Join us for The Heart and The Science Zoom Summit on August 30, 2023. Discover the proven strategies for achieving 90% early literacy success from our outstanding speaker team. Register now! Register

Foundational Reading Skills– Mastering Weekly Planning for Teachers

There are an average of 36 weeks in a school year. 

Each week is an opportunity for teachers to deliver explicit instruction and assess the specific foundational skills that support every child to grow as a young reader.   . 

The span of a week provides teachers with the ideal unit of time to delve into specific reading skills, creating an environment for students where they can absorb and apply these skills as a learner.  

Proper planning and execution of weekly teaching activities throughout the school year results in positive outcomes for students. 

A meticulous teaching process that is repeated week in and week out ensures that students receive a well-thought-out educational experience. It contributes to their overall literacy growth and development. 

When teachers create a weekly plan infused with research-backed early literacy strategies, it ensures a dynamic and effective learning experience.

Weekly plans can keep students engaged in learning essential concepts, while allowing flexibility to address individual learning needs and take appropriate next steps.

If you’re eager to explore a comprehensive list of research-backed and proven foundational reading skills, check out this detailed article on the Sprig blog. It covers each foundational skill, providing insights into their importance and citing supporting evidence. 

This article covers how classroom teachers can master the assessment, instruction and re-assessment of foundational reading skills on a weekly basis.


What is Weekly Planning? With A Scenario.

What is Weekly Planning_With a Scenario

Weekly planning for teachers involves the strategic organization of instructional activities, lessons and assessments for the upcoming week.

The activities done in any one week can change over the course of the term.

While school and class contexts can differ widely, the following scenario provides a detailed view of what effective weekly planning looks like as a term progresses:

The first week serves as a dynamic introduction, encompassing foundational reading skills such as reviewing alphabet knowledge and phonics or refreshing concepts from the previous school year. 

Simultaneously, targeted explicit instruction is provided on chosen skills, accompanied by assessments to gauge student comprehension. 

Subsequent weeks shift focus to the review and adjustment stage, analyzing assessment data to distinguish skills that students have mastered and skills that are proving challenging for certain students. 

Challenging skills are revisited through whole-class instruction, ensuring a comprehensive understanding.

As teachers progress through the weekly planning framework, small-group instruction becomes pivotal for students who require extra practice. Skill segmentation is adopted, allowing educators to differentiate between whole-class needs and those of individual learners. 

For students with multiple skill deficits, individualized support and potential interventions are explored. Team collaboration with the early literacy team is emphasized, providing a platform to discuss individual student needs and design effective support strategies based on a thorough understanding of each student’s context.

Addressing knowledge gaps extends support to students falling behind while simultaneously assisting those not significantly behind but still requiring additional help. 

The creation of practice centers becomes essential for skills demanding extensive practice, offering targeted doses to enhance skill proficiency.

In instances of significant skill gaps, a blitz intervention strategy can be initiated, quickly addressing multiple knowledge deficiencies via reading strategies over a short period of time.

During this time, alternative support mechanisms like parental involvement or peer pairing can also be explored. 

Exploring various strategies within the realms of tier 1 and tier 2 instruction offers ample opportunities for intervention before resorting to tier 3 assistance, which often involves significant resource allocation.


Regularity and Intentionality of Weekly Planning

Regularity and Intentionality of Weekly Planning

While the previous section covered what weekly progression may look like, there are many constants which are practiced every week by educators.

Such regular and intentional practices help to build an effective formative assessment culture. 

Two such very important practices are maintaining a weekly assessment routine, and a follow-up schedule.


Assessment Routine

The assessment routine becomes a structured part of the teacher’s week. Data-driven insights gleaned from these assessments guide modifications in teaching practices.

Purposeful learning design ensures that chosen activities align explicitly with the content students need. 

They offer ample practice opportunities before subsequent assessments, which compose the follow-up schedule.


Follow-up Schedule

The establishment of a follow-up schedule ensures regular tracking of skills for all students, highlighting the importance of progress monitoring as a foundational aspect of the early literacy strategy.


A Template for Mastering Weekly Planning

A Template for Mastering Weekly Planning

Depending on the assessment cycle—whether it’s the initial assessment, reassessment, introduction of differentiated instruction, or reassessment of—teachers need to tailor their actions for the week accordingly.

Using the information above the weekly planning section, the following template is provided for mastering weekly planning. 

It’s a task-based template, where one or more of the following tasks might have to be completed in a week, based on the advancement of the particular school term in question.


Skill Selection

In-Depth Analysis: Teachers conduct a detailed analysis of foundational skills, checking for alignment with grade levels.

Differentiated Start: The first week’s focus varies, either introducing new skills or reviewing concepts from the previous term/year.


Instruction and Assessment

Simultaneous Approach: Teachers integrate explicit instruction with real-time assessments during the week.

Immediate Feedback: Instant feedback guides adjustments in teaching strategies.


Whole-class Instruction

Data-Driven Reflection: Classroom performance is measured against set benchmarks and compared to other classrooms at the same grade. 

Identifying Challenges: Skills that pose challenges are revisited through whole-class instruction, ensuring a comprehensive understanding.


Small-Group Instruction

Targeted Support: Students needing extra practice are identified through assessment results.

Personalized Approach: Small-group sessions allow for personalized attention and focused skill reinforcement.


Skill Segmentation

Strategic Approach: Teachers adopt a skill-based approach, strategically identifying skills requiring additional attention.

Differentiated Instruction: Skill segmentation guides differentiated instruction based on the needs of the entire class and specific learners.


Individualized Support

Isolated View: Students with multiple skill deficits are isolated for individualized attention.

Exploring Interventions: The potential need for interventions is explored to address specific challenges.


Team Collaboration

Contextual Support: Early literacy team meetings involve detailed discussions on individual student needs.

Effective Support Design: Full context sharing ensures the design of effective and tailored support.


