First Grade Literacy Assessment Inventory

Introduction: What First Graders Should Know

Oral Language                   Concepts of Print             Phonemic Awareness                    Alphabetic Principle

Phonics and Word Attack Skills                 Fluency                                Vocabulary Development

Comprehension               Literature Response       Writing Development



Introduction: What First Graders Should Know

                As early readers first graders should be reading text equivalent to DRA level 4 using strategies including picture clues, beginning sounds of words, recognizing most high frequency words, cross-checking by listening to themselves when they read, and able to identity story elements like character and setting. As early writers their writing vocabulary is based on their phonemic awareness development. They begin to associate the letter and its matching sound which impact their writing and reading vocabulary development. The first graders begin to use punctuation and capitals. They show interest in writing by copying text, use the writing process with guidance when composing narrative format utilizing story elements like characters and setting. Illustrating a story is important at this stage.

                First graders continue to develop at this stage reading and retelling familiar stories. They are using meaning, syntax, and visual cues as decoding strategies when reading independently and begin self-correcting. Comprehension strategies such as predicting, comparing and contrasting are used by these early readers. Due to this level of literacy development these early readers can read quietly for a sustained period of time. The writing skills of these first graders have developed enough allowing the students to enjoy writing. They even attempt to read their peers’ writing. These writers are writing in different formats with different purposes. Invented spelling is expanding their writing vocabulary allowing students to express themselves with more specific words. With guidance and scaffolding these writers could edit or proofread their own writing.

                As transitional readers first graders may read text equivalent to DRA level 12. They use graphic organizers like story mapping to help retell a story. There is an increase in the number of sight words and they use the reading strategy of chunking, reading through the word, read to the end, checking to see if it makes sense, and going back to reread something read. They are consistently using meaning, syntax, and visual cures with monitoring by an adult or older student.  Their writing skills as a transitional writer allow them to read others’ writing and give feedback. Their writing vocabulary utilizes more spelling patterns and less inventive spelling. They are exploring a variety of writing formats including persuasive letter, poetry, and retellings. The story elements including character, setting, events, and the ending appear in writings. They are using the writing process with little or any guidance and illustrations are used to enhance the text they are writing.

                At the end of the transitional stage the readers are reading text equivalent to DRA level 16. This first grade is able to identify the main idea of a text. Their phonemic awareness development allows them to recognize short and long vowel sounds when decoding text. Their toolkit of decoding and comprehension strategies allows the first graders to use a variety of ways flexibly to figure out unfamiliar words while reading independently with fluency, expression, and phrasing.  When writing the transitional writer chooses a topic, crates a plan, and writes the story. These stories contain all the story elements as well as correct grammar, punctuation, and capitals. The first grade writers are using spelling patterns during writing and enjoy sharing writing with their peers. They engage in self-editing when supported with a checklist or rubric.

Brian Cambourne’s Model of Learning presents a process that will create learning experiences for students beginning with appropriate scaffolding and leading to independent reading and writing behaviors. Cambourne’s model explains that a learner needs to be immersed in a variety of text in a variety of ways. The child needs to hear stories, engage with books and print, and experience expressing thoughts through writing/drawing. The teacher should demonstrate reading stories, thinking aloud about what is happening in the text, and express a response to the text through writing or drawing. During the teaching learning experience the teacher presents expectations for reading and writing behaviors. As the learner engages in reading and writing the teacher provides the appropriate scaffolding as the child attempts to perform the reading and writing behaviors. The scaffolding is lessened and the child takes on more responsibility in the reading and/or writing demonstrating what the teacher did, using the appropriate reading and writing behaviors at the appropriate time. The teacher praises and/or encourages the learner during the approximation stage of the reading and writing development knowing the child needs opportunities to experiment using the skills and strategies the teacher has taught. Moments of feedback or response from the teacher to the student need to be timely and nonthreatening during this stage to ensure the gradual release of responsibility to the child. Using Cambourne’s model will create learning experiences that will enable the learner and empower him/her to become independent life-long learners.

Teachers with this knowledge of literacy development of first graders will teach the following literacy development components realizing how each builds schema for reading and preparing the learner for the next component. These literacy components include skills and strategies that good/real readers use when reading text.  Teachers will teach these components through demonstration, thinking aloud, and scaffolding through learning experiences that will lead to the teacher eventually withdrawing scaffolding as the learner practices the skills and strategies demonstrating approximation of each skill and strategy through responsible behaviors when reading naturally.                                                                                                                                                                                 BACK TO THE TOP

Oral Language


First graders are learning language through reading and writing experiences. Students are exposed to new vocabulary through opportunities to listen to stories read aloud or on audio CD. They learn about language through writing experiences that include demonstrations, think alouds, shared writing and opportunities to write without interruption.  Interactive reading and writing such as shared reading and writing allow first graders to engage in learning through language. One-on-one and paired reading and writing activities allow students and teachers to engage in dialog that provides scaffolding and or challenge as determined by the learner’s Zone of Proximal Development.  

