Back to School: Assessing my Tier 3 Students

It was back to school time for me last week.  Back to school for a literacy interventionist often means administering beginning of the year assessments.

My job currently consists of spending half of my day with my Reading Recovery students and the other half providing tier 2 and tier 3 literacy academic intervention services for students in grades k-2.  Along with preparing to administer Marie Clay’s Observation Survey with first graders, I am also preparing to assess my tier 3 second grade students to determine their strengths/needs so that I can plan their programs.

The following are assessments that I find the most helpful when looking at how my students interact with print.  Most of these assessments are appropriate for students in grades k-5, but I vary which ones I use depending on the student.  For example, for some second graders I might feel it is necessary to check their letter identification knowledge but for other students, I might determine that it is not necessary.

Letter Identification – When administering the letter identification assessment I take note of what letters students know, don’t know, or have confused.  I also look at how fast they are with their recall of each letter.  I use the letter identification procedure and forms from Clay’s Observation Survey.  Alternative options can be found here or here.

High-frequency Word Reading – I find it helpful to assess how my students do with automatic word recognition.  I use a district created list of high-frequency words but any high-frequency word list will do.  Pioneer Valley has a high-frequency word assessment available on their web page.

Dictated sentence – Dictated sentences are a great tool to use to observe how your younger students do with saying words slowly and writing the sounds they hear.  It also allows you to see to see how students do with concepts about print.  Are they writing left to right and top to bottom?  Do they have spaces between their words?  Do they use upper case and lower case letters appropriately?  I use the dictated sentences from Clay’s Observation Survey.

Spelling Inventory – Spelling inventories allows you to see which phonics skills should be targeted and taught/prompted for in reading and writing.  I use Jan Richardson’s Word Knowledge Inventory.  I have also used the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory.

Running Record/Comprehension Conversation/Writing About Reading – A running record is essential to see how my students process text.  I am able to see what they do when they come to an unfamiliar word, whether they monitor their reading and how they sound when they read.  I think that it is important to have students talk about the books they read, via a comprehension conversation, to get a better picture of their comprehension of the text.

I also have my students write about their reading to see how they do with communicating their understanding of an instructional level text.  The focus of the writing about reading assessment is not on how students do with conventions but it is still something I take note of.  I use Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System, but you can easily use the guided reading leveled texts that you have available in your school.

Reading/Writing Inventory – Administering a reading/writing inventory enables me to see how my students feel about reading and writing.  Along with teaching my students how to read I want to increase their self-confidence and create happy reading memories with them.  I use the reading inventories to help me choose books that will motivate and engage my students.  They also help with having conversations on the topic of goal setting.  This is a simple reading/writing inventory that I created for grades k-2.

reading writing inventory1reading writing inventory2

reading writing inventory

Once I have administered all of my assessments I enter each student’s data on to a spreadsheet.  This is helpful to see if I have students that are similar enough that I may want to work with them in a group. Here is an example of some entries on my data collection form.


You can download this editable form by clicking here.

After compiling my data I write a summary of each student’s strengths and needs.  This summary helps me to create an individualized intervention plan for each student.  The intervention plan includes the student’s strengths and needs, the frequency and duration of their lessons, whether they are seen on their own or with a group, and how will monitor progress for each student as well as how frequently.  I readminister these initial assessments at the end of each’s student’s program to show growth over time.

Although it does take quite a bit of time to administer these assessments I feel that the process is invaluable.  This information along with information and work samples from the classroom teacher helps me to get a complete picture of each student.  It allows me to plan for an intervention that is targeted to their needs and not waste time teaching things they may already know.

Do you use similar assessments with your intervention students or do you have some other favorites that are not listed?  I would love to hear your thoughts below.



4 thoughts on “Back to School: Assessing my Tier 3 Students

    1. Hi Debbie,
      Great question! I do not use a specific program when working with my tier 3 students. Instead, I design lessons that include rereading familiar books, word work/phonological skills, reading of a new text, comprehension skills work and writing about reading. It is important to me that my students spend most of their lesson time actively reading and writing authentic texts so any isolated skills work is the smaller portion of the lesson. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  1. Jean DeLucca

    Thank you!! We find your posts very helpful!! You mentioned tier 3 interventions for second graders. We were wondering…what intervention do you offer? Any help would be appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jean,
      For my tier 3 students I create lessons using a guided reading format with most of the lesson time allocated for reading/writing authentic texts. I always include writing as a part of my tier 3 lessons as I view it as essential to strengthening a student’s reading. I previously wrote a post about intervention lesson design if you are interested in reading it.
      Thank you for your question. Gen and I are so happy that you find our posts helpful.


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