Assessments in Reading Small Group


Assessing your reading in small groups is not an easy task. Love-hate is the relationship that I have when it comes time to assess. I love them because you gain SO much information from the data. Hate comes into play because it takes away from instructional time. Learn how to shave off tons of time, get data quicker than usual and how to use that data to tailor them to your students’ needs.

In this 5-part blog series, I’ll give you an insider’s look at what my reading block looks like.  My small group’s look changes every year with each group, but the basics remain the same. Here’s what you can look forward to in this series:

Part 1: Introducing and Planning Reading Small Groups 

Part 2: Prepping Reading Small Group Activities and Materials 

Part 3: Assessing with Reading Small Groups (that’s this post)

Part 4: Tips for Reading Small Groups

Part 5: Reading Block Rotations

The First Assessment

Let’s start from the beginning: The first week of school. During the first week of school, I try to get all of my letters, sounds, colors, shapes, and numbers assessed. YES. That is a lot. I usually don’t assess any more than that. We have nap time at my school, but in the past, I didn’t have nap time and had to squeeze in assessments when I could.

Why do I assess the very first week of school? I want to know where they started. I need a baseline before I begin planning my instruction and I’ll have something to send home at the beginning of the school year. It gives me a good idea about where my class stands and where each student stands. It’s also a great indicator of what I need to do next.

Paper Assessments

For paper assessments, I use the Alphabet Buffet appetizer from The Phonics Diner to assess my kiddos. I don’t complete the entire thing in one sitting. I break it up and test all of the sounds for all the kids, then the numbers and so on. It helps to keep the kids moving and to give yourself a break. Numbers are quick and I usually do 0-10. We only teach 0-5 the first quarter, so I could save more time by only assessing these, but the data is nice to have.

Play dough mats, blocks, connecting cubes and easy math centers are the perfect activities to allow students to explore and to give yourself time to assess students. I can easily send away a student if I need to get up and manage the class. We practice rotating during this time so the expectations are super low with what they are doing. I want them to get out all of their playing during the first few weeks of school and maximize that time with assessments.

Assessments with ESGI

For non-paper assessments, I use ESGI. This is what I’ve used the past few years and will never go back to paper assessments unless it’s required by my school/district. I either find or create the assessment that I want in ESGI. It only takes a few minutes to create one, but there ARE hundreds of assessments already created to save you time. I create tabs for each Progress Report and each Report Card. This makes printing my reports a lot easier on my end. So, I have a 1st 9 weeks Progress Report (PR), 1st 9 weeks Report Card (RC), 2nd 9 weeks PR, 2nd 9 weeks RC and so on.

During the first week of school, I quickly assess each of my students on letters in about 30 minutes. That’s it. Depending on how many kids I have plus the time for transitions and management, it’s usually less than 30 minutes. I didn’t have to write anything, cross anything out or count up how many letters they knew. Using ESGI, I go to the reports and can instantly print off letters to the parents. Then, I complete this for the other assessments that I’ve added under 1st Nine Weeks PR and by the end of the week, I have completed ALL of the first week of school assessments that I need.

If ESGI will save you time as well, head here to sign up for a 30-day trial. Double those days with the code ENCHANTED to get started now. You can also save $40 off the subscription using the code.

Reassess for Small Groups

Now, I know exactly where my students are beginning. This is great for me to know how much time I’ll be spending in the coming days discussing each of the letters with The Alphabet Buffet. We do a 26 Letter a Day instruction at the beginning of school to help jumpstart the letters. Each week, I reassess my students to see if they’ve picked up any more letters. This begins my yearlong tracking of data. I only retest for the letters that were missed. I don’t have to remember which letters those were because ESGI remembers those for me.

At the end of The Alphabet Buffet, I reassess ALL of the alphabet. I want to make sure a letter wasn’t guessed and incorrectly marked correct. I print off their parent report or student progress report and send home with parents to let them know how much their child has learned in just 30 days (really less than that). This data is what helps me group my students. You can read more about the groups in the first post found here. If you need more ideas for the first week of school, check out my First 30 Days post and grab the checklist while you’re there.

Assess Daily During Small Groups

During small group each week, I keep one child from every group a day to quickly assess on something. If I have four groups, then I assess four kids during small group time. As my students are cleaning up to change centers, the students at the table stay with me. I pull one of them around the table with me and quickly assess either their letters, words or sounds.

At the end of centers on Thursday, I should have assessed 16 kids during small group time. This means I will squeeze in the rest of the students that I missed for that one skill and the rest of the skills during assessment time on Friday. On Fridays, I only pull my intervention group and allow the rest of my students to rotate centers the same. I pull one child at a time and assess on the rest of the skills that I need data on. This could be anything from onset and rime to blending cvc words.

End of the Week Assessments

The Weekly Nibble is what I use to assess each child on Friday to use as data markers in their portfolios. These are not one-on-one. I call up four to five students at time, place dividers between them and have them to color in or write what is asked. A few rotations of this and I have data markers on all my students for the week. Then, I add the date to each and drop them in their portfolio. I use these Neon Hanging File Folders to keep everything sorted. They’re perfect and the right touch to my classroom.

Whew! It seems like I do a ton of assessments, but in actuality I really don’t. So to recap. Assess the first week of school, once a week during your 26 Letter a Day instruction and assess one child from each group daily. Catch up on assessments on Fridays. That’s it. It sounds doable, right? Now, when progress reports and report card time rolls around, I don’t have to stop teaching to try to assess all week. I have all of the data and data markers to support why my students receive the letter standard that they receive. My parents will also have the parent reports from ESGI with detailed information on which skills they’re excelling in and which needs a bit more work.

Did you grab your trial of ESGI, yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Here’s how you get started in a few quick steps.

Click Yes or No for the answers. That’s it. You can also skip or add notes if you’d like.
A report is ready as soon as you’re finished assessing. You can print out one skill or ALL the skills on one page. It’s up to you to customize the report.
The option to create flash cards is at the click of a button.
When I’m crunched for time and need to get everyone up to date for report cards, I check here. This lets me know who hasn’t been tested within the last 7, 14, 30 days. Click on Run Test and it opens immediately. This is the easiest way to comb through who still needs to be tested. Of course, during the school year – you won’t have all of these Run Test options.
If you do Letter Grades or Standards, you can create your own grading scale.
Create your own tabs and organize the tests just how you want them. I do by Quarter and by Progress Report/Report Card. This gives me better reports that are specific to that testing period. Others prefer them to be my subject area.

That’s it! Assessments will become so much easier and will give back so much time when it comes time to progress reports and report cards. I will never use anything, BUT ESGI for my assessments. If you’re not a kindergarten teacher – I’ve used ESGI in 1st grade as well. They do have assessments already created from Pre-K up to 2nd. Grab your trial here using the code ENCHANTED for 60 days.

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