They use correct sentence structure during conversations. As their language develops they will use more descriptive language and their sentences will become more complex. Their reading, writing, and speaking vocabulary are expanding through activities that include rhyming, finger plays and tongue twisters. Listening to stories that have repetitive phrases, cumulative stories that build, and poetry are activities that promote oral language.

Assessment Strategies

The Teacher Rating of Oral Language and Literacy (TROLL) is a tool that measures skills needed for listening and speaking. Within 5-10 minutes with no extra training a teacher can assess a student’s individual skills in language, reading, and writing. The Troll correlates with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, and other vocabulary probes.

The TROLL has 25 items that are measured on a scale of four points. Total scores are calculated by totaling the points of each item. There is a possible minimum of 24 and a maximum of 98. The given link will show an example of the TROLL in the appendix.

Teachers can identify children who need language development. Then combining the results of the individual students in the classroom a teacher could determine what areas needed direct instruction. For example, if students were struggling with the concept of rhyming the teacher could plan mini lessons to teach this concept. The following link will provide further information to assist educators in the use of the TROLL.

To be able to assess the language development needs of students is necessary to create developmentally appropriate instruction. The TROLL is recognized in the early childhood field as a developmentally appropriate assessment that would give a classroom teacher this information.

Intervention Strategies:

Conducting mini lessons using nursery rhymes, songs, and chants will create opportunities for the first graders to experience playfulness with words.  Writing these nursery rhymes, songs, and chants on chart paper for use during lessons and then available for students to revisit when reading around the room, creates a visual to support the mini lesson as students repeat the rhyme, song or chant. These opportunities to say the words and hear the words impacts the student’s listening and speaking vocabulary.

 The rhyming lessons could utilize word families helping the student hear how the rime is the same and the onset is changed to create a new word.  Again, focusing on the playfulness of words, by reciting and pronouncing fun words, hearing fun sounding words read aloud, choral readings, and jump rope chants create opportunities for playing with words.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 BACK TO THE TOP


Concepts of Print


First graders have conquered most book handling skills knowing the right side up, opening the book from left to right and using pictures as a way to tell the story. They can point out and use the title page and table of contents within a book. They are developing an understanding of the concepts of words, sentences, and paragraphs. First graders are developing the skill of voice-print matching with multiple syllable words. They experiment with print conventions as they are introduced to rules for using capitals, punctuation, and grammar. Most have mastered the 54 symbols for the alphabet including upper and lower case letters. First graders are being introduced to text features such as graphic representations, abbreviations, and contractions. They are exploring structure content including headings and subheadings in nonfictional text.

Assessment Strategies

The letter ID test, concept of print checklist, and observation notes are possible assessments to use when assessing first graders’ skills in the area of concepts of print, letter identification, and text features. When administering the letter ID test the student looks at the letters in the row and says the name and the sound of that letter. The letters are in random order. If the child does not know the letters in the row remove the cover and ask him/her to tell the names and sounds of any letters s/he knows. Start with the upper case letters to the lower case letters. Use the lower case letters to do the sounds as well. Use the score sheet to record child’s responses. Use the link given to access samples of the assessment .  A scoring sheet to record a child’s responses makes scoring and interpreting easy. This assessment is good to give at the beginning of the year to assess the first graders strengths and/or weaknesses in this literacy area. Teachers should take time to assess this strand because the ability to name letters and their sounds helps develop the child’s understanding of words and spelling patterns.

The Concept of Print Checklist (Appendix A-4) provided by Biggam and Itterly in their book Literacy Profiles supports teachers as they observe, assesses, and records a child’s ability in this literacy area. Teachers mark a + or – depending on the child’s ability to identify the elements of concept of print.

Biggam and Itterly also provide an Untimed Letter Naming Test (Appendix A-5) with a recording sheet form to support the teacher during the assessment.

Intervention Strategies

When the teacher has determined from an assessment the child needs more instruction in the area of letter identification there are several activities that might impact the child’s learning. Making alphabet books is an activity that introduces each letter, engages the students collecting vocabulary words reinforcing concept of letters and words. Adding pictures that start with each letter enhances the ABC books or the child could create an ABC picture book with no vocabulary words. Both of these activities provide opportunities for the child to manipulate the letters of the alphabet through a variety of literacy learning experiences. 