Addressing Knowledge Gaps

Targeting Gaps: Students with knowledge gaps, though not significantly behind, receive targeted assistance.

Holistic Assistance: Support is ensured for students falling behind. Conducting holistic assessments is essential to unveil insights into learning circumstances within the school, home, and community. 


Setting up Practice Centers

Strategic Practice: Dedicated practice centers are created for skills requiring extensive reinforcement.

Focused Skill Doses: Practice centers provide focused doses of practice for skill enhancement.


Early and Thorough Intervention

Swift Addressal: A rapid intervention strategy is implemented for students with multiple skill gaps.

Alternative Support: Exploring options like parental involvement or peer pairing for additional support.


Following-up with Reassessments

Regular Check-Ins: A scheduled routine for follow-ups ensures consistent monitoring.

Tracking Progress: Ongoing progress monitoring allows for timely adjustments.


Regularizing Intentional Assessment Practice

Flexibility in Approach: Teachers choose real-time or recorded assessments based on preference.

Timely Completion: Completion before the planning stage ensures comprehensive data for future weeks.


Data-Driven Adjustments

Strategic Modifications: Data-driven adjustments cater to the specific needs of each student.

Flexible Planning: Activities and games are modified based on the collected data.


Purposeful Learning Design

Strategic Infusion: Learning is strategically infused in small, purposeful doses to address specific practice needs.

Targeted Activities: Classroom activities and games are purposefully designed to explicitly teach required content with ample practice opportunities.


Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

As teachers navigate the 36-week journey of a school year, orchestrating explicit instruction, targeted assessments, and purposeful interventions, they craft an educational experience that lays the foundation for a lifetime of literacy.

In professional development or professional activity days throughout the school year, teachers have an opportunity to review their weekly planning, and receive feedback from others on how to best optimize it, in line with the latest research and best practices.

Certainly, aligning professional learning with teachers’ weekly tasks is crucial. It helps when tools designed for activities like assessments and differentiated instruction also contain a professional development component. 

This synergy ensures that teachers not only have the necessary tools at their disposal but are also equipped with the knowledge and skills to wield them effectively. 

It transforms routine tasks into opportunities for growth and mastery, ultimately leading to more efficient weekly planning.

Why Small Group Instruction is Needed For Assessments in Early Literacy

Early literacy is the cornerstone of a child’s educational journey. It’s the point where the magic of reading and comprehension begins. 

In the early stages, educators understand the significance of assessing a child’s reading skills. It helps them identify their strengths and areas that need improvement to become strong and confident readers.

However, what’s equally crucial is the opportunity to provide small group instruction in the classroom, driven by the results of these formative assessments.

It’s one thing to assess how a classroom is faring on the foundational reading skills– if they have been assessed, if they need explicit instruction, or if they need more practice.

It’s another thing to then have the means to provide differentiated instruction to all children in the classroom.  

This article will explore why small group instruction, along with early literacy assessments, are essential in early literacy. 

It will describe the advantages of this personalized approach to instruction and how it complements the formative assessment process, creating a more effective learning experience for budding readers.


Assessment: The Starting Point

Assessment- The Starting Point

Assessments play a vital role in early literacy education. 

Formative assessments help educators to diagnose specific foundational reading skills and monitor progress of every early learner in the classroom.

Furthermore, they enable educators to intervene early for students requiring additional help beyond core instruction, like those in tier 2 instruction, which provides targeted support to specific student groups.

Formative assessments provide valuable insights into a child’s reading abilities and challenges. 

But assessment is only part of the teaching process. 

It is also critical to use that assessment data to inform and  shape the reinforcement of instruction, increasing the intensity or specialization of instruction (may require the involvement of more than one role), further practice, and reassessment.

Some assessment solutions pride themselves in assessments alone, which is no doubt a necessary part of early literacy. 

Formative assessments are no doubt a critical tool for early literacy,  but in order to enhance student learning and optimize early literacy practices, tools need to include  functionalities that support teachers to act upon student assessment data.

Often this looks like the enablement of small group instruction.


The Power of Small Group Instruction

The Power of Small Group Instruction

Once diagnostic and progress monitoring assessments are completed, small group instruction can immediately come into play. 

This personalized approach to learning involves working with a small group of students who have similar reading abilities and needs. 

Here’s why it’s so important:


Targeted Support

Small group instruction allows educators to address specific reading challenges. 

Whether it’s decoding, fluency, comprehension, or vocabulary, teachers can tailor their instruction to meet individual needs when working in smaller groups.


Differentiated Learning

The practice of differentiated instruction is a topic by itself, and one that is covered extensively by Sprig. 

Small group instruction is one of the most common ways to provide differentiated instruction to a classroom of students

All students are never at the same point in their reading fluency and comprehension, at the same time.

Small group instruction enables educators to differentiate their teaching. They can provide more support for struggling readers while offering enrichment for advanced readers. 


Individualized Feedback 

Educators are always passionate about teaching and prefer to dedicate their time to instruction rather than being overwhelmed with administrative tasks.

In smaller groups, educators can provide more personalized feedback for students. This helps children understand their learning strengths and areas for improvement, fostering a growth mindset. 


Increased Engagement

Many states and provinces across North America are implementing evidence-based reading instruction policies. There is enough proof to show that when such instruction is delivered in play-based settings, it helps early learners engage with the lessons and retain the taught concepts.

Smaller settings are less intimidating for some children, leading to increased participation and engagement. This supportive environment is conducive to building confidence.


Progress Monitoring

Educators can continuously monitor students’ progress in small groups. As students advance in their reading skills, instruction can be adjusted to align with their development.

In fact, educators can continuously monitor the progress of the whole classroom, that is, each individual student. 

However, by grouping students by knowledge and/or specific skill level, teachers can enhance progress monitoring more efficiently for that specific group of children. 


