Diving Into the Deep End: All Hands on Deck

Assessing Kindergarteners’ Early Literacy Skills during the First Week of School

Norma Linda Mattingly, Ph.D. Mount Mercy University, Associate Professor of Education & PDS Professor & Supervisor nmattingly@mtmercy.edu

Barbara Leete, Center Point-Urbana School District, Instructional Coach bleetee@cpuschools.org

Mickey Dunn, Center Point-Urbana School District, Reading Specialist, mdunn@cpuschools.org

The start of the school year with our PDS partner, Center Point Elementary, reflects the flurry of activity that occurs in many schools across the country. Teachers can be seen selecting curricular materials, preparing lessons, putting up bulletin board displays, arranging classroom areas, and reviewing students’ profiles in order to get a sense of who they are prior to their arrival.

One benefit of partnering with Center Point Elementary, a K-2 building in Iowa, is that Mount Mercy University interns get to see the kinds of preparations needed to begin the school year. In addition, interns learn first-hand the importance of determining what students know early in the year in order to provide them the kinds of support they need to be successful (Walpole & McKenna, 2012; Richardson, 2009).

One task Center Point teachers are charged with in the first week of school is assessing their students’ literacy skills. Past cohorts of interns have assisted in the process of administering the Slosson Oral Reading graded word lists (Slosson, 2008). This fall interns were ready to take the plunge when Mrs. Dunn, the school’s Reading Specialist, instructed them in how to administer this assessment. The excitement among the interns was palpable as they gave instructions and administered the word lists. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Leete, the instructional coach, asked if we would consider helping with theConcepts About Print Assessment (CAP) (Clay, 2000).

Research indicates that kindergartners who understand basic print concepts are more likely to succeed in learning to read. Those who lack this knowledge can be taught these skills while others may struggle and go on to experience reading or learning difficulties (Richardson, 2009; Clay, 2000). By identifying students who need extra help, we can provide interventions and hopefully thwart future problems.

While interns expressed initial concerns about “messing up”, the repeated administration of these assessments allowed them to become more skilled assessors. Their assistance made for quicker turn around in data gathering and the formation of decoding groups. Interns experienced authentic purposes for assessing students and their importance in planning instruction:  a lesson well learned with the help of our PDS partners.


Interns & Barbara Leete’s Quotes

“I was nervous about giving the assessments but once I did it several times, it got easier.”

“One boy I worked with knew many of the words, but there was one student who skipped many of them.”

“It was so helpful to have all hands on deck to administer these assessments the first week of school.”


Clay, M. (2000). Concepts of print: What have students learned about the way we print language? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Richardson, J. (2009). The next step in guided reading: Focused assessments and targeted            

lessons for helping every student become a better reader. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Walpole, S. & McKenna, M. C. (2012). Differentiated reading instruction: Strategies for the             

primary grades. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Slosson, R. & Nicholson, C.L. (2008). Slosson oral reading test-revised 3. East Aurora, NY:  Slosson Educational Publications Inc.