Games like “I am thinking of something that starts with the letter…” engage the learner is a different alphabet experience that focuses on the learner hearing the letter sound at the beginning of the word. Another game to reinforce the alphabet is “Going on a picnic” and packing a basket with 26 items using each letter of the alphabet. This game holds students accountable to listening to others and the words/items they are packing and engages the child in alphabetizing the items as they go in the basket.

A scavenger hunt seeking the components of a book is an effective way to engage children when teaching the features of text. Students would look for the many resources such as content page, glossary, index, charts, graphs, tables, title page, subheadings and headings.                             BACK TO THE TOP

Phonemic Awareness


First graders are experimenting with blending, deleting, and substituting phonemes as they play with words. They are busy with segmenting the sounds within simple words. Their ability to hear and manipulate the sounds within words is evidence of their level of development in the area of phonemic awareness.  

Assessment Strategies

Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation Biggam and Itterly (A1) and The Test of Phonological Awareness Biggam and Itterly A-2 are assessments to determine the development of phonemic awareness within first graders. The Test of Phonological Awareness is a norm-referenced test that assesses first graders’ abilities to segment sounds within spoken words as phonemic awareness is the ability to hear sounds within words. The first grade version requires the student to determine the ending sounds by utilizing picture clues.  

The Formative Assessment for Phonological Awareness (FAPA) Biggam and Itterly (A-2) is an assessment designed to assess a child’s developmental level of phonological awareness along a continuum. This assessment could be presented as a game creating more of a relaxed assessment experience. It contains 15 sections which do not need to be completed. The teacher can assess the sections of interest. The teacher will model doing examples for giving words for the child to give a response. This assessment tool supports the teacher in identifying the appropriate level of instruction for each child. The teacher records a check mark for each correct response and when the child gives a number or letter is to be separated with dots and dashes.

The Yopp-Singer Test of phoneme Segmentation assesses the first grader’s ability to segment 22 different words and it is given individually since the child will orally segment the sounds within each word. The teacher presents the assessment as a game and models how to segment words to demonstrate examples for the child. As the child responds to each word the teacher circles the items the student completes correctly and writes what the child says incorrectly. To score the teacher counts the number done correctly out of 22.

These assessments will help the teacher plan instruction for whole class mini lessons, small group learning experiences, and individual lessons that will engage the students in activities that will teach them how to segment and blend sounds within words. These lessons should be about 10 minutes of the reading instruction time each day providing opportunities for the children to orally designate the individual sounds at the beginning, middle, and/or endings of words. The activities would include blending, segmenting, deleting, adding, and/or substituting sounds. The idea is to play with words orally supporting the children as they blend segmented sounds and recognize the words or delete as sound and substitute a new sound creating another word. These oral activities will build the first grader’s schema which will be assimilated and/or accommodated when developing the learner’s understanding of the alphabetic principle which is needed for decoding unfamiliar words. Phonemic awareness is an ability that students need for reading. Students need to be able to hear the individual sounds within words including beginning, middle, and ending as this ability will support them as they encounter unfamiliar words when reading independently.

Intervention Strategies

The activities teachers engage first graders to enhance the development of phonemic awareness include Elkonin boxes, rimes and onsets, word families, stretch out words, ABC books, tongue twisters, and making words. The Elkonin boxes include a two box set and a three box set. The child moves a bean or coin into the box that represents the sound heard when the word is pronounced. This graphic organizer supports the child when first learning how to identify each sound in a word. As the first grader says the word slowing, segmenting the individual sounds, s/he moves a bean/marker into the designated box.

Rimes and onsets are great to support learning activities to enhance the development of phonemic awareness. There are 37 different rimes. They engage the child in playing with words and leads to creating word families allowing the first grader to broaden their writing and reading vocabulary. Word families allow the child to experiment with blending, segmenting, and substituting individual sounds. This activity can lead to making words.