Peer Interaction

Students in small groups can benefit from collaborative learning experiences. They can interact, discuss ideas, and learn from their peers, which adds a social dimension to their education.

Small group instruction encourages peer interaction. Students can learn from each other, ask questions, and engage in discussions, which enhances their understanding and love for reading.


The Synergy of Assessment and Small Group Instruction

The Synergy of Assessment and Small Group Instruction

The marriage of assessments and small group instruction creates synergy in early literacy education. 

Using small group instruction is powerful by itself, but when combined with assessments, the two complement each other very well.

Here’s how:


Small Group Instruction Includes Flexible Grouping. 

New Assessment Data Can Inform Groupings.

Unlike fixed small groups, flexible grouping allows students to work with various peers based on their current and evolving learning strengths, needs and interests. 

Educators can create groups for specific activities or projects, based on the learning needs of the students. Grouping can be constantly updated based on incoming assessment data specific for each child.


Small Group Instruction Allows for Scaffolding. 

Assessment Data on The Foundational Skill Acquisition Trajectory Can Inform Groupings.

In this approach, students receive unique work based on their readiness and interests. 

All students cover the same essential skills or concepts but are adjusted in complexity or content.

Sometimes, students within a given time frame may exhibit varying learning paces. To prevent any child from falling behind, it’s crucial to provide explicit instruction to all groups albeit with various degrees of difficulty, rather than avoiding teaching one concept to all students at one time.  

In these situations, it’s beneficial to create distinct groups to ensure that all students stay on track with their learning.


Small Group Instruction Allows for Group Efficiency

Teachers Can Dictate Terms Using Incoming Assessment Data.

Of course, small group instruction is not the only means of differentiated instruction. 

For example, there is also the idea of a flipped classroom, or learning contracts, where students are expected to engage with the learning materials and be accountable for learning certain concepts respectively.

There is a major issue here. Which is, that in early literacy, time is of the essence! 

Teachers need to dictate terms, teach explicitly, cover all the foundational skills before a certain point. So small group instruction is one of the most efficient ways where teachers can devise a strategy to differentiate instruction for as many students as possible, while still maintaining the option of creating further smaller groups if needed.


The Wonders of Small Group Instruction

The Wonders of Small Group Instruction

In conclusion, early literacy assessments are the first step in understanding a child’s reading abilities, but small group instruction is the bridge that helps them cross over from emergent readers to proficient readers.

It’s a blessing for struggling readers, and joyful for advanced readers.

Small group instruction is often preferred because it combines personalization, collaboration, efficiency, and adaptability to create a learning experience that can significantly benefit students.

When educators combine the power of assessments with the personalized support of small group instruction, they create a learning environment that nurtures confident, capable, and enthusiastic young readers.

30 More Compelling Statistics in Early Learning (Early Literacy Edition)

This article is the second installment in our series on early literacy statistics. If you haven’t already explored the first edition, it is strongly recommended you do so, as it features 30 figures that shed light on the state of early learning in North America.

In the last edition, while many of the data points were pertaining to early literacy, some of them also covered early childhood education more broadly. 

In this article, full concentration is exclusively placed on early literacy, delving deeper into the subject matter.

This article both reinforces key points from the previous edition and introduces new ones. 

Without further delay, let’s delve into these 30 compelling statistics of early literacy. Each  grouping of similar statistics, is followed by a key insight. 

Compelling Early Literacy Stats


Early Literacy Statistics 1 to 5 (The Critical Window)

The American Institute of Research conducted a study analyzing longitudinal research to discern attributes of reading skill profiles. 

It extended previous early reading growth investigations to yield empirical evidence applicable on a national scale. 

The results obtained through growth mixture modeling point to five distinct groups of students with specific patterns of early reading development.

They are as follows, and they comprise of the first 5 statistics.

1. High Performers (5 percent of students represent high reading skills at the beginning of kindergarten and maintaining high reading skills).

2. Early Boosters (20 percent of students represent rapid growth between kindergarten and grade 1).

3. Average Learners (52 percent of students represent average initial reading skills and average reading growth).

4. Steady but Slow Learners (20 percent of students represent average initial reading skills but slow reading growth between kindergarten and grade 1).

5. Struggling Learners (3 percent of students represent low initial reading skills and inadequate reading growth during the first 4 years of school).


Key Insight: The time spanning from kindergarten to Grade 1 proves to be exceptionally vital, where early literacy development can either gain momentum, decelerate, or maintain an average pace. Irrespective of prior learning achievements, this period offers an extraordinary opportunity to effect lasting positive changes in a child’s educational journey.


Early Literacy Statistics 6 to 10 (The Grade 1 Turning Point)

6. There is strong evidence indicating that poor readers at the end of grade one have an 88% likelihood of being well below grade level after three additional years of regular instruction.

7. 80% of students that are struggling to read at the end of 1st grade continue to be struggling readers in fourth grade.

8. 90% of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level in reading if they get help in the Grade 1.

9. 75% of children whose help is delayed to age 9 or later continue to struggle throughout their school years.

10. 74% of children who are behind in third grade will never catch up.


Key insight: Identifying the need for early reading intervention must be done before the conclusion of Grade 1, offering the best chance to equip struggling learners with essential reading skills. In more challenging circumstances, support may still prove beneficial up to Grade 2. However, delaying intervention until Grade 3 drastically diminishes the likelihood of positively altering a young student’s reading trajectory.


Early Literacy Statistics 11 to 13 (Needing Support Frameworks)

A survey encompassing more than 400 educators and administrators nationwide aimed to provide deeper insights into their perspectives on and adoption of Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).

The findings affirmed that numerous schools are indeed delving into student support frameworks to pinpoint, prioritize, and provide evidence-based interventions for their students. The following numbers stand out:

11. Only 28% of educators say they are far along in implementing a tiered support framework.

12. 52% of respondents rely on spreadsheets to track interventions.

