Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School: Beginning of the Year Assessments

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over!  I am definitely not ready to go back in the next few weeks, but I am getting myself mentally and physically ready.

As I begin the year, I always wonder what my students' levels of reading may be.  We go back in mid-August but cannot assess until after Labor Day!  That is almost three weeks that we lose.  So, I use that time to work with the teachers and my students to conduct some simple and quick assessments, so I can start working with those students who need me the most.

With students in grades 2-5, I can usually start off with looking at last year's end of year assessments and then go down about a year by using a running record.  This gives me a good starting point.  I like to use the QRI Qualitative Reading Inventory as a good running record tool.
But, if I don't have access to that, there are many options for running records.  You can create your own running record by finding a book at the level you want to assess and choosing a passage of at least 100 words from it.  Have the student read the passage aloud and mark your copy as you go.  Then ask the student to retell what was read to assess basic comprehension.

The hardest part of my job is working with Kindergarten at the beginning of  year.  Why?  Because we know very little about these brand new students.  Many times we assess them based on what they do in the first few days of school and find that they are super shy or unwilling to work.  By the second week of school, they are right on track!  For kindergarten, I use several different assessments to see where they are.

Alphabet Tracking ~ An easy thing to do with kindergarteners is to have them track the alphabet.  I give a them a sheet like the one below and say the alphabet with them as I watch.  If the student is unable to track the alphabet, I show them how and then allow them to try again.  Sometimes, just understanding what to do is all they need.

Letter Identification ~  I use letter flash cards with the students to see if they can identify the letters on the cards.  These are out of order, so they really have to know the letters to get this one!  As they are telling me the letters, I write down the ones they do not know.

Letter Sound Knowledge ~ Again, I use the flash cards to see if the students know the sounds of the letters.  If the students can't give me the sound of the letter, I ask them if they can give me a word that begins with that letter sound.

Rhyming ~ I show the students three different pictures, two of which rhyme.  The students have to choose the two pictures that rhyme.  I say the three words slowly, so they can hear the rhymes.

Concepts of Print ~   This one is really simple and can be done with a simple book.  I give the kids a book and ask some questions about it.  Here are my questions:
Where is the front cover?
Where is the back cover?
Where is the spine? {Most don't know this yet!}
Open to the first page.
Where are the pictures?
Where are the words?
"Read" the book.
I am not looking for the students to be able to actually read, but I want to know what they know about books and print.  It is fascinating to see!  I did this with my son when he was two, and he know sooo much more than I thought about books, just because I read with him every night!

Writing ~ I simply give the students a pencil and some paper to check grip.  I then ask them to write their name.  This gives me another insight into their knowledge. 
I look to see if they open it to the beginning of the book and go from left to right.

There are many more assessments I could use, but at this point in the  year, this baseline data gets me enough information until the students are assessed by their teachers.

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