Development is a complex process that involves multiple interactions between many different areas of development. The table below describes what to look for in literacy development and the developmental continuum, which is a predictable, but not rigid, sequence of developmental accomplishments. Typical ages are given for the first and last accomplishments as a general guide for assessment.
|Examples of Things to Look For
Book and Print Concepts: Understanding how books and print work.
Watch for: book held correctly; page turning (without bending or ripping) moving from the front to the back of the book; ability to identify cover and end of the book; ability to point out print in the environment and in books; ability to distinguish print from pictures and an understanding that text is read; ability to point along the line of print; (“reading” left to right and top to bottom, sweep to the next line); growing understanding of what print is.
- Hold a book right side up. (2–3 yrs.)
- Recognize book by its cover.
- Turn pages carefully.
- Differentiate between print and pictures.
- Identify environmental print. (3–4 yrs)
- Know that print is oral language written down.
- Pretend to read: turn pages, label objects, mimic adults.
- Point to the text when asked what one reads. (4–5)
- Understand terms “beginning of the book,” “end of the book,” and “cover of the book.”
- Can point to the word to read first in a line of text when placement of text is conventional (on left side of the page).
- Point to the words following left-to-right directionality, regardless of the length of the sentence. Sweep left to right.
- “Read” familiar texts emergently, generally recalling the text.
- Track print when “reading” familiar text (own writing, known story, or when being read to). Point to each word with voice-to-print match. (5–6 yrs.)
- Know what the author and illustrator do and what a title is.
- Will read a word the same way no matter how it is written (different font) or where it is located.
- Know the difference between a letter, a word, and a sentence and can point to each on a page of text when asked.
- Make the transition between emergent reading to real reading. (first grade)
Watch for: phonemic awareness—awareness that the spoken word is made up of sounds; how many sounds are in the word (tap the number of phonemes); identify the phonemes in order (alphabetic principle) and their position in the word (at the beginning, middle, or end of the word); ability to recognize phonemes that are similar; ability to delete and substitute phonemes; ability to rhyme; identify syllables (tap or clap syllables while saying the word); identify words in a sentence (tap out the number of words as they are said).
- Notice repeating sounds in language. (3–4 yrs.)
- Pay attention to beginning sounds and rhyming sounds.
- Can count or tap out the sounds in a word.
- Can isolate the initial sound of a word. (4–5 yrs.)
- Can identify rhymes when given several words or words within a poem.
- Can isolate more than the initial sound in a word, can identify the ending sound and then medial sounds. At first these are not in order and later follow the alphabetic principle. (5–6 yrs.)
- Can count or tap out the syllables in a word.
- Can count or tap the words in a sentence.
- Can take away an initial sound or syllable and say the rest of the word.
- Can take a word pronounced as separate phonemes or syllables and reconstruct the word.
- When given a word, can produce a rhyming word.
- Can count the number of syllables in a word. (6–7 yrs)
- Can blend or segment the phonemes in most one-syllable words.
Alphabetic Knowledge, Phonics and Decoding of Text:
Watch to see if the child can: identify letters in familiar contexts (name, familiar book, environmental print, own writing) and later in less familiar contexts (unfamiliar books); identify uppercase and lowercase letters; identify the sounds that a letter represents (phonics); use letter sounds to attempt to decode words; recognize and use word patterns and other phonics strategies to decode words; recognize familiar words by sight; read increasing number of irregular and multisyllabic words; read books for that grade level.
- Recognize the letters in own name, names of friends or print symbols. (3–4 yrs.)
- Know that letters are a special category of symbols/visual graphics that can be named. Can point to a letter on a page of text.
- Identify ten letters of the alphabet, primarily letters in their name.
- Confuse some letters (m/n, p/q, d/b) or numbers with letters (the letter / often looks like the number /).
- Identify upper and lowercase letters.
- Can give the symbol-to-sound correspondence for some initial consonants ( the letter b stands for the sound b in “bat”).
- Name all uppercase and lowercase letters. (5–6 yrs.)
- Know that the sequence of letters in a written word represents the sequence of sounds in a spoken word (alphabetic principle).
- Know most symbol-to-sound and sound-to-symbol correspondences.
- Recognize some familiar words by sight (a, the, I, my, you, is, etc.).
- Recognize word patterns. (6–7 yrs.)
- Recognize consonant blends (“ch,” “bl”, “th”) and vowel sounds represented by two-letter patterns (“oo,” “ee”).
- Accurately decode one-syllable words and nonsense words using print-sound mapping and word patterns.