13. Despite 78% of educators saying they believe it’s important to track tiered interventions, only 30% say they are tracking interventions effectively today.


Key Insight: Although there is a clearly identified need for adopting a comprehensive evidence-based tiered support framework (such as the MTSS) for progress monitoring and assessing interventions for all students, widespread adoption is still on the horizon. This indicates an opportunity for their further refinement and enhancement in early literacy. 


Early Literacy Statistics 14 to 18 (Lack of Readiness Very Early On )

14. By the age of 2, children who are ready to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers.

15. Every year 40% of children walk into kindergarten one-to-three years behind grade level.


The Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation and the Canadian Child Care Federation initiated a national survey targeting early childhood educators (ECEs) to gain insights into the current role of early literacy and learning in Canadian childcare settings. 

The objective was to pinpoint potential gaps and opportunities within this context. The survey reached approximately 8,500 members, resulting in 1,108 responses from ECEs who shared their professional experiences. The ensuing statistics offer intriguing perspectives.

16. Only 38% report feeling confident in supporting the early literacy development of the children they work with. 

17. Only 35% report feeling confident in identifying a concern with a child’s language development.

18. Fewer than 50% of respondents engage the children they work with in early literacy activities every day, while over 35 % do so once a month or less frequently.


Key Insight: Early literacy disparities emerge in the early stages of a child’s life, primarily due to differing circumstances and opportunities. Consequently, children arrive at kindergarten with varying levels of readiness. This creates a crucial window of opportunity during preschool to address and bridge these disparities. However, early childhood educators often lack the confidence and knowledge required to effectively assess, intervene, and tackle early literacy issues.


Early Literacy Statistics 19 and 20 (Interventions Do Work)

19. Wallace Foundation’s The School Administration Manager Projects, highly recommends that principals spend 50% or more of their time related to instructional work, including assessment that informs teaching and learning. 

20. Of the children who receive intervention in kindergarten and continue to require remedial support in first grade, 58% perform at average levels on all reading achievement measures by the end of first, second, and third grades.


Key Insight: Early literacy interventions, especially when applied at the right time,have proven to work. There must be sufficient planning at the administrative level to ensure the implementation of diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring,thereby facilitating targeted support for students.


Early Literacy Statistics 21 to 23 (Addressing the Root Issue)

21. Meta-analysis of close to 75,000 studies revealed that early literacy interventions are effective and instruction in language, phonological awareness, and decoding increases the likelihood of success in reading. 

22. For the first time, more than half of the elementary teacher education programs have adopted tenets of the Science of Reading in their curriculum.

23. High-quality tier 1 classroom instruction using an evidence-based, scientifically researched core curriculum meets the needs of about 80 to 90% of students.


Key Insight: Interventions are crucial, but they also emphasize the importance of enhancing core instruction to minimize the need for timely interventions. There’s a shift in the way educators are being trained in reading instruction. Foundational reading skills require explicit teaching and assessment, and evidence already suggests that this approach meets the needs of a significant portion of students in the classroom.


Early Literacy Statistics 24 to 26 (Resources Being The Equity Leveler) combines learning science, mentorship, and technology to create family and community partnerships that provide access, excellence, and equity in early education for all children. In their article on “Equity vs. Equality in Education,” they present the following key statistics:

24. 60% of the most disadvantaged students come from under-resourced homes or communities.

25. 62% of schools in high-poverty areas report that it is challenging to retain high-quality teachers.

26. While 97% of teachers acknowledge the importance of equity, a significant number remain unsure about the most effective ways to promote it in their classrooms.


Key Insight: Due to limited budgets in their families or schools, students in high-poverty areas often lack equitable resources, making it challenging to provide for their educational needs. Under-resourced communities struggle to retain impactful educators who play a vital role in their students’ lives. It’s not just about retaining teachers; it’s also crucial to empower them with effective resources that benefit all students in their classrooms.


Early Literacy Statistics 27 to 30 (Need for Educator Support)

27. On average, a $1,000 decrease in per-pupil spending leads to a 3.9 percent of a standard deviation reduction in average test scores for math and reading.


The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit, is dedicated to conducting comprehensive, nonpartisan research aimed at enhancing policy and governance on local, national, and global scales. A brief from the Brookings Institute’s Center for Universal Education offers insights into a global catalog of educational innovations. It is part of a series of snapshots on Leapfrogging in Education and reveals the following eye-opening statistics:

28. In a survey where Ed-Tech Innovations can select multiple goals, 84% of ed-tech innovations focus on improving students’ skills, whether cognitive or socioemotional, while 23% focus on improving teaching.

29. On supporting the learning process, 67% of Ed-Tech innovations focus on playful, hands-on learning, whereas 25% of them focus on tools to unburden teachers. 

30. Literacy is the most common skill targeted by technology innovations, at 61%.


Key Insight: Much emphasis is placed on leveraging technological innovations to address literacy, which is certainly appropriate given the other statistics presented in this article. However, it’s important to note that the majority of these innovations are geared toward helping students directly, rather than supporting educators in teaching these students effectively.


What These Early Literacy Statistics Tell Us

What These Early Literacy Statistics Tell Us 

In conclusion, this exploration of early literacy statistics  has unveiled several key insights that shed light on the complexities and opportunities surrounding early literacy. 

Following these key insights, the following scenario emerges: 

There exists a crucial window for timely intervention. Within this timeframe, there is a pivotal juncture at which intervention should be implemented. 

Schools are in the initial stages of mastering tiered support systems to identify those in need of intervention. 

The root cause of the significant disparities requiring intervention in the first place is the lack of equitable resources even before a child starts school. 

While interventions have proven effective, this system must be fine-tuned for incoming students. 

Part of this fine-tuning process includes reducing dependency on  interventions, which can be achieved via strengthening  core instruction.

