Professional Development

August 28, 2021

4 Ways to Complete Reading Assessments for Kindergarten and First Grade

As teachers, we all want to get to know our students at the beginning of the year. We want to know their likes and dislikes, what they love to do, and their strengths and weaknesses. One area we all need insight into is students’ reading abilities. When it comes to reading assessments for kindergarten and first grade students, we want to do more than just assess one area of reading.

While assessments can sometimes be intimidating or overwhelming, we need them to help grow our readers’ accuracy, fluency, and comprehension skills. Let’s explore why we need them and several different reading assessments you can do to better understand where your students are.

Why Do We Need Different Reading Assessments for our Kindergarten and First Grade Readers?

Our young readers are so much more than just a reading level, although knowing that is important as well. Teachers are often familiar with how to complete reading level assessments, but we need more than that. With the latest research in the Science of Reading, we’re learning (or getting confirmation) that young readers need explicit phonics instruction in a systematic way. If students can learn letter sounds and how they work together to create words, they can move forward in reading.

By completing several different reading assessments for kindergarten and first grade readers, you’ll get a bigger picture of what each reader is capable of as a whole. Then, results can guide your instruction to differentiate for the learners in your classroom. Additionally, you will have more opportunities to track progress in specific areas. You can see which areas students need more practice and review with.

1. Phonics Skills Assessments

Assessing students’ phonemic awareness and phonics skills is a great place to start with reading assessments. Mastering phonemic awareness is a key factor in reading readiness for little learners. No matter what reading level a child is on – pre-readers to high readers, they ALL have or need a strong foundation of phonemic awareness.

Practicing phonemic awareness  is an important reading readiness skill. Using simple pictures and cubes, students can listen for beginning, medial, or ending sounds and cover up a picture that matches a sound the teacher gives.

You can see if students are competent in the nine areas of phonemic awareness:

  • Rhyming
  • Segmenting Syllables
  • Beginning Sounds
  • Ending Sounds
  • Medial Sounds
  • Blending Onsets and Rimes
  • Blending Phonemes
  • Deleting Phonemes
  • Segmenting Phonemes

Then, you can have students do a phonics skill assessment to check students’ understanding between letters and sounds. As students begin to match letters and letter combinations to the sounds they hear in words, they’ll use their phonemic awareness skills like segmenting and blending sounds to match the printed letter(s). So strong phonemic awareness skills can lead to strong phonics skills.

One simple phonics assessment is to have students read through a list of words that follow specific phonics patterns. For example, the list may have several cvc words, words with digraphs, words with blends, and words with long vowels.

Phonics assessments make great reading assessments for kindergarten and first grade students.

You’ll easily be able to identify which areas of phonics your readers will need more support in.

2. Dictation Assessment

Dictation assessments are another type of reading assessment to complete for kindergarten and first grade. While dictation assessments technically involve writing, they’re a great way to see how students are processing what they have learned. Remember, reading is input and writing is output.

To complete a dictation assessment, ask students to write words or short sentences within certain phonics patterns to see if students understand how to do it. For example, to assess short /a/, ask students to write “A cat sat on a mat.” You’ll be able to see if students struggle with a specific skill.

Dictation assessments make great reading assessments for kindergarten and first grade students.

3. High-Frequency Word Assessment

Learning high-frequency words does have a place in the classroom. Even with the new science of reading research, high-frequency words matter. How we teach them may need to change, but students still need to learn them. Why? Because…

By assessing and tracking students’ progress in master high-frequency words, we’re giving our readers a bigger bank of sight words to have to make reading easier. I have two resources to help make this easier for you and your students to monitor: Kindergarten Sight Words and First Grade Sight Words

4. Guided Reading Level Assessment

Finally, knowing what guided reading level your students are on will help you know where to start in guided reading. Do guided reading levels have a place in the classroom? Yes! Guided reading levels are simply a system developed originally by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell to help organize reading skills and strategies so that readers are not overwhelmed. The goal of guided reading is to work within a child’s instructional level.

So, you’ll need to find each child’s guided reading instructional level. Your school may have an assessment kit that makes this is like a DRA Assessment Kit. If not, I have an assessment kit that’s super easy to use and makes assessing a breeze.

Guided reading level assessment kits are one way to understand the whole reader during reading assessments in kindergarten and first grade.

This all-inclusive assessment kit has:

  • 26 books for Levels A-M
  • 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction per level
  • Books in printable and digital format to easily share on your learning platform
  • Running records for each book
  • Comprehension questions and a grading rubric
  • Instructions for how to take and score the running record
  • Teacher instructions for giving the assessment for both in-person and digital teaching
  • Parent note/letter to send home or email for virtual assessing
  • Datasheet to record data for the beginning, middle, and end of the year

FREE Reading Assessment Toolkit

By piecing all of these assessments together, you’ll have a solid, comprehensive picture of each student as a whole reader. All of these components matter and can guide your lesson planning and instruction to meet the needs of each student.

A free toolkit to help complete reading assessments in kindergarten and first grade.

To help you get started, I created a FREE Reading Assessment Toolkit for teachers. It was carefully designed to help kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers navigate reading assessments to better help their students. It includes:

  • Phonemic Awareness Skills Checklist
  • Phonics Skill Assessment and Checklist
  • Dictation Assessment
  • Running Record Cheat Sheet
  • Comprehension Questions for Fiction and Non-fiction
  • Reading Strategies and Skills Checklist
  • Dolch and Fry’s Sight Word Lists
  • Parent Conference Forms for K-2
  • Testing Table Signs and Door Signs

Grab this FREE download today and get started mastering your reading assessments for kindergarten and first grade!

Happy Teaching,



Want to use the latest research to boost your readers during small groups? This FREE guide is packed with engaging ideas to help them grow!

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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