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Getting to know your students


Getting to know your students as people and as learners helps you determine what and how to teach. Watch students interact with each other, and talk to them about their interests. By doing this, you can begin to gather the information you need to build a preliminary instructional plan. Here are some ideas that might help you learn more about your students.

  • Review any portfolios that contain work from previous years.
  • Check for reading fluency by having students read aloud.
  • Ask them to write about a topic of their choice as an initial writing sample.
  • Have students work on an activity in small groups and watch how they work together.
  • Send a letter home with students to introduce Invitations to Literacy. (See the Home Letters in Part 14 of this handbook and the Home-Community Connections Handbook for more details.)
  • Use any of the checklists and forms in Part 14 to assess students informally. Examples include the Student Interest Inventory on page 97, the Reading Attitudes and Habits Inventory on page 110, and the Writing Attitudes and Habits Inventories on pages 116-117.
  • Use the Baseline Group Tests to help determine students’ reading abilities and learning needs.
  • Use the Informal Reading Inventory to assess individual students’ strengths and needs as readers.

Using the Introductory Selection in Invitations to Literacy

Another way to check informally for abilities and fluency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking is to use the Introductory Selection (Getting Started at grades 1 and 2) and related activities that launch each level of the program. The introductory selection lets you observe and assess personal interests and attitudes, reading and writing abilities, and students’ abilities to work together and express themselves in small groups. It also helps you determine how readily students contribute to whole-class discussions.

Using the Baseline Group Tests

The Baseline Group Tests are designed to help you determine students’ reading ability and instructional needs in Invitations to Literacy.

There is a Baseline Group Test booklet for each grade level, 1 through 6. Each booklet consists of two reading passages and a series of questions that test students’ understanding of the passages. At levels 1 and 2, both passages in the booklet are fiction. At levels 3-6, the first passage is fiction and the second is nonfiction. The Teacher’s Annotated Edition for each level provides information on how to score the test and how to use the test scores to estimate an appropriate reading level and determine the amount of instructional support to provide for each student.

Students may be able to complete the two passages and their accompanying questions in one class period. However, you may need or prefer to use two class periods to administer the test. You will be the best judge of what is a comfortable pace for your students.

Using the Informal Reading Inventory

The Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) is an individually administered survey designed to help you determine a student’s reading instructional needs.

A student’s performance on the IRI will help you determine the instructional level and the amount and kind of support the student is likely to need in Invitations to Literacy.

Specifically, the IRI will help you assess a student’s strengths and needs in these areas:

  • word recognition
  • word meaning
  • reading strategies
  • comprehension

The IRI materials consist of a Student Booklet and a Test Manual. They contain word lists and reading selections for these levels of Invitations to Literacy: Levels 1.1-1.3, 1.4-1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

In the Student Booklet, there are two or three reading passages for each level of the inventory. They are excerpts from selections at the same grade level of the reading program.

The Test Manual contains the information and materials you need to administer and score the IRI.

While an IRI is regarded as a suitable tool for determining students’ reading abilities and needs, it is not infallible. You should use the information from the IRI and the Baseline Group Tests, along with any other information you have about a student, to make an initial instructional plan. After you have observed the student for two to three weeks, you should have a better idea of the student’s reading abilities. Your observations may suggest different strengths and needs. Adjustments should be made as necessary.

Using Assessment to Meet Individual Needs

Using appropriate assessment measures can help you identify a student’s individual learning needs. Throughout the year, you may want to use the Informal Assessment Checklists (Group Format) in the Teacher’s Book and the individual format included in this handbook on page 104 to find out where each student’s strengths and learning needs stand in relation to your instructional goals and each student’s personal learning goals. The information you gather with the Informal Assessment Checklists can help you identify common learning needs among students, assess individual needs, and develop future instructional plans to meet these needs.

As you consider how to assess learning in your classroom, include appropriate procedures and activities for learners with special needs. For example, students acquiring English may require different approaches to an activity, such as writing a response in their primary language. Providing more than one option allows students to select the best way to show what they have learned. See Part 13 of this handbook for a more in-depth look at assessing students acquiring English.