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First Year Teacher Program



Teacher Toolbox


 1.  Print awareness
 2.  The sounds of speech
 3.  Phonemic awareness
 4.  Phonics
 5.  Informal classroom-based assessment
 6.  Fluency
 7.  Vocabulary
 8.  Spelling
 9.  Writing
 10.  Text comprehension

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Module 5  –  Informal classroom-based assessment

  |   Pre-test  |  Intro  |  In depth  |  In practice  |  Assignments  |  Post-test  |  

In practice

Video Clip

An Assessment of a Pre-reader

This video clip includes examples of concepts of print and letter recognition assessments.

An Early Elementary Assessment

This video clip includes examples of informal phonological/phonemic awareness assessments.

Letter/Sound Recognition Assessment

Familiarity with the letters of the alphabet is essential to the development of reading skills. Instruction should be geared towards unknown letters and their sounds. Students should be able to recognize the letters in both uppercase and lowercase forms. Click here for a sample assessment tool for Letter/Sound Recognition.

For helpful tips on administering a letter/sound assessment, please view the video clip, "An Assessment of a Pre-reader," before proceding.

Concepts of Print Assessment

Concepts of print are usually learned incidentally as children are exposed to books and story readings at home and at school. Concepts of print include an understanding that: print carries meaning, that books contain letters, words, sentences, and spaces. It also includes understanding what books are used for, and that books have parts such as a front cover, back cover and a spine. Eventually, students learn more sophisticated ideas such as understanding that we begin reading on the left and read across the page to the last word on the right, and then we got to the next line, begin reading on the left, and so on…

Click here for a tool to help assess students.

For helpful tips on administering Concepts of Print assessments, please view the video clip, "An Assessment of a Pre-reader," before proceding.

Phonological Awareness Assessment

As discussed in Module 3: Phonemic Awareness, phonological awareness is a necessary part of reading instruction. Children can show you they have phonological awareness in several ways. It is necessary as the classroom teacher to determine strengths and weaknesses to plan instruction. Here is a tool to measure this area.

For helpful tips on administering phonological/phonemic awareness assessments, please view the video clip, "An Early Elementary Assessment," before proceding.

Reading Comprehension Assessments

Reading comprehension assessments are the most common type of published reading test that is available. And the most typical type of reading comprehension assessment involves asking a child to read a passage of text that is leveled appropriately for the child's age or grade, and then asking explicit, detailed questions about the content of the text. An example of a common reading comprehension assessment is the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI), also known as the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI).

There are some variations on the basic reading comprehension assessment. For example, instead of questions about facts found directly in the text, the child could be asked to answer questions about information that is implied in the text, or the child might be asked to retell the story in the child's own words.

Oral Reading Accuracy Assessment

This assessment provides a measure of a student's oral reading accuracy by giving teachers insight into a student's individual reading level. It allows the teacher to listen and record reading behaviors such as the number of errors a student makes, if the student substitutes words, or if the student needs prompting from the teacher.

The information offered by this assessment is limited. For example, it does not measure phonological ability, vocabulary, or comprehension. This is why it is often given in conjunction with other assessments such as the Informal Reading Inventory. It should never be used in isolation.

Note: When children read orally, they usually concentrate on reading accurately, and do not pay as much attention to comprehension of the content. It is also important to remember that if this assessment is used with students who are new to learning English, it should be given both in English and the child's primary language.

Steps to Administering an Oral Reading Accuracy Assessment

  1. Choose a book that is age appropriate, but unfamiliar to your student. (This gives a more accurate picture of a child's ability in handling texts.)

  2. Ask the student to read the story aloud to you and then at the end tell you what the story was about.

  3. You should familiarize yourself with the following scoring information prior to administering this assessment:

    Reading behavior

    How to score

    Read correctly (no error)

    Check mark over word

    Ommission (one error)

    Long dash over word omitted

    Insertion (one error)

    ^ at point of insertion with the inserted word written above it

    Repetition of a word (no error)

    Mark above word with a capital R

    Repetition of a phrase (no error)

    Capital R with a line and an arrow stretching across phrase repeated

    Self correction (no error)

    Capital SC above the word to indicate child has self-corrected

    Unable to read word (one error)

    T for Teacher prompt

    Decodes a word in an obvious manner (no error)

    Mark individual sounds read within the word followed by a check mark if eventually read correctly or a circle if read incorrectly

    Read incorrectly (one error)

    Circle word

    What should you count as an error when giving this assessment?

    • Substituting a word

      Passage reads: The tall fir tree.
      Student reads: The tall far tree.

    • Omitting a word

      Passage reads: The tall fir tree.
      Student reads: The tall tree.

    • Inserting a word

      Passage reads: A dark and stormy night.
      Student reads: A dark and stormy winter night.

    • If the student has to be told a word by the person administering the running record.

      Passage reads: I wish that people…
      Student reads: I wish that… (pauses) that… (teacher prompts "people")…

  4. As the student reads, mark each word on the form by using the symbols above. Place a check mark above the words read correctly.

  5. If the student reads a word incorrectly or substitutes a word, record what is said above the actual word.

  6. As the student reads, pay attention to his or her behavior. Is the student using context clues (from the sentence or pictures), structure (language sounds correct) and visual cues (using beginning sounds, familiar word chunks, etc.) to read words and gather meaning?

  7. Intervene as little as possible when a student is reading.

  8. If the student is stuck on a word, wait 5-10 seconds before you tell him or her the word.


After the reading, ask the student to tell you about what he or she has just read. Make notes on the following:

  • Can the student tell you what happened in the story in his or her own words?

  • Does the student include the different parts of a story (the characters, setting, events, problem and resolution)?

  • Can the student identify the main idea and supporting details?

  • Does the student use some of the vocabulary found in the text?

  • Is the student's retelling minimal, adequate or very complete?

What do I do with the information obtained from this assessment?

The information gathered while completing an Oral Reading Accuracy assessment can be used to determine error, accuracy and self-correction rates. To calculate a student's Reading Accuracy Rate, divide the total words read correctly by the total words read. For example, if a student read a passage containing 100 words and made 5 errors:

95 (total words read correctly) / 100 (total words read) = 95% word accuracy

Use the Accuracy Rate along with the information gained in the student's story retelling to determine whether the text the student read was too easy, just right, or too difficult for the reader. Below is a general breakdown to use to help guide you when choosing texts for students.

Oral Reading Accuracy

What this says about the text


Too easy; the text does not present a challenge


Just right; the text is challenging but manageable

89% and below

Too difficult; the text is frustrating for the reader

If a student can read a book with 100% word accuracy but can only give a minimal retelling of the story, do not choose a higher leveled book. We read to get meaning; if a child is not getting meaning from a text they must be instructed on comprehension strategies. Word accuracy without comprehension is not acceptable.

What should I be looking for when I give an Oral Reading Accuracy assessment?

Giving an Oral Reading Accuracy assessment and asking a child to retell reveals many things about a child's reading ability. There are other things to be on the look out for and can be taught in these moments following this assessment:

  1. Has the student mastered directionality, letter-sound correspondence, return sweep, etc?

  2. Did the student make 'good errors' when phonetically reading a word (i.e., reading island as 'is land' instead of 'eye land')?

  3. Was there an attempt to self-correct errors?

  4. Did the student attempt to decode an unknown word?

  5. Was the student's reading slow and labored, or fluent?

  6. Did the student use expression while reading?

For helpful tips on administering an Oral Reading Accuracy assessment, please view the video clip, "An Early Elementary Assessment," before proceding.

Click here for a sample form.


What is a portfolio?

Portfolios can be used to document students' acheievement and progress.

How can I use portfolios in the classroom?

Portfolios give an accurate picture of an individual's strengths and weaknesses. Instruction on how to pick a piece of work to place in a portfolio (does it show a concept that was struggled with then understood, does it demonstrate an understanding of a concept? Is it something you are proud of?) is beneficial for students. This type of instruction engages the student to reflect on his or her own work. Portfolios encourage students to take an active role in learning information they feel they have not yet mastered.

Portfolios can help guide instruction. Through looking at a piece of child's work, a teacher can quickly see what lessons are further needed. For example, by looking at a student's writing a teacher may determine lessons in using commas correctly need to be revisited.

Is there more than one type of portfolio?

There are several different types of portfolios.

  • The Collection
    The collection may consist of a folder that holds samples of a student's work. The collection should include representative examples of the various types of student work, such as tests, writing samples, and homeword assignments.

  • The Display Portfolio
    A container or box containing a selection of work documenting a student's progress may hold work in this type of portfolio. This type of portfolio may be used to share with parents at conferences. Pieces of work are carefully selected by both teachers and students to show and share with parents/guardians during conferences.

  • Teacher/Student Assessment Portfolio
    A collection of documentation including copies of work in the student's display portfolio, tests, anecdotal notes, conference summaries, contacts made with parents, etc. This portfolio is used by the teacher to aid in discussions with administrators, other teachers, parents, etc about a particular child.

Portfolios section adapted from: Teacher Created Materials: Portfolio Assessment (1992)

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First Year Teacher was a pilot project of Reading Rockets, which is service of WETA, Washington D.C.'s flagship public television station. Funding for First Year Teacher was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs; The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; and The Overbrook Foundation.

© 2004 WETA