Assessment Techniques for Print Awareness

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

To learn handwriting and literacy a student must have a grasp on print concepts. In this lesson, we will go over successful techniques that gauge whether or not a student has print awareness.


Print awareness involves understanding the context of writing as well as knowing how to read and write letters and words. It's a fundamental milestone in younger students acquiring literacy. Print exists in different contexts and have different functions within those contexts.

Print awareness begins as children are exposed to story books and the alphabet. They learn that words are read from left to right and that ideas are organized in specific ways to convey meaning. Since print awareness is such a pivotal concept in acquiring literacy, teachers must have assessment methods to gauge a student's progress.

Let's go over some techniques that can help teachers in these assessments.

The Story Book Method

Put simply, young students don't always perform well on written exams. In fact, the younger the student, the more hands-on the assessment should be, which is why an interactive assessment that doesn't look like an assessment can be effective.

The story book method is a great way to assess young students' grasp of print awareness in terms of context. Read a simple story aloud. It may be helpful to have a copy of the book for each student, but this isn't required. After you have read the book, ask the students to do the following tasks:

  • Identify the front and back of the book.
  • Identify the book's title.
  • Point out where to begin reading and which way the sentence goes.
  • Point out one word from the first and last sentence.
  • Find the last word in the story.
  • Point out a single letter anywhere in the book.
  • Identify a capital letter and a lowercase letter.
  • Show a period, a comma, a question mark, and an exclamation mark in the book.

When the whole class is involved, students who are grasping the concepts can help confirm the ideas for students who haven't quite caught on to everything just yet. Of course, doing this individually is a great way to do an assessment of just one student.

The Letters in a Bowl Game

Letters are the basics in reading and writing. You can easily assess students' awareness of the alphabet by playing the letters in a bowl game.

Here's how to play the game:

1. Pick a book that goes over the letters in the alphabet. Some good ones include ABC by Dr. Seuss and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

2. Take die-cut letters (or letters that you cut out yourself) and put them in a bowl.

3. Read the book aloud to the students.

4. Ask each student to grab a letter from the bowl.

5. Ask each student to identify the letter and determine whether or not the letter is in the student's name.

  • If yes, ask the student to spell the name.
  • If no, ask the student to think of a word that has the letter in it and to spell that word.

Throughout the game, you should be noting which students are struggling and which letters seem to pose a problem for all the students. Play the game weekly to give students the opportunity to get different letters.

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