Sight Phrase Literacy Actions and Assessments for Elementary College College students –

contributed by Samantha Saumell

As teachers, we may have moments when we stand before our beaming students and wonder what we can do to best meet their needs. How can we help students who are reading below grade level? How can we help struggling mathematicians?

At the end of the day, it can feel overwhelming. But no matter what, always remember to do everything with a purpose. Don’t lose sight of why we do what we do. Everything we do is for our students. In the article “What to Expect in Freshman Apprenticeship,” Amy DePaul explains that “[k]ids are and will always be what great teachers live for. Her smile is an antidote for a bad day, and her progress is a never-ending source of contentment…” (p. 28). So keep that in mind sometimes when you’re scratching your head about where to go next.

Before you can decide where to go, you need to take the time and understand exactly where your students are. When it comes to reading, it’s imperative that you choose tests that allow you to know exactly who your student is as a reader.

A variety of literacy tests may include:

-Alphabet Recognition/Sound Correspondence: Have students recognize lowercase letters and what sounds they produce.

– Sight word recognition: Fountas and Pinnell’s list of common words or Jan Richardson’s list of words by reading level.

-Running Record: Fountas and Pinnell, each level has a fiction and non-fiction book.

– Phonological assessment: decode, mix phonemes, segment phonemes, identify rhymes, syllables and initials.

When testing, students make sure they are aware that if they don’t know something, it’s okay! It’s important to allow adequate time for response, but long enough to create distraction or frustration. The goal is to get information, not frustrate the students.

Once you have time to analyze the data, you may be surprised at what you discover. Notice which letters students can easily identify and which ones leave them perplexed. When conducting a running recording, try to find out what kind of mistakes the students are making. Fountas and Pinnell created running records that you can use to track if a student made a meaning, syntax, or visual error. The aim is to analyze a child’s reading behavior. Keeping a running record alone is not enough. You must take the time to understand students’ mistakes. This information, along with a student’s reading level, can help you form effective small groups in your classroom.

Once you know a little more about who your students are as readers, you can plan meaningful lessons. For example, if you know what letters a student needs to practice, you can design engaging activities. Before a student can successfully type tricky words while reading, they must understand that letters represent sounds.

letter activities

– Each time you teach a new letter, have students color the letter on an alphabet rainbow. This can give students time to reflect on their achievements and see their growth.

– Read poetry and have students pretend they are detectives and find the letters they are learning.

– Make learning multi-sensory. Writing Sky letters, tracing letters, singing songs, reading poems, etc.

Sightword Activities

– Write rainbow. Have students write the word in a rainbow using different colors.

-Small/medium/large writing. Students write the word in different sizes to help them recognize the word more automatically.

-Magnetic letters. Using letters for students to form their words.

– Fancy fingers. Students can use crayons and markers to write their words in a fancy style. As students write the words, have them say each letter as they form it.

When it comes to running record, you can use mistakes made by students as a way to plan lessons. For example, if you notice that a student is not reading fluently, you can introduce a fluency spinner. A fluency spinner is a great way to help students read more expressively and can be customized.

For example, if you know your student loves a certain character like Mario, Minnie Mouse, or even Olaf, you can put them on the Fluency Spinner. Students can spin the spinner, and whoever lands it is who they must sound like. You can use any text that corresponds to a student’s level of independent reading. You can also put on the spinner to read like your teacher, read like a monster, read like your mom or read like a baby.

Choose characters or people that you know your students can remember quickly. Another fun idea is if while doing run recordings you notice that students are not reading the whole sentence, you can create speech pyramids. A fluency pyramid is a way to ensure students read to the end. For example:


I like

I like to

I want to go

I like to go

I like going to the

I like going to the park.

You can cover the line below and have students move the paper further down as they do so.

(*You can also add sight words for students to practice!*)

Ultimately, it is important not to make reviews just for the sake of data collection. Make assessments that serve a purpose and allow you to gain insight into what a student really understands or doesn’t understand. Use this information to advance your teaching.

Remember to make decisions with your students in mind so you don’t go wrong!

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