Making words is an activity that engages the child in building words using individual letters. The two-color magnet alphabet letters are visually effective when used to build words showing the consonants one color and the vowels the second color. This enhances the concept of CVC and CVVC patterns. Making words allows the child to manipulatively see how the phonemic awareness activities they engaged in orally play out in symbol form when applying a letter or letters for the sounds in a word. This activity allows the student to delete sounds/letters and substitute letters creating new words. This activity broadens the child’s understanding of sounds and words through play.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     BACK TO THE TOP


Alphabetic Principle


The alphabetic principle refers to the child’s understanding that letters and sounds have predictable and systematic relationships. Learning this concept is known as “sound-symbol correspondence” and is encouraged through learning experiences engaging the child with different kinds of print.  There are 44 phonemes or sounds in the English language and combinations are created through consonants, short vowels, long vowels, blends, and digraphs.  The child demonstrates evidence of this understanding through writing words, sounding out words when using the letters in combination creating patterns with consonants and vowels. Encouraging a first grader to use “creative spelling” or “stretch the word” when writing provides opportunities for the learner to demonstrate the knowledge s/he has of the alphabetic principle.

Assessment Strategies

Writing activities including spelling assessments, dictation, and uninterrupted writing opportunities are tools of assessment teachers can use to measure a first graders understanding of the alphabetic principle.  When reviewing one of these writing samples produced by the learner compare the produced spelling to the actual spelling and determine if the child’s understanding of alphabetic principle in the area of writing is at the emergent level, letter naming, within-word, syllables and affixes, derivational relations. Once the teacher has determined the weaknesses within the child’s understanding of predictable and systematic sound-symbol correspondence mini lessons are planned. These lessons are for whole class, small group, and individual lessons providing explicit instruction, guided practice, and individual writing experiences to demonstrate approximation of spelling patterns.  The following links will support teachers as they analyze student writing to determine spelling stage and instructional needs.

Information about the Monster Test and analyzing spelling stages of your first graders.

Directions for administering the Elementary and Primary Spelling Assessment. These two assessments measure the word knowledge a first grader understands when writing and reading.

Provides guidance when analyzing first grader’s spelling stage.  

Intervention Strategies

Phoneme-grapheme mapping utilizes grid paper when writing the words used to teach spelling patterns or word structures. Each box in the grid represents a sound for the letter or letters to be printed in a box in a row. The silent e is written in the last box in the lower right hand corner of the row of letters. This helps the child to connect the sound symbol correspondence stressed in the alphabetic principle.

 Word sorts help students to focus on certain letters/sounds within words when engaging in this game like activity. The students sort the list of spelling words determining common patterns, sounds, characteristics among the words enhancing their ability to reproduce that word later.

Making words engages the students actively in producing the words that teach a certain sound/symbol pattern or word pattern providing them an opportunity to demonstrate their approximation of the spelling rule or pattern.

Teachers need to encourage the learner to take risks, create spelling words from the reading and writing content integrating the reading and writing vocabulary making the spelling instructional experience authentic by focusing on words the learner will need when expressing ideas and thoughts across the curriculum. Teachers will guide the learner through mini lessons of word patterns, spelling strategies to use during writer’s workshop. Teachers provide word walls, dictionaries, and print rich bulletin boards displaying vocabulary connected to current themes and topics across curriculum creating a supportive environment for first graders. To strengthen learners’ understanding of sound/symbol correspondence they need many opportunities to engage in reading and writing activities. The following links will provide teachers a variety of additional materials for mini lessons and opportunities for the first graders to practice using the spelling strategies and principles.                                                                                                                                                                                    BACK TO THE TOP


Phonics and Word Attack Skills


Word identification is process a first grader uses when cracking the code of an unfamiliar word. The reader engages in three steps including decoding, automatic word recognition, and structural analysis. The child’s knowledge of the Alphabetic Principle will support the development of decoding skills. Decoding skills using phonics and structural analysis will be supported by the child’s schema of the alphabetic principle, word families, and the ability to hear individual sounds within words.

Assessment Strategies

Running records, checklists, and anecdotal notes are tools that will measure a first grader’s ability to use phonics and word attack skills. These assessments allow the teacher to observe and record while the child reads naturally. The teacher sees how the child uses his/her knowledge of the alphabetic principle when encountering unfamiliar words.

Running records record the reader’s miscues and acknowledges self-corrections when reading a text. The miscues are analyzed and labeled as meaning, visual, and/or substitution. The score is based on the number of words in the text, subtracting the number of miscues, and determines a percentage score of 94% to show proficient reading and 90% or less is a signal that reading performance is at a frustration level. The important information for the teacher is the labeling of the miscues to determine the weaknesses in the area of decoding for the first grader.

Checklists include the ability to use beginning and ending sounds, rimes, and automatic recognition of high frequency words. Again the child would read naturally from a selected book showing the teacher how they decode unfamiliar words as they read independently.

Anecdotal notes are recorded as the teacher “catches” the child reading independently demonstrating how s/he uses phonics knowledge and word structure. The teacher would record observations noting phonics skills based on knowledge of symbol and sound relationships of words in the text.

