It all Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part II

It all Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part II

Yesterday we took a look at assessments for rhyming, blending sounds, and segmenting sounds.  Today we are going to take a closer look at FILE00~4letter names, letter sounds, phonics patterns, and sight words.

Letter Names

There are some things that you need to keep in mind when it comes to identifying letters in the alphabet.  First, being able to sing the alphabet song does not mean that your child knows the alphabet, it just means that she can sing the alphabet song.  Being able to identify each of the letters in random order, which is the way that we see it in books, is a more advanced skill.  So you want to make sure that your child can do this.  Also, you want to make sure that your child can recognize both the capital letters and the lowercase letters.  Some people will just use the refrigerator letters and think that their child can recognize them all.  Some capital letters are different shapes than the lowercase letters.

You will want to have a system for recording which letters your child knows immediately and which letters she still needs help with.  here is a free  letter assessment that you can record on.  The child that you are assessing will look at the uppercase letter naming powerpoint and tell you the name of the letters while you record the ones that she is able to read with a check and the ones she has difficulty with as the letter she names it.  Then you can repeat the process for the lowercase letters.

Letter Sounds

This is invaluable information because once you know the letters that your child is having difficulty with identifying, then you can begin focusing your instruction specifically on those letters.  Next, you will want to take a look at what letter sounds your child knows.  Again, you will want to record the sounds that she is able to read correctly with a check and write the incorrect sound the child says for incorrect ones on this form.  For this assessment you can use the lowercase letters powerpoint above.  Since kids will usually see letters in lowercase form, it is more important to test them using lowercase letters versus using the uppercase letters.

Phonics Patterns

In Phonics the Easy Way you and your child are going to learn about 6 of the most common patterns that exist in the English language.  Those patterns are called closed, open, silent e, bossy r, two vowels, and c +le.  The purpose of the next assessment is to find out which of these patterns your child already knows.  You have free access to the PowerPoint and the recording sheet.

All of the words on this assessment are nonsense words because psychologists have found that assessing nonsense words actually helps you to be able to see what a child does when she is reading an unknown word.  You can see if the child is reading the word quickly or sounding out each letter and putting together the sounds.  You will also be able to learn if the child knows when the vowel sound makes it's long sound or it's short sound.

The easiest pattern to read is the closed pattern.  If the child has difficulty with reading words from this pattern, then you will want to discontinue the assessment.  There is no need to further frustrate the child when she is not able to do the easiest task.

Sight Words

It is important to have a few words that are just memorized so that your child is able to read complete sentences.  Sight words are words that appear frequently in text.  Some examples are the, you, and was.  These lists are broken down into grade level appropriate words.  Pre-primer words are words that kids in the middle of kindergarten need to know and Primer words are words that kids at the end of kindergarten need to know.  The rest of the words are broken down by grade level.

1.  Pre-Primer 

2. Primer

3.  First Grade

4.  Second Grade

5.  Third Grade

6.  Fourth Grade

7.  Fifth Grade

8.  Sixth Grade

9.  Middle School

If a child is able to read 18-20 words on a list, then those words are at the child's independent reading level.  If the child is able to read 14-17 words correctly, then this is the level that you should be instructing the child at.  Reading less than 14 words correctly on a list puts those words at the frustration level.  If the child is at the independent level for a list, then you automatically test her in the next grade level of words.  Keep testing the child until you reach a level that is at frustration.

These basic assessments will give you a fantastic idea of what your child's reading level is.  You will know which phonics skills she has mastered and which ones she needs instruction in.  Now that we have base level data we will learn how to teach each of these skills for the rest of the month.

Which areas of reading does your child seem to struggle with the most? Do you have strategies that have helped her with developing the skills she needs or are you looking for strategies that can increase her reading ability?  Let me know in the comment section below.

How Taking a Standardized Test is Like Reading a Recipe


Image by pirate johnny via Flickr

Many people love to debate whether we should or should not have standardized tests like the WKCE, FCAT, Terranova, AIMS, TAKS, or Regents.  The unfortunate reality is that for a long time to come, our schools will be judged based off of test scores.  I personally believe in a teaching style that allows me to teach to the student and whatever his/her needs are.  If students are to take these standardized tests, then, if I am to accurately meet the child's needs, I need to make sure that he/she is prepared to do so through proper test prep.

Many people are against teaching to the test.  Since no one really knows what will be on these tests it is absolutely impossible to teach to it.  However, it is our responsibility to teach students the medium in which they will be measured.  I like to compare it to cooking and throughout the rest of this article I will be using cooking as a metaphor.  I wouldn't expect a child to cook a meal without understanding how to read a recipe.  There are certain skills that are needed in order to do so.  In order to do so properly he/she needs to be taught or understand how to read and follow the recipe.

Test Taking Skills that are Similar to Reading a Recipe

1.  Vocabulary - There are certain words in recipes that a reader needs to understand in order to cook effectively.  It is important to decipher between T, t, tsp., and tbl.  If a cook does not understand these terms, you better believe the results will be different from the intended recipe.  The same is true for taking the test.  There are words imbedded in tests that are not normally used in speech.  For example, "The passage is mostly about."  We do not usually refer to things that we read as a passage, therefore students need to understand the meaning of this word in order to answer the questions with it correctly.

2.  Multiple Choice - In order to make a recipe you need to understand the format of the directions.  First there are always ingredients listed and then there are directions in the order that they need to be followed.  For multiple choice questions there are always 2 right answers and 2 wrong answers.

3.  Short Essay - If I have a fantastic recipe, then I  need to be able to know how to write a recipe in order for someone else to follow it and make it correctly.  Short essay questions are just like this.  I need to follow a certain pattern of including the question in my answer and backing it up with three reasons why I believe what I believe.

4.  Time limit - When one is cooking there is a time limit.  If you cook it too long it will not turn out the way that you want.  Time is important.  Time is important on standardized tests as well.  You only have a certain amount of time, so if you spend too much time on one answer you may not be given the time to answer the questions that you do know the answer to.  If you don't know an answer you can skip it and go on.  When you are given your 5 minute or 1 minute warning, then it is time to go back and fill in a guess for the answers that had you stuck.

Whether you agree or disagree about the value of testing, the reality is our students need to be prepared to take them.  You don't want to eat the results of someones cooking that didn't follow the recipe of your favorite dish and you certainly don't want to judge schools or students who did not know how to take the test in the first place.  Below is a blog talk episode where I personally talk about test taking with Adam the former teacher and Neil Haily the host of the Total Education Network.


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