While plenty of solutions exist to help students directly, teachers should also be equipped with resources to improve early literacy. The availability and use of these resources constitute the key to leveling the playing field.

5 More Powerful Qualities of Diagnostic Assessments That Drive Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

In the first part of a two-part series on diagnostic assessments, Sprig Learning uncovered the essential qualities of diagnostic assessments, shedding light on their pivotal role in shaping evidence-based literacy instruction. 

Re-entering this exploration, Sprig delves deeper into the nuanced aspects that distinguish diagnostic assessments as indispensable tools in the early literacy landscape.


More Diagnostic Assessment Qualities For Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

More Diagnostic Assessment Qualities For Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

Part 2 of this series unearths further intricacies of diagnostic assessments, focusing on five more attributes that play a vital role in informing evidence-based literacy instruction.

Together with part 1, this thorough exploration of diagnostic assessments aims to equip educators with a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted benefits these assessments have to offer. 

Each is explored below. See how they cater to the evolving needs of modern classrooms.


1. Offers Snapshot of Learning After Hiatus

Amid concerns over unmet learning milestones due to prolonged school closures from the pandemic, there was a significant opportunity to identify and address student learning gaps early in their educational journey. 

This is achievable through diagnostic assessments, providing a snapshot of current learning situations at the classroom or school level to guide necessary steps for student improvement.

Beyond the pandemic, there is also the concept of the summer slide, where students forget taught concepts from the previous school year. Here lies another opportunity to properly assess the students’ understanding using diagnostic assessments. 

Wherever there is a risk of early learning slides due to long interruptions or unforeseen circumstances, diagnostic assessments can always restore understanding to that particular situation. 


2. Allows The Setting & Monitoring of Goals

Given that literacy forms the foundation for numerous critical academic achievements, it is imperative to incorporate assessments of essential literacy skills when formulating preK-3 goals for school districts.

In the Bremerton School District, short-term objectives involved elevating the percentage of incoming kindergarteners proficient in recognizing the entire alphabet. 

Under the guidance of Superintendent Bette Hyde, there was a remarkable 62 percentage point surge over eight years in the number of kindergarteners entering with knowledge of all the letters.

While standardized testing may measure the outcome of learning, diagnostic assessments measure the progress of learning, which ultimately leads to that outcome. 

Thus by setting achievement indicators at each grade level, it is able to check if the progress monitoring measures are in fact producing the type of progress that is expected.


3. Provides Balance to Standardized Testing and Screening

In a meta-analytic review, it was revealed that only a quarter of the variance in academic skills on first and second-grade tests could be precisely predicted by preschool or kindergarten tests. 

While standardized testing and screenings have their role in the education system, more needs to be done at the early stages of learning. 

During this critical period, there’s too much at stake to inadvertently restrict a child’s potential by assessing them against a lower standard based on a standardized test conducted in a brief moment in time.

Excessive time on remediation can deprive a child of grade-level learning opportunities. While interventions are crucial for those requiring additional support, ongoing assessment on key diagnostic measures, especially foundational reading skills, is essential for overall reading proficiency. 

This approach, known as learning acceleration, ensures that students address learning deficiencies while staying on track with the curriculum, avoiding prolonged gaps in their educational progress.


4. Enhances Differentiated Instruction

Frequently, assessment and differentiated instruction are seen as a sequential process: conduct assessments first, then adapt instruction accordingly.  But did you know that diagnostic assessments itself can be itself differentiated to gauge learning of students?

Differentiated instruction comprises four key components: curricular content, teaching methods, learning environment, and assessments. These elements can be dynamically adjusted, aligning with grade-level standards while delivering personalized learning experiences for diverse student groups.

Thus changing assessments also count as an instance of differentiated instruction, and teachers have the freedom to change diagnostic assessments using their discernment, as long as certain principles are followed.

For instance, in an article highlighting the benefits of differentiated learning in early literacy, it emphasizes how teachers can allow student do-overs during assessments. There are situations where young learners comprehend a concept but, due to various reasons, may struggle to demonstrate that understanding. 

In such cases, providing additional opportunities for them to showcase their learning before making any adjustments is a strategy worth considering

Other methods of differentiating diagnostic assessments may include scenarios in which educators offer tiered assignments, adjust the number of tasks required for an assessment, and grant additional time for specific students to complete those tasks.


5. Conducive for Transformation With Technology While Retaining Teacher Control

In the past, teachers dedicated significant time to manually collect and organize student files, diverting their focus from actual teaching activities. However, with the advent of technology, essential diagnostic tools like observatory notes, performance evaluations, and assessments can now be efficiently stored electronically, streamlining teacher tasks and enhancing overall efficiency.

While diagnostic assessments can be used to assess students on foundational reading skills, it is not limited to just collecting that data. It can also be used as holistic assessments as well, where the viewpoint of educators and other professionals are also considered. Thus, it enables teachers to systematically track a broader range of data fields, ensuring a well-organized system.

While technology-supported self-paced learning provides an ideal platform for differentiation, it’s crucial for adults to supervise such activities in early learning. A reliable diagnosis necessitates trust. Ensuring sufficient teacher involvement in the process means that teachers acquaint the child with the concept of assessment and personally conduct the evaluation, fostering trust.

Also, despite the benefits of gamification, an offscreen learning approach is still preferred by many teachers, with teachers utilizing technology to monitor and track the progress of young learners.


Understand Diagnostic Assessments To Drive Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

Understand Diagnostic Assessments To Drive Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

Sprig hopes that this two-part series has amply showcased the profound impact of diagnostic assessments on evidence-based early literacy instruction.

Many case studies of high-performing schools involve using the right frequency of assessments. 

Diagnostic assessments, along with progress monitoring assessments, form the core of a school’s assessment strategy, due to their high frequency.

Together, they are the pulse of early literacy performance, and thus have to be understood properly via their qualities.

