Back to School
Beginning of Year Assessment

These are some of the things I do to assess my kinderkids and first graders at the beginning of the school year.

During the first two or three days of school, I sit with each child (the others are drawing, writing, reading, using math manipulatives or doing puzzles, etc.) and test them on the following:

1.  Can they read the alphabet, upper and lower case?  (not in ABC order :)

2.  Do they know the sounds the letters make?

3.  Can they read numbers from 1 to 100?  (I use a sheet that has about 25 numbers on it, not in counting order ... all the #s from 1 to 20 are there, plus other larger numbers).

4.  How high can they count, by rote?

5.  How high can they count objects?  (I use 2 bowls and 100 teddy bear counters, and I have them count as they move them from one bowl to the other).

6.  Do they know the names of all the colors?  (I use a sheet with colored in circles, and I ask them to tell me the color names as I point to them).

7.  Do they know their shapes?

8.  Do they know their first and last name, address, phone number, and birthday?

10.  Can they read any sight words?  (I have a sheet with 18 or 20, easy ones like the, it, he, was, like, can).

11.  I hand them a Level 1/Level A book, and ask them to read it to me.  I usually hand it to them upside down, so that I can see what they know about concepts about print.  If they CAN read it, I give them progressively harder books (using my judgement and skipping levels if needed), to find out what level they are reading at.  About 25% of my students (all Title 1) begin first grade able to read a Level 1 book.

All of this takes 10 to 15 minutes per student, and it allows me to quickly group my kids for reading and math small group instruction.  Many of the skills above are kindergarten skills, but so many of our children don't master them by the end of K.  When they finish their assessment time with me, I give them a cookie and send them back to independent work.  If they are VERY wiggly and inattentive, I break their testing time into smaller segments.

I also take two writing samples by the third day of school.  One is simple ... write your name on this paper (I give them an unlined strip about 7 1/2 x 2, which I date stamp and staple into a sheet in their portfolio, so I can keep track of progress).  The other sample is their first journal entry ...
draw a picture and write about it.  Very simple, and it tells me a lot about their knowledge of print, letter sounds, etc.

All of this goes very quickly, and I do the same assessment with any child who enters my class at any time in the year.

I also do parts of the Marie Clay Observational Survey beginning the second week, because it gives me a better feeling for where they are.  I test them again on alphabet knowledge, IF they didn't know all the letters and sounds the first time around.  Using the OS, they get a point for knowing:  the letter name, the sound it makes, a word that begins with that letter.  For example, many kids will look at the letter B and say "bear."  That's worth one point, and it may be all they know.

During the second week, I ask the whole class to write all the words they can write in 10 minutes, and I take a Running Record to establish a baseline for reading.  (Yes, some kids copy words off the walls, but if I think they copied them, I have them read the words to me).

 I usually teach a K-1 multiage class.  My assessment is the same for the kinders as for the first graders, and I fully integrate both grades in all activities (i.e., I don't have separate groups and lesson plans for the kinderkids -- they participate to the best of their ability, just like the
first graders :)

If this sounds like a LOT for you to cover, try to get a parent or two to sit in those first couple days.  You could even ask a friend or neighbor, just to have an extra adult in the room.

Before I start my assessment, I explain to the kids that "Mrs. Smith is CLOSED when she's working one-on-one with a child, and you can only interrupt me for "B" emergencies."  B emergencies are bathroom, blood, and barf :)  The kids learn to respect my time with other kids, and they can almost always wait the few minutes it takes until I'm free to talk to them and help them with whatever they need.  And they LOVE the idea of B emergencies.

In Joyful Learning, Bobbi Fisher devotes an entire chapter to beginning of the year and ongoing authentic assessment.  Here are her "Literacy Interview" questions for beginning her assessment of each child (p. 130, Joyful Learning by Bobbi Fisher:

Here's another terrific assessment idea I'm planning to try this year.
Thanks to Nina for sharing it.

Ask students to fold a piece of paper  into four equal boxes.  Tell them to write their name in the upper left corner and the date in the upper right corner.  Model, re-explain, stand on your head (just kidding), do whatever -- just don't do it for them.  Tell them to draw their best person in the upper left box, give several minutes. Tell them to draw their best tree in the upper right box.  If they finish early add more detail to the tree or person.  In the lower left box draw their best house.  Give several minutes.  In the lower right box have them write a simple sentence like: "I like my class."  If finished add to sentence.

