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First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

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Assessment: In Depth

You can also get the following information as a printable chart.

Letter/sound recognition

What it measures

Ability to recognize letters and sounds

Examples of assessment questions

Show student one letter at a time and ask:

Can you tell me what letter this is?
(Record response)
Can you tell me what sound it makes?
(Record response)

Age or grade typically mastered

Many students enter kindergarten with the ability to recognize letters. Fewer students recognize the letter sounds. Both are taught in kindergarten.

When should it be assessed?

Assess letter/sound recognition three times during kindergarten, at the start of school, at mid-year, and at the end of the year.


Concepts of print awareness

What it measures

If a student understands:

  • That print has meaning
  • That print can be used for different purposes
  • The relationship between print and speech
  • There is a difference between letters and words
  • That words are separated by spaces
  • There is a difference between words and sentences
  • That there are (punctuation) marks that signal the end of a sentence
  • That books have parts such as a front and back cover, title page, and spine
  • That stories have a beginning, middle, and end
  • That text is read from left to right and from top to bottom

Examples of assessment questions

Give the student a book and ask the following questions:

Can you show me:

  • A letter
  • A word
  • A sentence
  • The end of a sentence (punctuation mark)
  • The front of the book
  • The back of the book
  • Where I should start reading the story
  • A space
  • How I should hold the book
  • The title of the book
  • How many words are in this sentence

Age or grade typically mastered

Some students enter kindergarten with an understanding of print concepts, but other will master it as the school year goes on.

When should it be assessed?

Assess concepts of print twice during kindergarten, at the start of school and at mid-year. In addition, as you model story reading techniques to help guide instruction, identify students who need additional support, and determine if the pace of instruction should be increased, decreased, or remain the same.

Phonological awareness assessment

What it measures

  • Recognizing a word in a sentence shows the ability to segment a sentence
  • Recognizing a rhyme shows the ability to identify words that have the same ending sounds
  • Recognizing a syllable shows the ability to separate or blend words the way that they are pronounced
  • Understanding onset-rime shows the ability to blend the first sound in the word (onset) and the rest of the word (rime)

Examples of assessment questions

  • Word
    How many words are in this sentence? "I am happy."
    (Correct response: 3)
  • Rhyme
    Do these words rhyme? "Big, Fig"
    (Correct response: Yes)

    What about "Key, Tree?"
    (Correct response: Yes)
  • Syllable blending
    I am going to say a word in parts. Listen: o… pen What word did I say?
    (Correct response: open)
  • Syllable segmentation
    Can you tell me the two word parts in "open?"
    (Correct response: o… pen)
  • Syllable deletion
    Say open without the -pen.
    (Correct response: o)
  • Onset-rime
    What word do these sounds make? /s/ – /ee/
    (Correct response: see)

    How about /h/ – /op/?
    (Correct response: hop)

Age or grade typically mastered

  • Word: Age 3
  • Rhyme: Age 4
  • Syllable blending: Age 4
  • Syllable segmentation: Kindergarten
  • Syllable deletion: Kindergarten
  • Onset-rime Middle of kindergarten

When should it be assessed?

Typically, phonological awareness is assessed during kindergarten and throughout first grade. During the beginning of kindergarten, assessment should be limited to recognizing words, rhyme, syllable blending, and segmentation to help guide instruction.

Phonemic awareness assessment

What it measures

  • Phoneme matching is the ability to identify words that begin with the same sound.
  • Phoneme isolation is the ability to isolate a single sound from within a word.
  • Phoneme blending is the ability to blend individual sounds into a word.
  • Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break a word into individual sounds.
  • Phoneme manipulation is the ability to modify, change, or move the individual sounds in a word.

Examples of assessment questions

* Remember, when a letter appears between slash marks, you should say the letter sound, and not the letter name. See Module 2: Sounds of Speech to review the letter sounds.