Teachers use the information from running records, checklists, and anecdotal notes to determine the strengths and weaknesses of students to plan whole class mini lessons, small group guided experiences, and individual lessons. The lessons would focus on consonant vowel patterns found in the systematic and predictable relationships between letters and sounds.  To create life-long independent readers who will read for pleasure decoding skills are necessary to build a large reading vocabulary in the beginning which will then support the reader as s/he continues to read more complex text. A reader who knows how to use the “tools” of decoding skills flexibly will find reading pleasurable.

Provide samples, resources, and information about running records and how to administer

Intervention Strategies

Teachers engage first graders in activities that promote decoding skills including rimes and onsets, word families, making words, word wall activities, and sentence cut up.  Cut up sentence activities create opportunities for the learner to look closely at words and letters which is a visual discrimination skill needed for decoding.  This activity can be used for whole class mini lessons but small group and individual lessons create learning experiences for students needing to strengthen their decoding skills. The small group or one-on-one lesson allows time for discussion of the placement of words creating a learning experience that provides scaffolding for struggling students and opportunities for students to engage in explanations showing their thinking when decoding.

Rimes and onsets have been utilized by teachers to develop phonemic awareness and alphabetic principle. They will continue to use them to provide practice for decoding. Predictable and decodable books consist of a particular rime or rimes providing repeated exposure to the same rime.  Poetry is another text that would support the development of decoding skills using rimes and onsets which leads to constructing word families.

Word families are made of the same rime and allow the student to realize if I know “cake,” I know “make,” and if I know “make” I know “take.” This is a pivotal moment in a learner’s reading development and empowers him/her to continue to create a list of vocabulary by substituting another onset.  The teacher can use this instructional strategy with whole class mini lesson, small group and individual lesson. This skill can lead to making words.

Making words utilizes rimes and onsets but can also lead to adding and deleting letters in the middle and/or at the end of the rime. This activity challenges the reader to use the sounds s/he knows left in the rime and blend the newly added or remaining letters. Using these decoding activities allows the teacher to build learning experiences that build upon one another creating decoding experiences that will strengthen the learner’s understanding of the alphabetic principle recognizing the systematic and predictable relationships between symbols and sounds.                                                                                                                 BACK TO THE TOP



Reading fluently as well as accurately is important to comprehending the text when reading. Some readers focus on reading each word accurately spending time on the decoding part of reading and if the text is too difficult the learner’s reading energy is spent on decoding and no energy is spent on understanding the author’s message. Comprehension is enhanced for the reader when the text is just right and the reader uses phrasing when reading due to his/her automaticity, ability to recognize vocabulary. Fluency consists of automaticity, prosody (using intonation and expression), and the rate at which a child reads.

Assessment Strategies

Running records, timed readings, and repeated readings are assessments teacher may utilize when measuring a child’s fluency. Benchmark books lend themselves to these assessments.  Biggam and Itterly provide a three-way fluency rubric (A-16) to support teachers as they assess students’ fluency performances when assessing readers. Hasbrouck, Trindal, and Rasinski provide a chart to support teachers as they guide the students in their grade level to create challenge when promoting fluency development. First graders should be able to read 50-80 words a minute accurately by the end of first grade.

The goal for the reader is to score 90% or above when assessing fluency during the running record to show comprehension as well as rate and prosody abilities when reading naturally. Time readings and repeated readings provide opportunity for the child to increase accuracy as well as fluency while decreasing time needed to read a passage. The child reads a passage from a text within a minute and the teacher counts the words read correctly and subtracts those misread. The child would then read the next passage with a goal to read more words in one minute accurately. The repeated reading is timed reading the same passage to improve accuracy, fluency, and the number of words.

The results of these readings whether running record, timed readings, or repeated readings is to determine the child’s weakness in the area of word accuracy, intonation, expression, or speed. Once the teacher has analyzed the problem from the results of the readings mini lessons for whole class, small group, or individual lessons can be planned based on the students’ needs.

If the first grader is reading too slow there may be problems with decoding unfamiliar words, limited recognition of high frequency words, or the text is too difficult. When a student can read with prosody and phrasing there is comprehension going on which is the purpose for reading. To encourage enjoying reading fluency is a major ingredient for good readers. Reading too slow interrupts comprehension, misreading words misleads comprehension, which leads to flat reading with no intonation, expression, and phrasing.

