Thursday, May 10, 2012

Early Literacy Screening Tool

I administered the “The Get Ready to Read Screening tool” to my daughter. This is a research-based series of questions used to determine whether a child has the early literacy skills they need to become readers.

My daughter was eager to sit at the desktop computer to play a game with me. I read the question as the text appeared on the screen and she would point to her response.

Each question had four choices and she would try to tap the screen for her choice. I explained that I had to use the mouse to make her choice which was disappointing to her.


Her responses to the letter recognition were quick and fluent. Though her responses to the blending questions were all correct, her slow response makes me think this is an area we should review.


Though this assessment can be completely done online and scored by the computer, I chose to do also mark her answers on the printable scoring sheet so that I could more closely analyze her responses. I thought saving the printed sheet would be a good reference when I administer this screening in a couple of months to see the growth that she has made in the area of early literacy skills.

The Get Ready to Read Screening tool is most appropriate for children in the year before they enter kindergarten. Since my daughter will turn 3 in a couple of weeks, I am aware that this tool is designed for older children and knew ahead of time that there may be questions that she would not be able to respond to.


If I were to use this screening tool in my preschool classroom, I would order the “Get Ready to Read Revised” tool available through Pearson since it is norm referenced for  children who are 3, 4, and 5 years old.  A benefit of the on-line version is that working on computer is a very desirable activity for my child and she was very engaged during the testing.


The Get Ready to Read Screening tool is only 20 questions and it is available free on-line.  I like that it takes only 5-10 minutes to administer per child, which would be important if I was using it in my classroom. 


On this first administration my daughter scored 15/20. From this data I will now work on sorting letter/numbers, reinforce her awareness of rhyming pairs, work on quick and fluent blending, and will continue to work on beginning sounds.


After those areas are more solid, I will also introduce syllable deletion by working on changing compound words, “What is cupcake without cup.” 

Later when she is more aware of handwritten print, I will talk about printing that is more legible than other print samples.

Overall the I found the online Get Ready to Read Screening tool to be a great way to know what areas were strengths for my daughter and helped me decide on areas to work with on. I suggest both parents and providers who have children who are soon to enter kindergarten to use this tool.
The Get Ready to Read! Website says that the early literacy skills that this screening tool looks at are:
·         Print knowledge refers to a child’s understanding of books, printed letters, and words.
·         Linguistic awareness refers to a child’s understanding of how words and language works.
·         Emergent writing refers to a child’s first efforts to create and use print in a meaningful way.

The screening tool is available for free at-

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Journey to Kindergarten

            The yellow school bus arrives and my sweet little boy takes these giant steps on board. He sits down in the first row and eagerly waves goodbye. As I walk home, a huge number of questions begin to circle in my mind. Can this already be happening? Is he really off to school for a full day? What will he learn this year? Will he make close friendships? Is he ready for this adventure called kindergarten?
            Many parents have these same questions as their child is about to embark on their school career. Entering kindergarten is a milestone that both parents and children look forward to, but many families worry if their child is ready. Out of concern that their child might be ‘left behind they purchase programs that claim to teach babies to read or “skill and drill” them with worksheets. Luckily, current research (Starting Out Right by the National Research Council) concludes that young child learn best through play and that reading aloud to our children and having conversations with them are some of the best ways to prepare preschoolers for school. So put away the flash cards, leave the preschool workbooks on the shelf, and skip watching the Baby Einstein DVDs, listed below are research based approaches to learning for young children. (Literacy for Young Children)

Shared Book Reading ~ Make a daily habit of reading aloud to your child. Encourage your child to make predictions and ask questions about the book. Read with expression and highlight the fun and playful nature of our language. Reread the same book multiple times, discuss the connections between the pictures and the written words, and take time to explain the meanings of uncommon words.

Oral Language ~ Encourage conversations by asking your child open ended questions, such as “Well why do you think…”. Also ask ‘wh’ questions (who, what, why, when, where) about pictures in books or when the child is telling a story.  

Early Writing ~ Encourage your child’s writing development by having a variety of paper, crayons, pencils, and markers. Your child’s writing may just look like scribbling but those are beginnings of writing. Drawing pictures is the first phase of writing, and parents should praise and encourage their child for making pictures as well as writing words. To help your child make the connection between sounds and written letters, begin to teach them to write their name.  Be sure to keep name writing fun by using a variety of materials such as shaving cream or dot markers. (“A Scribble or a Masterpiece?”)

