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First Grade Assessment Tools

by Dana Tuffelmire, studioD

Assessments in first grade provide teachers with valuable information on each student and allow them to cater instruction to the needs of the class. Teachers in upper grades commonly use written tests to assess student progress. However, in first grade the students' reading and writing skills aren't developed enough to show what they know in written form. First grade teachers use other assessment methods to determine if students are meeting lesson objectives.


First grade teachers often use grading rubrics to measure progress in writing, speaking and listening or other broad concepts. Rubrics allow teachers to narrow in on specific criteria. For example, a writing rubric for a first grade story might include the objective, "Students will effectively use punctuation." The rubric then includes four levels of understanding of the objective. Students who use punctuation correctly on each sentence receive four points, students who use punctuation most of the time receive three points, students who use punctuation rarely receive two points, and students who do not use punctuation receive one point.


A grading checklist is a list of skills or concepts that the students are expected to know or behaviors they should exhibit. Teachers can run through each item on the list, noting whether each student has met the objective or not with a quick check. Checklists are versatile and can be used with individuals or small groups of students. Teachers might also keep running checklists on each student to monitor progress over time, or they can complete an isolated checklist on a set of objectives. The specific nature of a checklist keeps teachers focused on measuring the same skills for each student.


Any group of first graders is diverse, with students working at individual skill levels to meet varied learning goals. Assessment can be difficult when all students are working at different levels or when the objective is less concrete like, "Students will read with expression." Observation is a powerful tool for teachers to make subjective assessments on students. Teachers can observe students one-on-one, in small groups or as a whole group. The type of observation a teacher employs depends on the objective being measured. Whole-group observations work best for simple objectives like, "Students will raise their hand before speaking." Small-group or individual observations are often necessary when the objective is more complex like, "Students will use comprehension strategies to understand written text."


A portfolio is a compilation of each student's work over a designated period. Some teachers keep a portfolio for the entire school year while others limit the time to a semester or marking period. Portfolios allow teachers to show parents concrete examples of the child's work, making it easy to show progress in areas like handwriting or art. Portfolios are commonly organized by subject to show a student's progress over time. Many teachers also encourage the students to take part in developing and monitoring their own portfolios to encourage responsibility and pride for learning.

About the Author

Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.

Photo Credits

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