Intervention Strategies

Teachers engage students in choral readings, echo reading, partner reading, and independent reading to improve fluency when reading. Small guided reading groups will create opportunities to engage students in these activities and to explicitly teach phrasing, punctuation, and self-correcting strategies. Teachers model these skills and strategies thinking aloud demonstrating each skill. The teacher scaffolds the child as s/he practices using these skills and strategies and then withdraws the scaffolding allowing the child to take more responsibility when reading demonstrating his/her ability to read with fluency. The following links provide teachers with resources, materials, and information for fluency instruction.                                         BACK TO THE TOP


Vocabulary Development


Teachers engage students through reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities to promote vocabulary development. First graders can be exposed to rich vocabulary through literature and content that are read aloud, discussed, and expressed through writing activities. It is recommended to teach three new words with each new read aloud story. Some teachers use Beck, McKeon, and Kucan‘s concept of tiered vocabulary. This consists of three tiers including one which are words that students use every day in oral language, two which are vocabulary found in trade books, and three which are selected words that are content area specific. It is suggested teachers focus on tier-two vocabulary which is found in trade books and are literature rich expanding first graders vocabulary.

Assessment Strategies

The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test is designed to measure receptive language to determine the vocabulary of a student. It is individually administered and scored by subtracting errors from total number of items. It takes about 15-20 minutes and is not timed. The Comprehensive Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test also uses pictures and consists of two subtests. The receptive test consists of ten plates each showing six pictures related to a theme. The teacher would read a group of words one at a time and the child selects the picture that relates to the word. The expressive test consists of 25 words and the teacher asks the child to define each word. These words are related to the themes in the receptive test. This test can be given quickly and scored easily. It is effective in identifying children with vocabulary development significantly limited compared to their peers, determining weaknesses and strengths in vocabulary development, and monitoring progress.

Once the teacher has determined the need for vocabulary development the instruction must be explicit, daily, and connected to meaningful text. Teachers choose 5-10 words to teach each week including from across the curriculum to teach explicitly. Students select five of these words to focus upon as a goal. Small group and individual mini lessons utilizing word identification skills and students keep a vocabulary journal to record new vocabulary and new understandings from the mini lessons and their encounters with unfamiliar words.

Vocabulary development is linked to reading success and a child that is deficient in vocabulary struggles to become a good reader. Limited vocabulary impacts the child’s ability to read with fluency and the ability to comprehend what was read. Limited vocabulary development is a characteristic of a first grader with limited background knowledge and limited background knowledge means a lacking schema. Schema is necessary to comprehend what is being read. Vocabulary is an important component to the literacy development of a learner.

Intervention Strategies

Mini lessons for word study include writing the word, reading the word, writing a synonym, drawing a picture, and using the word in a sentence.  This instructional strategy provides multiple ways for the student to be engaged with the new word. A vocabulary journal would be a way to organize this information to make it retrievable when referring back to particular words.

Word sorts allow the students to visually discriminate when comparing multiple vocabulary words. Focusing on the word structures provide opportunities for the students to look for similarities and differences among the new vocabulary.

 Frontloading is another strategy that teachers use to further students vocabulary development. Teachers select a few words from the content area text for students to discuss building background knowledge before hearing the text read aloud. Personal dictionaries, word walls, and vocabulary journals create a learning environment that is supportive of students as they build reading and writing vocabulary. The following website is interactive online games and activities to engage learners in vocabulary development.                                                                                                                                                                                     BACK TO THE TOP



Comprehension is influenced by four factors including reading comprehension strategies, background knowledge, knowledge about text, and motivation. First graders need background knowledge to make connections as they read new information since comprehension is making connections between schema, stored information, and the new information being presented in the text read. Mosaic of Thought presents seven comprehension strategies including: monitoring comprehension, schema, generating questions, determining importance, imagery, inferring, and synthesis.

Assessment Strategies

Cloze procedure is an assessment to measure comprehension skills. The teacher selects a passage of 100 words for the first grader to read. The teacher removes every fifth word from the text leaving the first and last sentences completely intact. The test is administered individually.  As the child reads the passage the teacher records the child’s responses similar to a running record. The child uses background knowledge, context clues, picture clues, and makes inferences to replace missing words within the passage. The score is determined by the number of correct responses compared to the number of blanks.  The following link provides information to clarify creating and scoring by providing an example.

Student conferences and retellings provide opportunities for teachers to check comprehension on an individual bases. The student reads a selected passage to the teacher and the two engage in discussion of what the student understands is happening in the story. The teacher scaffolds with questions to create opportunities for the student to explain how s/he came to those understandings.  Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is a product that supports teachers in measuring a learner’s ability to read a passage and then retell effectively what they understood. The following link provides more details concerning this assessment tool.