- Monitor own reading and self-correct.
- Recognize common irregularly spelled words by sight (“where,” “two,” etc.).
- Have a reading vocabulary of about 300–500 words: sight words and simple, easy-to-decode words.
- Accurately decode orthographically regular multisyllable words and nonsense words. (7–8 yrs.)
- Accurately read many irregularly spelled words and spelling patterns (diphthongs, etc.).
- Use letter–sound correspondence, word patterns, and other structural analyses to decode words. (8–9 yrs.)
Watch for: differentiation between scribbles for drawing and writing; scribbles and letter-like forms; use of pictures to represent thoughts; writing of own name and other words; use of invented spellings (child represents the salient sounds in a word with appropriate sound-to-symbol correspondences); use of word patterns and conventionally spelled words; increasingly more complex writing in response to questions or text.
- Scribble to represent something (picture or writing). (2–3 yrs.)
- Produce some letter-like forms or scribbles with repeated features that look like writing.
- “Write” messages as a part of play or to communicate with someone. (4–5 yrs.)
- Distinguish writing from drawing.
- Write their first name.
- May copy familiar words, names of friends, environmental print (name of the center, etc.).
- Dictate stories and slow their speech to match writing of person taking dictation.
- Write uppercase and lowercase letters. (5–6 yrs.)
- Use phonemic awareness and sound-to-symbol correspondence to represent words by writing the initial sound.
- Use invented spellings (represents more than one sound in a word—usually beginning and ending sounds and then beginning, medial, and ending sounds).
- Write first and last name. Write first names of friends.
- Can write letters and some words when dictated.
- Write some conventionally spelled words, usually familiar words.
- Compose simple stories and can answer simple written comprehension questions based on a book that was read. (6–7 yrs.)
- Are sensitive to conventional spelling and can use phonics rules to spell.
- Use capitalization and punctuation.
- Correctly spell words that have been studied and use spelling patterns in writing. (7–8 yrs.)
- Can represent all of the sounds in a word when spelling independently.
- At times, can use formal language patterns as opposed to oral language patterns in writing.
- Can clarify and refine writing with help.
- Write in varied genres: narrative stories, expository for informational reports.
Comprehension of Text:
Watch for: ability to listen to a story and understand it; ability to retell, predict, infer, and summarize accurately; ability to identify the components or structure of the story (beginning, middle, and end); knowledge of story grammar: characters, problem solved, etc.; ability to modify the story line and predict possible consequences of changes.
- Listen to stories. (2–3 yrs.)
- Comment on the characters and pictures in the book.
- While listening to a story, connect the information and events to own life: “My brother had a bicycle like that one,” or “I want a party, too.” (3–4 yrs.)
- Show a literal understanding of the story being told. Can answer and ask literal questions about the story.
- Can paraphrase the story when asked.
- Can retell story in vignettes that may not be in the same order as the action in the story.
- Can retell most stories accurately. (5–6 yrs.)
- Can dramatize a story that was read or parts of the story.
- Can answer questions requiring simple predictions based on the story and inferences about the story.
- Can discuss prior knowledge related to nonfiction/expository texts. (6–7 yrs.)
- Can discuss “how,” “why,” and “what-if” questions related to text. Include story structure elements in story retellings, such as the setting, theme, plot episodes, resolution.
- Can respond to text with interpretive comments and questions.
- Can respond to text with critical comments and questions.
- Can discuss similarities in characters and events across stories.
- Can connect and compare information across factual, nonfiction texts.
- Can identify specific words or wordings that cause comprehension problems. (7–8 yrs.)
- Can summarize major points in fiction and nonfiction texts.
- Can discuss underlying themes in fictional works.
- Can begin to distinguish cause and effect, fact and opinion, main idea and supporting points in text.
Adapted from Adams, 1980; Applebee, 1978; Bertelson, 1986; Bodrova, Leong, Paynter, & Semenov, 2000; Clay, 1991; Daniels, 1992; Dickenson, McCabe, & Clark-Chiarelli, 2004; Gentry, 1982; Goodman, Goodman, & Hood, 1989; Lapp et al., 2004; Lonigan, 2003; McGhee & Richgels, 1990; Morrow, 2004; National Reading Panel, 2000; Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 2000; Owocki, 1999; Paynter, Bodrova, & Doty, 2005; Peterson, 1995; Raines, 1990; Rhodes & Shanklin, 1993; Rodari, 1996; Roskos, Tabors, & Lenhart, 2004; Schickedanz, 1999; Schickedanz & Casbergue, 2004; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005; Sulzby, 1990.