Literacy - Test then Teach

 Encouraging self-help in learning literacy

Tests that Teach
Test then Teach

Innovations in assessment in Literacy and English

The main aim of testing children in literacy and numeracy is to help them to improve themselves. ‘What do you still need to know?’ is the positive spin.  Schools willing to use this approach should be able to return exam papers to children so they can see where they need help or can help themselves.  The term can end with progress prizes or certificates – where everyone in the class can get a progress certificate for something – a productive way to raise self-esteem and motivation.

A secondary aim for testing children is to help teachers with a complement to their own understanding of how their students are making out – again, the aim is progress, not labelling.

A major resource for this approach can be © Tests that Teach.  These can be downloaded free to copy, as they are put up, with the aim that ‘Everyone should have the right to free access to literacy, at any time, in any way that may help them, regardless of distance or disadvantages or ability to pay’.

List of Tests

for students, too, to use to help themselves

1. Example of a Syllabus Wall Chart, for Primary Year One. To come

2. Checklist for literacy.  What it helps to know in learning to read and spell.  Sometimes even adults are held up by some simple gap, such as 'There are only 26 letters?  I thought there were thousands!’  Black-and-white checklist.

3. Online individual video or DVD, ‘Help yourself to read and spell, or find out where you got stuck’.  Download and copy what you like from

4. The 'Cheer Up' Silent Reading Test  To come

5.An Ultimate Comprehension Test  To come

6.Dyslexia Phobia Test

7.A Phonics Skills Test, with a Beautiful Princess  To come

8a. A Spelling ABC which is different from a  Spelling Bee. To come
8b.Answers to the Spelling ABC

9.Exploring Spelling Structure  To come

10.The Sixteen Word Spelling Test

Tests for teachers to use

1  A Literacy Test for Books in Primary School  To come

2.  Test the Print and Pictures in Learners' Books  To come

3.  A Reading Phobia test -   A child may not be dyslexic  To come

  4. What is the Message of the Book?  To come

  5. Classroom barriers to literacy. Clear your classroom from common barriers.


1. The tremendous motivation of success

2. Public reward plays its part, when it does not mean invidious distinctions and helpless envy. Gold and silver stars can work better than ‘elephant stamps’ to make a student’s best work glow in the student’s own eyes.

Term Progress certificates for everyone who has made progress, with gold stars for remarkable progress.

Annual Progress prizes for everyone in something that they have made progress in. No-one to miss out. In my children’s school there were Progress Prizes –for swimming. Recommended prizes – books the children can choose themselves, plus certificates.

(further details in unpublished MSS Education docs.)

About these tests

A teacher’s greatest ally in the literacy classroom is the student who is able to help himself or herself in learning.

These students feel far better about themselves, are more motivated, and learn faster.

The simple and useful aids in this book help on many fronts.

  1. Overviews and advance organizers give primary school children previews what they are to learn.  When you come to teach the detail of the lessons, many will understand faster and some will know it already and be able to move faster.
  2. Morale-raisers.  These aids help learners to realise how much they know already, and how little and simple is what there still is to learn.
  3. ‘Find out were you got stuck.’  When students know where they are stuck, they can ask the teacher for specific aid.
  4. Individual differences. As well as differing in learning styles which may prefer visual, auditory or kinesthetic modes, learners differ in the cognitive style they can use most easily.  The standard learning paradigm for children is step by step – bottom up.  Some children however require ‘top down’, an overview of what is ahead, into which they fit each new lesson as it comes., as if into a mental filing cabinet.  For example, they benefit from having an idea of the rationale and structure of spelling, rather than straight rote learning alone.

    Many bright children can be particularly hard to fit into lesson plans and activities designed for the average child.

    Children also differ in concentration span, and the classroom needs to help children develop longer attention spans, and allow learning that is spasmodic to cohere. They need constant access to revision of what they so easily forget.
  5. Test the books in your classroom.  Do they pass the tests of readability of print and layout?

What are the messages that children are taking from what they read?   You need to know, because it may not be what adults expect, or are even trying to teach them.                                                

valerie yule