You will want to spend your 15 minutes a day on targeted instruction, as explained in PART 1: Getting Organized. 15 minutes can fly by, so you will want to be sure to focus your attention on what your child needs the most.
How will you know what your child needs the most? You personally know him better than anyone else does, but after assessing him you may be surprised just how much he can or can't do. As parents, we tend to be a bit delusional when it comes to the capabilities of our own children. However, if you assess him, you will see in black and white what he is capable of doing and what he needs to be taught.
Remember, these assessments are for early emergent readers, children that can name uppercase and lowercase letters and their sounds. Assessments are ongoing, as children are constantly learning and changing. I would suggest reassessing every 4-6 weeks.
Letter Assessment - You can print out the assessment for FREE from this site. Don't let the form overwhelm you. In short, your child just needs to name the uppercase and lowercase letters when they are all mixed together, and give you a word that starts with that letter. Your child must pass this test with 95% accuracy in order to be considered an emergent reader.
Phonological Awareness Skills Test (PAST) - Here is a link to the test that you can print for free online. It's pretty straight forward, even telling you what exactly to say. If your child is lacking in one area, you'll know what to start working on. Read my post on Getting Your Child Ready for Reading, as it includes information on phonological awareness.
Sight Words - I like to use Fry's word list. This site has TONS of stuff that you can use to teach sight words. Print the list of the first hundred words and start with simply asking your child to read the ones he knows and check off the words he gets correct. If he misses 5 in a row, then stop him. Basically, you want to stop assessing before your child reaches his frustration point. Also, if you haven't already, read my post about sight words.
Below is a picture of L's ongoing sight word assessment. It's from Reading A-Z, a reading program that I use with him. It's not a free program, but totally worth the money in my opinion. The blue check marks indicate words that he got correct during my initial assessment on June 9, 2012. My next assessment of his sight word knowledge was on August 16, 2012 and is noted in pencil. The circled words were the ones that he did not know, or did not read quickly enough.
Comprehension - Since your child is not already reading, you'll have to read a book to him and then check his comprehension. Choose a book that is new to your child, has a simple and clear plot, and is not too lengthy. After you read the book aloud, ask your child to tell you what happened in the beginning, middle and end. If your child can not provide a simple retelling of the story, that does not mean that he didn't comprehend the book. Change tactics and instead ask him some questions.
I'm going to assume that you have read Dr. Suess's The Cat in the Hat, so in order to demonstrate my questioning, let's use that book. It's plot is simple: The kids were bored. The Cat in the Hat came to the house. He let Thing 1 and Thing 2 out of the box. They made a big mess. The Cat in the Hat cleaned up everything just before the mom got home.
- Who (or what) was the book about? (literal recall)
- Tell me something Thing 1 and Thing 2 did to make a mess in the house. (literal recall)
- What happened after The Cat in the Hat (insert event here)?
- How did the fish feel towards The Cat in the Hat? (inferencing)
- What do you like to do on rainy days? (text-to-self connection)
I wouldn't necessarily use The Cat in the Hat to assess an early emergent reader's comprehension. It's a bit long and I usually like to choose prose fiction instead of a rhyming book, but you get the idea. I like to follow this format for questioning:
- Literal recall of Major Story Element:
- Who is the story about?
- What did the character do when...?
- Where did the character do after...?
2. Literal Recall of Detail:
- How many times did...?
- Tell me one things that the character did to...?
- What did the character bring with him to...?
- What happened first in the story?
- What happened after...?
- How did the book end?
- How did the character feel when...?
- Why do you think the character...?
5. Text-to-Self Connection
- Have you ever...?
- Tell me about a time when you...?
- What do you do when...?
Reading Level - I can't possibly teach you how to assess a student's reading level in one post, but I can give you the simplified version. Remember, any assessment that you do will be better than none.
- Choose a leveled book. I like to use Fountas and Pinnell's leveling system, and this site has a good list of books broken down by grade and reading level. You can find many of these books at the library. Start by choosing the lowest level that you think your child may be able to read. Here is a list of books for levels A-C.
- Read the title of the book and author to your child. Tell him in one sentence what the book is about. For example, for The Cat in the Hat I would say, "This book is about a cat who comes to play with some kids while their mom is away. Read to find out what happens."
- Have your child read the book to you. On a sheet of paper keep track with check marks how many words he gets correct, and with a dash which words he misses. If he misses a word and corrects himself, it does not count as an error. If you have to tell him a word or help him in any way, it does count as an error.
- Count up the number of words he got correct and divide by the total number of words. If he scores a 95% or higher, then the book is at a level that he can read independently. If he scores 90-95%, then the book is at his instructional level. This is the level of books that you should be choosing for him to read during the 15 minutes of instruction with you. If he scores below a 90%, then the book is at his level of frustration. It is too difficult.
Some things to remember:
- If he gets frustrated before the book is over, then stop your assessment and choose a book at a lower level.
- If he cannot read a proper noun that occurs numerous times throughout the book, like the character's name, correct him the first and second time he gets it incorrect and count them both as errors. If he continues to misread it, do not correct him and just count them as errors. However, take this into account when calculating his score. Should you choose another book at the same level to use to reassess?
- Is anything else impacting your assessment? Is he tired, hungry or just plan cranky? If so, stop and try it again another time.
Part 3: Planning Lessons
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