  • Phoneme matching
    Which words sound alike? man, sat, sip
    (Correct response: sat, sip)
  • Phoneme isolation – Initial (first) sound
    What's the first sound in sat?
    (Correct response: /s/)
  • Phoneme isolation – Final (last) sound
    What's the last sound in sat?
    (Correct response: /t/)
  • Phoneme isolation – Medial (middle) sound
    What's the middle sound in sat?
    (Correct response: /a/)
  • Phoneme blending
    What word do these sounds make? /h/ – /o/ – /t/
    (Correct response: hot)
  • Phoneme segmentation
    What sounds do you hear in hot?
    (Correct response: /h/ – /o/ – /t/)
  • Phoneme manipulation — Initial (first) sound
    Say mat without the /m/ sound.
    (Correct response: at)
  • Phoneme manipulation — Final (last) sound
    Say mat without the /t/ sound.
    (Correct response: ma)
  • Phoneme manipulation — Substitution
    Say pig.
    (Correct response: pig)

    Now change the /p/ in pig to /f/.
    (Correct response: fig)

Age or grade typically mastered

  • Phoneme matching: The middle of kindergarten
  • Phoneme isolation — Initial (first) sound: The middle of kindergarten
  • Phoneme isolation — Final (last) sound: Late kindergarten or early first grade
  • Phoneme isolation — Medial (middle) sound: Late kindergarten or early first grade
  • Phoneme blending: Late kindergarten or early first grade
  • Phoneme segmentation: First grade
  • Phoneme manipulation — Initial (first) sound: First grade
  • Phoneme manipulation — Final (last) sound: First grade
  • Phoneme manipulation — Substitution: Middle to end of first grade or early second grade

When should it be assessed?

Phonemic awareness assessments should be done three times during the kindergarten and first grade years to help guide instruction.

Informal reading inventory (Qualitative Reading Inventory)

What it measures

  • Grade level reading
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Oral reading accuracy

Examples of assessment questions

Choose a grade level passage for the student to read. As the student is reading complete the Reading Accuracy and Reading Fluency assessments. After the student finishes the passage, check for understanding through explicit and implicit questions. Also, ask open-ended questions about the vocabulary found in the passage.

Age or grade typically mastered

This assessment can be given to students in grades one through twelve. Students should be expected to master age-appropriate material.

When should it be assessed?

The Informal Reading Inventory is an on-going assessment, and should be completed several times throughout the child's schooling. In kindergarten, perform the Informal Reading Inventory twice per year, at mid-year and at the end of school. In first and second grades, it should be done three times, at the beginning of the school year, at mid-year, and at the end of the year. If a child is struggling, the inventory should be done more often in order to have an accurate picture of the child's progress.

Reading accuracy

What it measures

Oral reading accuracy. It also provides the teacher with insight into a student's ability to use strategies to decode unfamiliar words.

Examples of assessment questions

Choose a passage for the child to read aloud. As the child reads, take notes on words read correctly and incorrectly.

Age or grade typically mastered

First through third grade.

When should it be assessed?

Reading accuracy assessments can be given as part of an Informal Reading Inventory or combined with a comprehension assessment to yield more information. Reading accuracy should be assessed several times throughout the year to help you plan on-going instruction. Are students reading on grade level? Do some students require additional support? Do your students have rich vocabularies? Are your students able to read age-appropriate material?

Reading fluency

What it measures

How many words a child reads correctly in one minute.

Examples of assessment questions

Choose an appropriate passage for the student to read aloud. As the student reads, complete a record for one minute.

Age or grade typically mastered

Students should be expected to master age-appropriate material.

When should it be assessed?

Fluency assessments should be completed throughout the year to help guide instruction.

Word recognition

What it measures

Sight word vocabulary at a given grade level.

Examples of assessment questions

Ask a child to read from a list of words.

Age or grade typically mastered

Students should be expected to master age-appropriate material.

When should it be assessed?

Word recognition should be assessed three times during the year for students in kindergarten through second grade to help guide instruction.

Phonic elements

What it measures

Phonic elements at a given grade level.

Examples of assessment questions

What sound do the letters 's' 'h' make?
(Correct response: /sh/)

How can I turn 'cap' into 'cape?'
(Correct response: Add an 'e' to the end of the word.

Age or grade typically mastered

Students should be expected to master age-appropriate material.

When should it be assessed?

Phonic elements should be assessed several times throughout the year in grades one through three to help guide instruction.

Assessing Reading Skills

At the Stern Center in Williston, Vermont, struggling students get a leg up on reading and other skills.

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Join Barbara Zielinski, a first grade teacher at River Plaza Elementary School in Middletown, NJ, during her first year teaching.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald