the classroom with the whole group, or with the students in pairs (e.g., a fluent reader with a struggling student). The process works as follows:
- A parent, teacher, or peer reads a passage out loud at about 80-100 words per minute. The material needs to be at the student’s level of comprehension.
- The student reads the text silently several times.
- The student reads the passage out loud. The parent, teacher or peer offers encouragement and constructive feedback. It usually takes four times before the student is able to read the text without errors.
9. Define context clues and other elaboration techniques that may help students comprehend new words.
Learning new words is important to comprehension and integration of unfamiliar information. For a student to remember a new word and add it to his active vocabulary, it should be relevant to him and essential to understanding the material. One way to determine meaning is by considering the context in which the word is used. These indirect learning hints or context clues include definitions, descriptions, examples and restatements. As most words are learned by listening to conversations, it seems people use this tool all the time, even if they do it unconsciously. The words and terms presented at the start of a lesson should reflect key concepts that form the foundation of the material and will be used often. Paraphrasing gives the main idea plus essential details necessary to understand and clarify the core idea. Students should be able to make a connection to information they already know, relate the term to personal experience, or use it to solve a real problem. Discussing examples and/or applications of the word in a different context, along with examples of how not to use it, can also help.
10. Discuss reasons students should read, and list strategies to help them make the most of their reading experiences.
There are two reasons to read: for pleasure and to learn. Students read to improve comprehension, develop a broad, eclectic background of knowledge, and to expand their vocabulary. It is important to read different media, such as books, magazines, newspapers, and carefully screened articles on the Internet. Using class discussions to highlight, summarize, review and critique the material contributes to a positive reading experience. Comprehension improves when students actively think about what they are reading, apply new knowledge, and connect new information to their world. When a student is able to visualize the material, it becomes more personal and real. When he engages in an internal dialogue with the author, he learns more effectively and retains the information for a longer period. Students need to know how to determine the importance of information and discriminate between the essential and the inessential. Carefully-worded questions help students learn what to look for when they read.