Alphabet ~ Sing the alphabet song, read alphabet books, and point out letters that you see throughout the day. Begin by working with the letters in your child’s name, put magnetic letters on the fridge to play with, and go on letter hunts in books or magazines.

Phonological Awareness ~ This term seems technical but it means learning about the sounds of our language. Play games with rhyming words, count the number of words in a spoken sentence, find words that begin with the same sound, and clap the syllables (word parts) in spoken words. See for more ideas!

Bonding time ~ Get down on the floor and play board game, which teaches your child how to take turns and follow directions, and is just plain fun! Take your child outside for a walk in nature and notice the changes in the trees and the cycles of seasons. Let your child’s interest lead you to projects to do together, maybe it’s learning a sport or maybe it’s digging for worms. Either way, make special time to spend with your child.

Social time with other kids ~ Schedule some play dates so your child has the opportunity to interact with other children. In kindergarten, a huge part of their day is working with other children. Knowing how to share toys and communicate with other children is important. If your child has attended preschool or has been enrolled in child care they likely already have these skills but meeting a few friends that will be in his class would be a huge benefit.

Community connections ~ get involved in activities in your town or city that are meant for children and families. Head out to the library to participate in story hour, or make a point to stop by the play ground. Attending community events helps both you and your child feel more connected to others. Once your child begins school, find ways to be involved in your child’s classroom or the Parent/Teacher group.

Positive attitude ~ Lastly, put on your smile! If you are excited and enthusiastic about school, your child will be as well. Let your child know that you are proud of them and praise them for all that they are learning.

The preschool years go by so quickly and all too soon you too will be walking back from the bus  asking yourself questions like I was. I know that when I reflected on whether or not my son was ready for kindergarten, I knew that he was. Though he couldn’t yet tie his shoes and was still a bit shy around new people, I felt confident that he was prepared for the start of a wonderful school career!


Ø  Literacy for Young Children: A Guide for Early Childhood Educators, Priscilla L. Griffith, Sara Ann Beach, Jiening Ruan, Loraine Dunn

Ø  Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success, Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, Catherine Snow

Ø  “A Scribble or a Masterpiece?  Your Toddler’s Developing Writing and Art Skills.” ZERO TO THREE

Ø  Yopp, K K. & Yopp, R.H. (2009) Phonological awareness is a child’s play!  Young Children

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Worms~ What a fun theme for a rainy day!

Outdoor - Worm Farm - create an outdoor worm farm

Mini Lesson - What do you know about earthworms?
Pass around a jar containing dirt and a couple of earthworms. Read aloud, An Earthworm's Life (Nature Up close) by John Himmelman {This book has excellent illustrations and just one line of text per page, which makes it a perfect read aloud to introduce the topic of worms.}
Gross Motor - worm crawl tunnel; wiggle worm dance

Sensory Table - Cooked Spaghetti

Water Table organic potting soil and plastic worms (from fishing department), small shovels and mini buckets

Art Worm Paintings using yarn pieces {or plastic worms from the fishing department}

Math - Measuring with Worms, Arranging "yarn worms" by length. Unifex cubes to compare.

Writing Center - small worm cutouts to make into bookmarks. Could write "I'm a Bookworm" on the bookmarks.

Easel - over sized cut outs of worms, various shades of brown paint

Play Dough garlic press and other play dough tools that make 'worms'
show kids how to make worms by rolling the dough. Have Easter grass to lay the worms in?

Science Center/ Discovery - Worm Habitats: Give the children a 6x6 inch cardboard piece to paint brown. Glue on fringed green paper to make it look like grass and the brown is underground. Then have the kids put pieces of cooked and moist spaghetti to show how worms make tunnels. Talk about worm habitats. Once the spaghetti dries it will become stiff and will stay stuck to the paper.

Puzzles/Manipulatives - Fine motor activity ~ using chopsticks, have kids transfer 'worms' from one container to another. Could use either pretend fishing worms, cooked noodles, or pieces of string.

Closing Circle: What is something you learned about worms today? Now we are going to release our worms back into the outdoor worm farm. Why is it important to put the worms back outside?

A great extension would be to have an indoor worm farm so the children to continue to learn about worms.

Literature Connections:
Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Worm.
Himmelman, John. An Earthworm's Life.
Llewellyn, Claire. Earthworms.
Loewen, Nancy. Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard.
 Additional Online Resources:

More ideas for Worm Books -

Wiggle Worm Skill Game -

Teddy Tunnel idea, could transform into Worm tunnels

Experiment to test what type of habitat worms prefer

Worm Songs -

Amazing unit on worms!