Since motivation is a key factor in reading comprehension completing a reading attitude survey will give the teacher additional information about first graders’ attitude toward reading. The negative and positive attitudes toward reading are based on past experiences with books. If students do not understand what they are reading there is no reason to read and motivation to continue to read is lost. The link below provides a sample of the Garfield Reading Attitude Survey. The first graders select the Garfield that best matches their feelings about reading. There are two parts one representing recreational reading and the other academic reading. The survey consists of 20 items and the scale range is 1-4 points with the happiest Garfield worth four points and the grumpy Garfield is worth one point. To score just total each Garfield.

The following link provides samples, resources, and information to support comprehension strategy instruction

Garfield Reading Attitude Survey

Intervention Strategies

Think aloud is an instructional strategy that allows the student to see how good readers think before, during and after reading. These are effective during whole class mini lessons and small group mini lessons. The teacher selects a book to read aloud to the students. Before reading the teacher models predicting by thinking aloud processing the clues provide by the book. During reading the teacher stops to think aloud what has happened so far, referring to parts of the text to help the reader to comprehend, infer, and predict further. After reading the story the teacher talks about the revisions in thinking, predicting, and making inferences based on information the story provided. Teachers have been effective in measuring and assessing comprehension but have not been effective in teaching how to comprehend text. Think aloud is a demonstration of the skills and processes that good readers use helping learners observe comprehension in action.  The following resources online support teachers as they venture into using Think Aloud.

Graphic organizers provide a visual opportunity for good readers to show what they understand about the relationship between information understood when reading. These can be modeled during whole class instruction, small group with guidance, and individual lessons. Graphic organizers help good readers to arrange their understandings of the text in a diagram to support the readers before, during, and after reading.  Graphic organizers are supportive during oral retellings, act as a prewriting experience before writing a summary, and help readers determine what is important. The following resource provides free graphic organizers to support readers’ comprehension.

Reading a variety of genre creates opportunities for students to practice thinking before, during and after reading. Knowledge of text is a major factor in understanding what is read and experience in reading a wide range of text allows teachers to model how the text structure impacts the reader’s comprehension when reading. Teachers conduct whole class mini lessons or provide scaffolding during small group and individual mini lessons to support students as they practice their thinking before, during, and after reading demonstrating their approximation of these comprehension skills and strategies when engaged with a variety of genre. The teacher models the comprehension strategies more at the beginning while gradually releasing the responsibility to the students. Reading a wide range of genre builds schema and vocabulary which are needed by readers to support their thinking as they make connections between what they know and the new information.    


Literature Response


Once the reader has made connections with a text based on background knowledge, an opportunity to respond thoughtfully creates a connection between reading and writing. The first grader needs an opportunity to engage with the text on a different level of thinking and learning experiences utilizing writing is a way to provide this experience. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides support as teachers intentionally create engaging writing experiences allowing the reader to respond to the text they have read. Building comprehension with an opportunity to respond at the early grades may prevent a drop in reading achievement in the later grades.

Assessment Strategies

Journaling is a time of writing for readers to respond to what they have read. The reader may focus on one element of the story or text that attracted them due to background knowledge or prior experiences. For first grade readers these may be the characters, setting, a specific event within the story, or questions they wonder when finished reading. The following resource provides a variety of journal response options and how to score.

 Summaries help the reader to put the story in order. A graphic organizer displaying beginning, middle and ending completed as a prewriting activity will support the reader as s/he writes the summary. Items to be included as the summary unfolds would be important characters, important events, the problem, and the solution.

Attitude toward writing is a factor for the teacher to consider. Knowing how the first grader feels about writing will impact the learning experiences during instruction. The Garfield Elementary Writing Attitude Survey is an assessment that will measure the child’s perspective when writing. There are 28 items for the student to respond showing his/her feelings about writing. There are four pictures of Garfield displaying a feeling response to writing ranging from excited to grumpy. These four pictures range in points from one for grumpy to four for excited. This survey can be given whole class, small group, or individually. The results are scored by totaling all the points associated with each Garfield. There is a recording sheet for the teacher to record the student’s responses and a chart to cross check the student’s total with a percentage revealing the child’s attitude toward writing. Once the teacher has determined the negative or positive attitude toward writing instructional needs will be determined so as to support the child with a development of writing skills.  Creating a confidence promoting a positive attitude toward writing may be accomplished by teaching writing skills and strategies to equip the first graders for pleasurable writing experiences.

