Clay’s Observation Survey: A Tool to Guide Early Literacy Teaching


As a Reading Recovery teacher, I use the Observation Survey to help select which students I will be servicing for each round of Reading Recovery.  The Observation Survey is not a tool just for Reading Recovery teachers. The Observation Survey is for teachers who want to be “careful observers” of how children learn to read and write in the early years.  When I taught kindergarten we used parts of the Observation Survey at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to measure growth and choose goals for future teaching.  The Observation Survey can also be used with older students who are struggling with learning to read and continue to work at early text levels.

There are six components of the Observation Survey.

1. Letter Identification:  Teachers can see what a child knows about the letters that make up our alphabet.  Children can identify letters by the letter name, sound, or a word that starts like that letter.

2.  Concepts About Print:  Teachers can see what a child understands about how our written language works such as their understanding about print containing a message, where to start reading, which way to go, return sweep, letter vs. word, matching capital and lower case letters, etc.

3.  Word Reading:  Provides teachers with a snapshot of what words a child has learned.

4.  Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words:  Teacher can see how a child goes about writing and is able to look closely at writing behaviors such as, whether they are able to say words slowly, write words letter by letter, write words in sequential order, and form letters.  Teachers can also see if the child has any letter reversals or confusions, how they use capital and lower case letters, whether they write left to right, top to bottom, and return to the left at the end of a line.

5.  Writing Vocabulary:  Teachers can observe what words a child is able to write independently.  This assessment also provides another opportunity to notice writing behaviors.

6.  Text Reading:  Running records will help teachers to make inferences about strategic actions children are using to read the text they encounter.  Teachers also take note of how the child sounds when they read and the child’s understanding of the text.

The Observation Survey will allow you to compare progress throughout the school year.  After completing the Observation Survey teachers will be able to see what their students’ strengths and weaknesses are.  The Observation Survey is a great tool for teachers to use to inform their literacy teaching decisions.

It is important to be trained on how to administer the Observation Survey.  If you have Reading Recovery teachers in your school or teachers that have been trained to administer the Observation Survey they will be a great resource for you.  It is helpful to practice administering the Observation Survey.  I practiced on my son and niece who were 4 and 5 at the time.  Honestly, it was a lot of fun!  It is also important to be consistent with the language you use when administering the Observation Survey.  I created guides to help me to be as consistent as possible.  If you would like copies of the guides I use click the links below.


OS guidesheet
OS Guide Sheet



CAP guide
CAP Guide Sheet




What are your thoughts on the Observation Survey?  Do you have any tips for administering the Observation Survey?



5 thoughts on “Clay’s Observation Survey: A Tool to Guide Early Literacy Teaching

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