By exploring the qualities mentioned in this article and part 1, educators can harness the full potential of diagnostic assessments to drive evidence-based literacy instruction.

5 Powerful Qualities of Diagnostic Assessments That Drive Evidence-based Literacy Instruction

Sprig Learning covers all the intricacies of early literacy assessments in its blog, providing valuable insights for educators. 

Previous articles demystify the distinctions between formal and informal assessments, offering a valuable resource for teachers seeking a balanced approach in their classrooms. 

They venture into the future of assessments, embracing a holistic perspective that considers various facets of a child’s learning experience. 

They further delve into the nuanced parameters involved in assessment design.

Sprig is passionate about assessments and their profound impact on a young learner’s educational journey. With the same dedication, this article explores the indispensable role of diagnostic assessments in shaping evidence-based literacy instruction.

This is part of a two-part series on the qualities of diagnostic assessments. 

Diagnostic assessments are typically administered at the outset of a school year, term, semester, or teaching unit. Serving as essential tools for teachers, these assessments play a crucial role in planning instruction and establishing precise learning goals. 

They offer valuable insights, empowering both teachers and students to assess existing knowledge and skills related to overall and specific expectations.

Diagnostic assessments embody five powerful qualities that make them powerful drivers of evidence-based early literacy instruction, meeting the pressing needs of teachers in today’s educational landscape.


They Are As Follows: 

5 Powerful Qualities of Diagnostic Assessments


1. Greatly Supplements Screeners

Timely screening and early diagnosis are recognized as pivotal factors in shaping early literacy outcomes, standing out among the six key strategies for making a difference in early literacy. Screening tools play a crucial role in swiftly identifying students requiring additional support. However, the effectiveness of tier 1 instruction raises a compelling question: do these students, after exposure to robust classroom teaching, still require the same level of assistance? 

Or what about those students that the screener did not identify as needing support but who are bound to fall through the cracks due to lack of engagement in the classroom or an inability to absorb the required learning concepts.

This is where diagnostic assessments step in, offering invaluable insights to determine the ongoing needs of students and ensuring that intervention aligns precisely with their evolving requirements.


2. Reduces Dependence on Others

Teachers frequently turn to literacy coaches and other specialists for assessment guidance. Diagnostic assessments streamline this process as they are designed to be specific in evaluating targeted skills, aligning closely with the curriculum in use. 

While collaboration among teachers and early literacy specialists remains essential, the beauty of diagnostic assessments lies in their ability to empower teachers to assess their students without unnecessary barriers.

In fact, insights 15 to 20 from 40 Science of Reading Insights deal with leadership practices that significantly raise the percentage of students’ reading at-grade level by Grade 2. What stands out in particular is “empowering teachers to own and lead interventions” and “sharing granular data with students”.

By fostering a culture of diagnostic assessments, teachers undergo training to consistently diagnose their students on highly specific skills, such as the foundational reading skills. This empowers them to be deliberate in their teaching practices, encompassing instruction, assessment, and intervention with precision.


3. Measures The Right Things

Diagnostic assessments adopt the right perspective on academic return on investment. Like any investment, the return should ideally enhance student learning and teacher effectiveness.

These assessments diagnose specific units of learning, validated by extensive research to contribute significantly to reading proficiency. This proficiency can be viewed as a substantial output or return for any school system aiming to address the learning needs of its students!


4. Helps Classroom to Be Assessment Centric

Barring progress monitoring assessments, diagnostic assessments are the most frequently employed in classrooms. This emphasis on assessment-centric classrooms aligns with one of the four ideal classroom characteristics identified by The University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Literacy Network, based on meta-research supporting early literacy best practices that lead to enhanced student achievement.

Indeed, this quality of being assessment-centric plays a pivotal role in reinforcing all other essential classroom characteristics—student-centricity, knowledge-centricity, and reflection-centricity. 

Especially when it comes to knowledge-centricity, it entails grasping the significance of reading and establishing connections between acquired knowledge and its application in reading. 

Diagnostic assessments, along with subsequent progress monitoring assessments, facilitate this by offering ongoing tracking of all the subskills measured at specific intervals.


5. Offers Design Flexibility

Designing effective assessments in early childhood education involves careful consideration of both content and structure. The content of assessments focuses on what is being measured, while the structure deals with how that content is assessed and the manner in which information is stored. 

In the context of diagnostic assessments, teachers can gather information by assigning tasks to students, maintaining individual portfolios that document developmental progress, and utilizing rubrics to assess and evaluate students’ comprehension of taught concepts. 

This flexibility and teacher autonomy afforded by diagnostic assessments empower educators to tailor the educational experience to best suit the needs of their students.


Use Diagnostic Assessments to Drive Evidence-based Instruction

Use Diagnostic Assessments to Drive Evidence-based Instruction

The regular assessment of learning is listed as one of the major uses of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund . It’s concerning that about 70% of U.S. educators lack access to high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum. 

It underscores the importance of ensuring curricula align with state academic standards and incorporate embedded assessments for monitoring progress. 

This dual need emphasizes the requirement for both top-notch instructional materials and a systematic assessment process to measure and monitor student learning.

Navigating the assessment landscape involves various considerations, including the formality of assessments, the exploration of holistic formative assessments, and efforts to reduce bias. Each of these topics is covered in separate articles written by Sprig, linked above.

However, in the current era, marked by a focus on evidence-based literacy mandates and the adoption of strategies for effective implementation, assessments must align with the measurement of explicitly and systematically taught foundational reading skills. 

Sprig aims for the drivers outlined in this article to serve as compelling reasons for including diagnostic assessments in your assessment toolbox.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, which will uncover more intriguing insights about diagnostic assessments.

11 Key Questions for Selecting The Right Early Literacy Assessment(s) for Your School

Assessing early literacy skills is an essential part of ensuring that all young learners develop the foundational skills needed for reading success. 