Intervention Strategies

Teaching how to respond to literature could be conducted in whole class, small group, or individual mini lessons. The important component is for the teacher to share thinking and decision making processes when determining what to write. The teacher creates opportunities for students to practice with guided learning experiences and scaffolding.

Mini lessons on how to use graphic organizers, journaling, demonstrating writing will provide students with opportunities to observe what good readers and writers do before, during and after reading in preparation for responding to the literature or text read. Planning guided writing, shared writing, interactive writing experiences provides time to practice the skills and strategies with guidance, scaffolding, and allows the first grader to demonstrate his/her approximation of these skills and processes.

Conducting a literature circle experience for the whole class to observe and followed with discussion creates a learning experience for responding to literature that would be an oral experience sharing their written responses. Students learn to listen to one another receiving experiences in multiple perspectives of characters and reactions to different components of stories based on an individual’s background knowledge and schema.  Literature circles create learning experiences that allow students to read as writers.                                                                                                                                                                                                        BACK TO THE TOP

Writing Development


Developing first graders’ writing abilities are essential to reading as there is a major relationship between reading and writing. As children read and interact with text as they comprehend the message of the text and also noting the writing of the author to present that message. Responding to what was read is a learning experience that allows the student to ponder the purpose of the text, the tone/voice of the author, organization and details of the text. Teachers observe the students use of conventions of grammar, usage, and mechanics when writing. Teachers assess the first grader’s use of spaces between words, use of lower case letters, and attempts using punctuation. Teachers note the child’s use of capitals at the beginning of sentence with lower case letters within the word, the use of periods, and the creating of complete sentences. Writing is a social act that allows the child to experience being an author and thinking about text before it became a story or a passage read by others.

Assessment Strategies

Using the 6-trait writing rubric will support teachers as they assess their first grader’s writing

Writing prompts allow teachers to review and assess the child’s use of writing conventions, organization, and mechanics of grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Using teacher constructed holistic or analytic rubrics or checklists based on the 6-trait writing rubric will help the teacher to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the students. This information will drive the instruction planned by the teacher to improve the writing skills and strategies of the students. Students who are knowledgeable of how to write have an attitude of confidence that supports them during writing.

Intervention Strategies

Mini lessons explicitly teaching punctuation and grammar will address the first grader’s development in writing. These lessons can be conducted whole class, small group, or individually. If the majority of the class is lacking in an area whole class would be appropriate. Small groups of children with similar misuse or lack writing skills or strategies could receive mini lessons focused on their specific writing needs. Individual mini lessons are conducted for those first graders needing an intensive or additional instruction in a specific writing skill or strategy. The teacher would effectively teach these mini lessons utilizing thinking aloud to share how decisions are made concerning use of capitals, punctuation, word choice, organization, purpose, details, and voice.

The mini lessons would lead to practicing the skill or strategy with a small group for scaffolding and then eventually individual writing time to experiment with using the newly learned skill or strategy demonstrating their approximation of the skill and/or strategy.

Shared writing experiences with small groups allow the teacher to do the writing while the children help plan and compose the writing. This learning experience allows the teacher to pose questions that lead the children to explain the writing process, the thinking the writer needs to do, and point out and explain the need for punctuation and capitals.

Writer’s workshop creates authentic writing examples for students to review the writing skills and strategies used by their peers without displaying names. The students can analyze skills and strategies the writers used and why. Teachers share ideas and ask questions leading students to suggest revisions and additions to improve the skill or strategy being observed. The following resource will support teachers as they venture into designing a writer’s workshop within their classroom.

Editing opportunities allow students to read a writing sample and provides practice in recognizing errors. Teachers create mini lessons introducing editing marks. The teachers produce writing samples with mistakes and allow students to mark the copy using a colorful pen to identify the writing mistakes. Students meet in small groups to share their findings and explain the correction needed.  The whole class discussion that follows the editing activity reinforces the writing skills and strategies presented during the lesson.                                                                                                                                                                                                     BACK TO THE TOP


National Center on Monitoring Student Progress: gives the names of literacy assessments, cost, tech, special needs, purpose, implementation, usage, and reporting:

International Reading Association provides effective resources for literacy engagement:

Lesson plans for literacy development for K-2:

Retired school teacher shares her literacy resources with others:

Literacy website created by Jim Davis and Ball State University supporting literacy development in areas of phonemic awareness, vocabulary, alphabetic principle, reading strategies, and more: 

Graphic organizers:

Everyday spelling activities:

Journal writing:                                                                                                                                                                         BACK TO THE TOP