Most states consider that reading ability is determined through a number of different skills, including phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Though Fry's readability formula (or one of the many others patterned after this approach) is the most widely used method of reading level assessment, I think most elementary school teachers would agree that there are certainly more informal methods outside of listening to the child read and counting syllables.
First, take into account that ability to read aloud does not necessarily demonstrate how much a child is actually comprehending in the reading. Students who may be able to sight read words with fluency or even perform at an above-average level while reading aloud, may or may not be internalizing any content from a passage.
The exact opposite issue comes from students who may have a very high level of comprehension and retention of written material, but are not very good at reading out loud.
Ideas may vary from teacher to teacher, but some informal methods of determining reading level could include:
- noting the suggested reading level of several books the child enjoys reading (on his or her own).
- informal or formal comprehension assessment of various written material.
- comprehensive assessment of a child's ability to speak, write, and read.