I repeat this assessment before the three reporting periods are due (in November, March and June) and I staple them all together.  The dictated sentences get harder and longer each time.  I often use words from the word wall to see if they will actually copy them correctly.  Try this and you will have a wealth of info on each kid.

Many Kinder teachers do a similar assessment.  They give each child a paper that already has the four boxes made (it's a ditto) with black lines.  Each box has a simple object (a heart, a star, a circle or a diamond) drawn in the corner.  They have them draw their best person and tree, and then they have them draw a green circle, a blue square, and a red triangle instead of a house.  Instead of the sentence they have them write their ABC's.  Two years worth of this low key assessment tells me a lot more than those fancy formal things that take days to administer.

I got this wonderful Brown Bear, Brown Bear assessment idea from Nancy, who got it from her mother, Doral (who's retiring from teaching this year).   Thanks to both of you for this great idea!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is the first book I read.  Then I send them to their seats where a sheet is waiting for them.  There are two blanks at the top with a comma in between, where the child will write his/her name (e.g. JohnJohn).  Beneath that are the words "who do you see?"  Filling most of the page is a large empty rectangle wherein the child draws a head-to-toe self-portrait.  At the bottom, it reads "I see  ________  looking at me."

After I've collected them, I put the pages together (some years in alphabetical order, sometimes
not) with construction paper covers and I myself write the name of the next person on the bottom line.  The last page says  "I see Room 8  looking at me."  On the inside back cover I tape or glue a photo I've taken that day and processed that evening at a 1-hour place.

This is not only our first class book, but it's also my first assessment:

Can they write their names?
Do they know where to start?
How are their letters formed?
How advanced are their self-portraits? (These, by the way, are very helpful -- do they have
bodies? hands and feet? mouths? hair? clothes? any width? what's the
proportion to the paper? other objects in the drawing? etc. -- Check with your school psychologist or anyone who knows Gazelle (sp?) for assistance in assessing these drawings).
A photocopy of this assignment starts their assessment portfolio for the year, along with running records, sight word lists, numbers to 100 from memory, alphabet from memory, annecdotal records, etc.

A KinderKorner subscriber forwarded this assessment to me, but I don't know who it's from (if you wrote it, please let me know so I can give you credit :)

One afternoon during the first week of school, I enlist the help of parent volunteers to do all my testing. Each parent has a station. I start going down my class list, staggering it for each station. Although we usually end up "running into" each other, I finish all my testing in one afternoon.

While children are sitting in their seats during this time, they work on an art project, a coloring page and/or play with play dough. These are the things I test on that day:

 --Counting by rote to 100 (On another day, I have them write the numbers on a hundreds board).

 --Naming the capital letters in mixed order

 --Naming the lowercase letters in mixed order

 --Reading our 16 readiness words

 --Reading color words

 --Naming the numerals 0-20 in mixed order; then putting these in order

 --Counting sets 0 - 10 on domino cards.  The parent volunteer is asked to write down comments, i.e, "Child pointed to each dot, Child knew 1-5 but counted 6 - 10," etc. You learn a lot this way).

 --Identifying beginning sounds (I do this station myself).

Assessment Resources

Classroom Based Assessment
by Bonnie Campbell Hill
Amazon has it back-ordered, but it's worth waiting for

Guided Reading - Good First Teaching for All Children
by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell
Lots of good assessment tools, and detailed instructions
on Running Records.

Joyful Learning
by Bobbi Fisher
An outstanding book with a full chapter on authentic assessment.
(see excerpt above).

Assessment Links

Informal Assessment of Phonological Awareness
A great tool to use in your classroom

Language Arts Assessment Rubrics
Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking

Go To

[ Back to School ]  [ The First Day of School ]  [ First Day of School Stories ]
[ More Favorite School Stories ]  [ Back to School Poems & Activities ]
[ My Daily Schedule ]  [ My Themes, Month by Month ]
[ Beginning of Year Assessment ]
[ Setting Up Your Room ]  [ First Day Checklist ]
[ Author Study - P.K. Hallinan ]

Looking for more ideas?

My bookstore pages have lots of information on how I use various materials in my classroom, and on activities you can do with your students.  The thematic pages are complete unit resources, with lots of poems, songs, and links on each page.  Make yourself comfortable and take a look around!

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