A wide range of assessments are available to school leaders and educators, each serving specific purposes in identifying, monitoring and supporting a child’s literacy development. 

In this article, Sprig Learning explores the various types of early literacy assessments and provides guidance on choosing the right assessment tool based on your specific needs. 

The format consists of a series of 11 questions, as asking questions is integral at any phase of gathering information when deciding what is the right early literacy assessment for your school and students at this time.


1. What Is The Purpose of The Early Literacy Assessment?

What Is The Purpose of The Early Literacy Assessment?

There are various types of assessments in early literacy, each with their own purpose.  It is important to understand the early literacy assessment landscape when choosing the best tool for your school and students.

The primary types of early literacy assessments are listed below, with their respective purposes and examples mentioned.


Types of Early Literacy Assessments


Purpose: To quickly identify students at risk of reading difficulties early in the school year. Includes standardized tests and brief assessments of key literacy skills.

Examples: DIBELS, AIMSWeb, FastBridge.


Diagnostic Assessments

Purpose: To identify specific areas of literacy that require intervention. Includes running records of in-depth assessments targeting a comprehensive reading skill inventory such as phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

Examples: Acadiece, Sprig Reading, i-Ready.


Progress Monitoring Assessments

Purpose: To track a student’s growth over time and evaluate the effectiveness of early interventions. Often includes regular and ongoing assessments throughout the school year to measure progress and adjust instruction accordingly.

Examples: Sprig Reading, CORE Phonics Survey, CKLA.


Formative Assessments

Purpose: To inform instruction by providing real-time feedback on student learning. Often  includes teacher observations, classroom quizzes and anecdotal records.

Examples: GOLD, Sprig Reading, Core5.


Summative Assessments

Purpose: To evaluate a student’s overall literacy performance at a specific point in time. Includes state standardized tests and end-of-year reading assessments.

Examples: Ontario’s EQAO, Texas’ STAAR, North Carolina’s BOG3.


Choosing the Right Assessment Based on Purpose

Selecting the appropriate assessment tool depends on the specific needs of the school and/or school district.

If the goal is to quickly identify students at risk, screeners are the assessment of choice. 

For a more in-depth understanding of a student’s literacy profile, diagnostic assessments provide valuable insights.

When it comes to tracking literacy growth over time and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions, progress monitoring assessments are essential. 

For real-time feedback on student learning and instructional planning, formative assessments are very handy. They are very similar to progress monitoring assessments, and can also include diagnostic assessments as a part of its wider definition. 

Lastly, if the aim is to evaluate a student’s overall literacy performance at a specific point in time, summative assessments come into play. 

In practice, many schools and school districts employ a combination of these assessment types, creating a comprehensive and well-rounded approach to address various objectives. 

The key is to align the choice of assessments with the specific goals and requirements of the educational context, allowing for a tailored and effective approach to enhancing early literacy outcomes.


2. How Often Should Assessments Occur?

How Often Should Assessments Occur?

It’s important to decide how frequently assessments need to be conducted in your classrooms.

For ongoing monitoring of student learning, diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring assessments are ideal. 

For periodic evaluations, screeners and summative assessments are better suited.


3. What Resources Will Be Required to Deploy the Assessments?

What Resources Will Be Required to Deploy the Assessments?

Assess the available resources, including time and personnel, for administering any assessment.

Some assessments, like formative assessments conducted by teachers, require minimal resources, while others, such as summative state standardized tests, can involve significant logistical planning and training.

But even within each assessment type, there are variations in the utilization of resources. 

For example, both diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring assessments can be considered a part of formative assessments. 

But the diagnostic assessments typically require more intensive teacher involvement. Teachers administer these assessments, analyze the results, and use them to develop individualized intervention plans. 

Progress monitoring tools are generally less time-consuming for teachers. They involve regular, brief assessments conducted at intervals, for eg. weekly or monthly, to gauge a student’s progress. They often include digital tools and technology that support the ongoing tracking of outcomes.

Regardless of the degree of teacher involvement and resources needed, it helps to have documentation and support available that guides teachers on how to implement an assessment tool effectively.

Professional development measures are required to be put in place that provide the relevant training and support for teachers on how to assess students consistently and effectively. 


4. How Individualized Should Assessments Be?

How Individualized Should Assessments Be?

Consider the unique learning strengths, gifts and needs of each student. 

Formative assessments allow for individualized analysis through running records and note taking. In both diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring assessments, many details of each student can be recorded.

For summative assessments like standardized tests, achieving such a detailed understanding is not feasible. 

However, these assessments serve the valuable purpose of evaluating both individual and group-level learning outcomes, which is a distinct advantage.


5. What is the Relationship Between the Assessment and Curriculum?

What is the Relationship Between the Assessment and Curriculum?

Ensure that the assessment you choose aligns with the curriculum and literacy goals you have. Assessments should reflect what students are expected to learn and achieve.

If the assessment focuses on one major learning outcome such as a reading level or reading proficiency, it’s a summative assessment. 

If it aims to gauge students’ pre-existing knowledge to determine their readiness and understanding of the curriculum’s concepts, it’s a screener.

If the assessment covers multiple skill sets essential for achieving a major goal in an evidence-based curriculum, it’s a diagnostic assessment. 

If it focuses on measuring finer details, like a subskill within a skill set, over time, it leans toward being a progress monitoring assessment.


6. What Type of Students Are The Assessments For?

What Type of Students Are The Assessments For?

Questioning who the assessments are for addresses accessibility. 

Evaluate the accessibility of the assessment tool, including whether it’s suitable for students with diverse learning needs and backgrounds.

Ensuring assessment validity and proven to mitigate  bias is critical, given the increased diversity in classrooms today, both in terms of learning skills and background. 

Bias is one of the featured terms that are essential to know in the cause for early literacy equity

There is implicit and explicit bias, and assessments must be both inclusive and culturally responsive to tackle such biases head on.


