Here is a freebie to use to assess your kindergarteners. Now please keep in mind that I have ONLY taught in 2 Title I schools. It's all I've ever known. So, our kindergarteners come in mostly NOT knowing many letters. I hear of other teachers who fret because they have a few that don't know all their letters. Wow! That's definitely NOT the world I live in! I usually get 1 or 2 that know most of their letters In September and the rest only a handful of letters. By the end of October the majority of the kids know all ....or almost all... the letters. But there are always several that struggle.
I like to keep tabs -- testing the strugglers on regular intervals.....weekly or bi-weekly so, at any given time, I know what letters they know and what letters we need to continue learning/reinforcing. To test, I quickly pull a child to the side and do a really quick letter knowledge assessment with him/her. I begin with uppercase letters. If a child doesn't know more than half of the uppercase letters, I don't even bother testing on lowercase letters because the likelihood is that he/she will not know them. I don't want to frustrate the kids and I want them feel successful. In fact, if I have a child that is particularly struggling with uppercase letters, I'll simply say, "I'll show you letters and you tell me if you see one you know". That really helps the child feel successful when he/she knows one rather than "I don't know" "I don't know". To assess letter knowledge all you need is a set of large letter cards (uppercase only and then lowercase only). You also need a recording sheet like I have below. This is what I use. You will notice that there are 3 date blanks. Can you guess why? That's right! I use the same recording sheet for a child multiple times. It's more of an ongoing recording of letter learning. Click HERE to grab it FREE!
I begin by testing uppercase letters. "Today I'm going to show you some letters and I want you to tell me their names. I don't expect you to know all of them. Just tell me the ones you know." It's so important to make it feel like fun so you don't stress them out. YES, you can stress a 5 year old and immediately make them feel like they can't do it. None of us want that. So, keep it light-hearted as possible and if you notice a child is particularly shy or worried - stop testing immediately. Try again in a few days after you've had a few more days together. For the initial assessment, I use a yellow highlighter to highlight all the uppercase letters a child knows. If a child knows more than half of the uppercase letters, I try the lowercase letters (but I stop if it becomes evident it's too much of a struggle). If a child is particularly advanced, I'll continue all the way through letter sounds. (By the way, I test letter sound knowledge using uppercase letters, not lowercase letters.) On the side I write how many uppercase letters the child knows over 26 letters. In a few weeks I will test again using a different colored highlighter and see if he/she has learned any new letters (hopefully :) Over the next month(s) we will embark on our letter learning journey. Some children are intrinsically motivated to learn their letters, but lots of 5 year olds still don't understand their importance. I gotta tell you I have the most amazing group of kids this year! They are perhaps the sweetest and most well-behaved kiddos I've ever had....I adore them....However, I must also admit that I have many who really struggle.....Even after lots of intense letter instruction, fun games, engaging songs and dances - kinesthetic everything.......I had some kiddos that just didn't get it.....It's like they don't understand (which they probably don't) how important letters are or their utility. I asked myself, "How can I convince them to be interested in learning those letters?" So, I decided to come up with a way to motivate the kiddos to learn those letters. That is how I came up with my "Fill the Rainbow" incentive chart. So, in order to keep myself from going off the deep-end (I gotta say I contemplated trying to hang myself by the fishing line clips hanging from my ceiling if I couldn't figure out a way to get those kids WANTING to learn their letters. :0) It drove me CU-RAZY! Instead of hanging myself :0), I decided to take the bull by the horns and use 5 year old enthusiasm to my advantage!
This is where the fun began!!! I introduced the "Fill the Rainbow" incentive chart as something so cool and special. I promised them they would get to take it to show it off to the principal when it was full and they get to take it home to brag to mom and dad too.:0) THEY FELL HEAD OVER HEELS FOR IT!!!! I used the black and white versions of the rainbow so my kids could color it (you know - take ownership of their rainbow). However, I also provide the beautiful colored versions too! :0) Then, I showed them their rainbow -- the good, the bad, and yes they ugly :0) I didn't call anyone out for not knowing letters of course, but I did let them see where they were. I gave them colored dot stickers to place on each letter that was highlighted (a letter they knew)..... Now, in the pack, I included printed letter coins, but I just loved them using stickers - EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY!! Next, we hung the rainbows on the same ceiling clips I thought about hanging myself from a couple weeks ago. :0) Each child knows exactly where their rainbow is and can always see the letters they still need to work on. So, it's kind of always in their face.....They love looking at the rainbows - love talking about the letters that they know......but get this......WAIT FOR IT.......They love noticing the letters they don't know! I even notice how attentive they are when we are singing letter songs or studying letters -- they have a FIRE lit under them now. They can't wait to come tell when they've learned a new letter. When I am satisfied they they know that letter - they can add a sticker to the rainbow for that letter. They are asking friends, "What's that letter again?" or "I saw that letter in the poem. I learned it!" They are proud of themselves and taking ownership of their own letter learning....Who could ask for anything more??!!! Gosh, I wished I had thought of this years ago. Now, my kiddos are all on their way to knowing all the letters of the alphabet.....and I notice they take much more interest in reading and learning sight words now too...They have taken the first steps to taking ownership of their learning -- HOORAY!! I use the following set to keep all my students motivated to learn those letters! Using this, each student starts with a rainbow they can put together and color (they love that)....For every letter they know, they get to place a dot sticker on the corresponding spot on the rainbow. After each letter assessment, they get to add more dot stickers matching the letters they have learned. Once the rainbow is full, they get to go to the office and show the principal how many letters they've learned. They also get to take it home to show mom and dad! We do the same thing with lowercase letters, but it's with a treasure chest instead. :) It's great for motivating little ones to learn the letters and they LOVE taking them home! Click HERE to get it in my TpT store.