The Assessment of Orthographic Development

Assessment begins with informal observations of students’ orthographic knowledge.  To do this, the most effective teachers implement a combination of writing samples and reading, writing and spelling inventories in the classroom and then portfolio all of the work.

Observing students’ writing:
-unedited rough drafts
-daily journals

Observing students’ reading:
Why?: a close relationship exists between reading and spelling, described as the synchrony of development.  If students can spell a word, then we know they can read a word; however, this seldom works the other wy around.
-Encourage reading aloud
-Having students read at their instructional levels means they can read most words correctly and when they encounter unfamiliar words, they have the orthographic knowledge and context to assist them in decoding.

Spelling Inventories
Spelling inventories are lists of words specifically chosen to represent a variety of spelling features or patterns at increasing levels of difficulty.  These lists are not exhasutive, but include enough spelling features to be able to identify a stage of development and thus plan instruction.
There are three inventories: the Primary Spelling Inventory (PSI) (K-3), the Elementary Spelling Inventory (ESI) (1-6), and Upper Level Spelling Inventory (USI) (upper elementary-high school).  A test is chosen initially based on grade level; however, some students may be above or below the rest of the class and may need a higher or lower-level inventory.  A key point to keep in mind is that students must generate a number of errors in order to be able to determine a spelling stage.
Use of these spelling inventories requires four basic steps summarized here:
1. Select a spelling inventory based on grade level and students’ achievement levels.  Administer the inventory much as you would a traditional spelling test, but do not let students study the words in advance.
2. analyze students’ spellings using a feature guide.  You might also analyze the results globally after you have experience understanding qualitative scoring.  This analysis will help you identify what orthographic features students know and what they are ready to study.
3. Organize groups using a classroom composite form (WTW p. 269) and the spelling by stage form.  These will help you plan instruction for developmental groups.
4. Monitor overall progress by using the same inventory several times a year.  Weekly spelling tests will also help you assess students’ mastery of the orthographic features they study.

Prepare students for inventory: prompt them that the assessment is not graded and low stakes; it is for the sole purpose of helping the teacher decide what to teach.  If any students appear upset and frustrated, you may assess them at another time, individually, or use writing samples to determine instructional level.  Also, copying is okay.  Teachers should set students up with their own workspace, but if primary students copy, simply make a note to that effect and administer the inventory at a different time.

Giving the inventory: Pronounce each word naturally without drawing out the sounds or breaking it into syllables.  Say each word twice and use it in a sentence if the context will help.  If there is time, students may be given a second try at spelling words about which they may have been unsure.  Through this reexamination, students show their willingness to reflect on their work.  Notations and successive attempts are additional indicators of the depth of studnts’ orthographic knowledge.
KNOW WHEN TO STOP!  Scan students’ papers and watch for mispellings and signs of frustration to determine whether to continue with the list.  With younger students, this may be after only five words if they spelled few correctly.  Older students in groups can usually take an entire inventory in about twenty minutes, and it is better to err on the side of too many words rather than too few.

Assessing the inventory: Begin by marking the words right or wrong and spelling them correctly.  Fill in the feature guide and calculate a raw score or “power score.”  Use this score to determine what stage of spelling the student is at.  Plan instruction based on this stage.  (Specific directions on p. 36).  Begin instruction in areas where students are using but confusing features.

Confusions in scoring: For young spellers, letter reversals (static reversals) should be noted but not counted wrong.  Confusions can also arise in scoring kinetic reversals when the letters are present but out of order; give credit for consonants and vowels, but do not give the extra point for correct spelling.  Early spellers may spell the word but then add random letters to make it look longer and older students may add vowel markers where not needed (ex. “fane” for “fan”).  In both cases, count the consonants and vowels, but do not give the extra point for spelling correctly.

Afterwards: Create a classroom composite chart (p. 40) or a classroom organization chart (p. 42) to get a sense of the group as a whole.  Group 6-8 students together according to developmental level during instruction to give each group invidvidualized attention.  Word study can often be incorporated into reading groups for lessons.  Groups can be reorgainzed throughout the year.  Give assessment several times during year and continually monitore progress through developmental stages in order to keep instruction tailored to students.  Set goals for students’ growth.  Share inventories with parents and other teachers.  Issue weekly spelling tests based on the features you are targeting from the spelling inventory.

Other Assessment Tools
-Qualitative spelling checklists: a list that offers examples of student spelling mistakes than you can then match up to mistakes in their writing and then evaluate the developmental stage.
-Emergent class record:


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