7. Who Will Be Doing The Assessment?

Who Will Be Doing The Assessment?

There can be multiple roles involved in assessment beyond just teachers. Sometimes there is collaboration between teachers and other specialist roles in the assessment process.

For example, reading specialists often assess students’s reading abilities and develop intervention plans. They work closely with classroom teachers to support student progress. 

Speech language pathologists assess oral language skills and phonological awareness. 


8. Are Assessments Easy to Administer?

Are Assessments Easy to Administer?

The rigidity or lack of flexibility when it comes to the administration of assessments may pose a hindrance to some early literacy school teams. But some assessments are more intuitive and easy to use than others.

However, it’s important not to mistake an evidence-based teaching framework for lack of flexibility. Teachers must still customize instruction for diverse student needs, hence there will always be scope for flexibility.

Formative assessments play a crucial role in enabling such personalized instruction, allowing regular tracking of student understanding of foundational reading skills to inform instruction.

Teachers will always maintain autonomy with assessments, because while it’s imperative to follow the evidence and teach all the foundational literacy skill sets to every student, assessments will determine if 1) students are ready to learn 2) if they are learning new concepts 3) if they are retaining the knowledge required to advance. 

Given their pivotal role and the demands for classroom teachers, it’s important  that assessments are easy to administer.


9. When Should the Assessments Occur?

When Should the Assessments Occur?


Timing (During the Academic Journey)

Assessments should be introduced as early as possible in a child’s life, because prioritization of early childhood education is critical. It is a powerful driver of literacy equity and there are strong ties between high-quality Pre-K education and primary education student performance.

The case for early literacy intervention is undeniable, and it is only made possible by use of early assessments, preferably starting at preschool, and not any later than Grade 3.


Timing (During the School Day)

A teacher can assess students at any time of the day depending on their daily schedule.

Here are some contexts in which assessment may occur:


Morning Routine

Some teachers incorporate brief literacy assessments as part of their morning routine. 

This can involve short activities like sight word recognition, letter naming, or phonemic awareness exercises to gauge students’ readiness for the day’s lessons.


Small Group Instruction

During small group literacy instruction, teachers may assess students individually or in small groups. 

This allows for more targeted assessment and immediate feedback, particularly for skills like reading comprehension, fluency, or phonics.


Literacy Centers

Many classrooms have literacy centers where students rotate through different small-group literacy activities. 

Teachers can use this time to assess specific skills related to the center’s focus, such as vocabulary development, phonics, or reading comprehension.


One-on-One Assessment

Some assessments, especially diagnostic assessments or more in-depth evaluations, may require one-on-one sessions between the teacher and the student. 

These assessments may occur at various times during the day, depending on the teacher’s schedule.


End of Lesson

Teachers often use the end of a literacy lesson to assess students’ understanding and progress related to the lesson’s objectives. This can involve quick checks for understanding of the taught concepts.


Scheduled Assessment Periods

In some cases, teachers may have dedicated assessment periods built into the weekly schedule. 

These periods can be used for more formal assessments, progress monitoring, or data collection.


10. Should the Assessments Have One or More Features?

Should the Assessments Have One or More Features?

Assessments could have other features that either add value to the assessment or complement it.

Small group instruction is one of the featured trends in a list of evidence based early literacy trends. Many schools have adopted high-dosage and high-impact tutoring in small groups. But with such efforts, ongoing diagnostic assessments are key. 

Assessment is needed on the journey from emergent literacy to reading mastery. In laying and building on a strong reading foundation, there is a need for individualized instruction which can only be administered on the basis of ongoing assessments that monitor progress. 

So then, it would make sense for assessment tools to have other features as well, such as differentiated instruction capabilities.

Also, to enhance reading instruction in the classroom, it’s recommended to make assessments fun and engaging. Thus, assessments could have recommendations as a feature, which suggest how to best incorporate it into play-based learning. 

There could be more of such value-adds and complements. The school’s early literacy team could consider assessment tools with multiple features to align with the diverse objectives of the early literacy team.


11. How Many Assessments Are Needed?

How Many Assessments Are Needed?

It can be beneficial to rely on more than one source of assessments. Especially, if there are multiple assessment goals the school or school division has.

Rather than one tool with multiple features, the school can consider multiple assessment tools each specializing in one thing. 

For example, specifically designing strategies for struggling students is a recommendation for improving reading instruction in schools. A school may have a large body of students who need extra support. 

These numbers will skew reading performance, and so it’s important to know this information. Thus in this case, addressing the root issue with an assessment such as a screener is important.

For improving early literacy achievement, stories of using multiple types of assessments are trending, where there are screeners, diagnostics, progress monitors, and standardized assessments.

For example, the Upper Grand District School Board Director of Education, Peter Sovran, assures that besides the EQAO assessments data, the district also has report card data and teacher assessments data to understand student progress.


Select The Right Assessment(s) For Your School

Select The Right Assessment(s) For Your School

Early literacy assessments play a crucial role in helping educators support young learners on their journey to becoming proficient readers. 

By understanding the various types of assessments and their purposes, school leaders, administrators and educators can make informed decisions about which tools to use. 

Whether it’s identifying at-risk students, tailoring interventions, monitoring progress, or evaluating overall literacy performance, there’s an assessment method suited to every need. 

Implementing ongoing progress monitoring was featured as a major takeaway in a prior article featuring some brilliant case studies on improving student achievement. It’s important that a school’s early literacy team is on board with the decision of what assessment to use. 

In that particular case, Chicago public schools administrators and educators set grade level teams to set growth targets in reading, math and attendance and would regularly meet in both grade-level and vertical-planning teams. 

Ultimately, the key to effective literacy assessment lies in using the right tool at the right time for the right purpose. Sprig hopes to guide you toward selecting the appropriate assessment through the questions presented in this article.