Identifying Letters in the Early Grades

One of the most important concepts that beginning readers need to master is the ability to identify upper and lower case letters as well as link at least one sound that each letter makes. Many children come to school knowing their letters and sounds but many do not – especially children from high poverty or second language homes. Research shows that children who know their letters and sounds have a much easier time learning to read than children who have not mastered letter identification. A quick way to tell who needs additional work with letters and sounds is to ask children to identify letter names and give a sound that the letter makes. You can download a simple assessment form for checking student skill master as well as flash cards by quickly searching the internet for these items that you can give to parents or classroom tutors so they can continue to help your students practice identifying the letters in both upper as well as lower case form. Periodic rechecks can track progress and determine who needs additional work with letters and sounds.

Phases of Early Literacy Development for K-3 Students

We know from research that children begin their development with language as early as when they are developing in the womb. These language skills form the foundation of their ability to become oral communicators as well as good readers and writers. Children form their understandings about language, reading and writing from their home and environmental experiences with language and with the print they experience around them on a day to day basis. Click on the links below to see the characteristics of each stage of literacy development. You will find many great activities to do with children in each stage of literacy development in my book: Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development.

1. Exploratory Stage

2. Experimental Stage

3. Early Literacy Stage

4. Transitional Literacy Stage

5. Independent/Productive Reading Stage

Using Running Records in the Primary Classroom

Marie Clay introduced the idea of taking a running record as a child reads orally to document a child’s reading behavior in the early 1980. She demonstrated that having a good understanding of a child’s strengths and areas of struggle could help the reading teacher develop targeted instruction to help the child grow into a strong and capable reader. Today, many primary teachers understand the value of taking running records and use them to benchmark their student’s progress and inform their instruction.

Taking a running record takes practice but with time, you can quickly learn to take a helpful running record. To take a running record, find a book that you believe is written at the student’s independent level that the child has not read before. Some people prefer to make a copy of the text for themselves to mark on while others simply look over the child’s shoulder as s/he reads and make their markings in a line by line fashion on a blank piece of paper. Tell the child that you will be listening to him or her read out loud and making notes about his or her reading on your paper to learn about what s/he does well when reading. As the child reads, make a check mark for each word that is read correctly. For example, if the child read, “The father came home from work.” your paper would have six check marks on the first line indicating that each word was read correctly. If the child is reading too fast, tell him or her to either slow down or to stop while you catch up with your recording.

Reading Error Rate:  To determine the students error rate, count the total words read and divide by the total number of errors the child makes while reading. Round the number to the nearest whole number. The error rate is expressed as a ratio meaning that for each error made, the child reads X words correctly.

Reading Accuracy Level:  To find the child’s accuracy rate to determine if the text is easy enough for independent reading, count the total words read and subtract the total errors and then divide by the total words read and multiply by 100. Books should be in the  95-100% accuracy range for the reader to do well with this book. A book which a reader can read with 90-94% accuracy is at the child’s instructional level. This book can be used in guided reading situations but is too difficult for the child to read alone.  If the child’s accuracy level with the given text is below 90% it is too difficult for this reader and should not be used.