Module 1 Lesson 2 -
Assessment of Content Area Literacy


Before you can teach literacy in your content area, you need to know what your students can do, and need to be able to do, with their literacy skills. You will find this information through two activities in this lesson, the Standards Based Resource Tool (SBRT), and the Content Area Reading Inventory (CARI).

To find out what's expected of your students, utilize your state's content standards for reading, writing, information literacy and your content area. In your content area, the literacy standards may be hidden in the standards. Look for specific words such as identifying, explaining, interpreting, and many others. See the box below with a sample Colorado History standard:

1.3 Students use chronology to examine and explain historical


In grades K-4, what students know and are able to do includes

identifying cause-and-effect relationships in a sequence of events.

As students in grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes
interpreting historical data to determine cause-effect and time-order relationships; and
explaining patterns and identifying themes in related events over time.

For more Colorado Standards check the Department of Education Standards Page . For other states, do a search for their Department of Education, then look for standards, benchmarks, outcomes, or objectives.

Activity 1 - Creating a Standards Based Resource Tool

Once you have located the standards your students will need to meet, collect the standards into a table in a word processor, or on a spreadsheet. You will be utilizing these standards on a regular basis once you start teaching. If you are in the elementary field, where you have dozens of standards to meet, choose about 10 that you think you might be able to meet in a unit. You will be creating an interdisciplinary unit later with those standards.

Make another column in your chart for adding the url of a web page, or book info concerning that standard, and a column for comments about the resource you have found, and another for reflections on how this ties to both the content area, and literacy. The first one has been created for you from the literacy standard listed above.

A sample beginning chart would look like this:

Colorado Standard Benchmark Content Area Unit Resource found for that standard Literacy Connection Comments or evaluation of resource

1.3 Students use chronology to examine and explain historical

As students in grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes

identifying cause-and-effect relationships in a sequence of events.

interpreting historical data to determine cause-effect and time-order relationships; and

explaining patterns and identifying themes in related events over time.

Social Studies - Revolutionary War CyberGuides Assignment # 3 for Johnny Tremain Midnight Ride of William Dawes This activity ties the Historical happenings from the Revolutionary War to the poetry of Longfellow, as well as giving students a chance to interpret how the chronology of events may have effected history.
As students in grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes

distinguishing between cause-and-effect relationships and events that happen or occur
concurrently or sequentially;

analyzing and explaining cause-and-effect relationships using historical information that is
organized chronologically;

• using both chronological order and the duration of events to detect and analyze patterns of
historical continuity and change.


The ideal would be for you to add to this chart throughout this course, so that you have a valuable tool for anyone in your content area and grade level to utilize. For this course though, gather between 10 - 15 resources, then post the chart to the Discussion Board Literary Resources. Explore the charts of others in your class, and give them feedback on the resources they've found. Remember, your completed chart does not get dropped into the instructors' drop box until the end of the course, but keep searching for resources, and share the ones you find on the Discussion Board as you go.

Activity 2 - Creating a Content Area Reading Inventory for use in a classroom.

Now that you know what you need to teach your students, you need to find out what they already know, or what skills they need to develop to be successful with your lessons. You will be working with students in your field experience, so you are going to develop a Content Area Reading Inventory (CARI) to measure their current abilities, interests, and needed skills. You will be administering your CARI to the class where you are doing your field experience. Once you administer and interpret the CARI results, you will choose 3 students in that class to observe and follow throughout the semester. Then you will write a Follow-up Summary of the CARI, the teaching strategies that were utilized with the three students you observed, and the results that were reached with each of the students.

A CARI is NOT a standardized test, but an informal measure by a teacher to guide the instruction for the class. A sample Science CARI (aka CIRI - Content Informal Reading Inventory) and a Literary CARI can be viewed to get an idea of what is expected on the assignment. You can also read more about it in Chapter 2 of the Vacca Book.

You can create the Inventory using our online survey creation tool. This tool will enable you to take the students to the lab to take the survey online. It will also enable you to make a hard copy to print out, if you want to give it as an old fashion paper and pencil task. (However, you'll have to grade it all yourself that way). The computer will check the results for any questions that you create as multiple choice or true or false, but you will have to grade the questions entered as fill -in-the- blank or essay.

Save an electronic copy of the survey to your portfolio folder. You will later add the results of your survey, your reflections on the results of the survey and what pedagogical steps were taken with the students, as well as the results of those steps.

Part 1 - Creating the Inventory

STEP A -- Interest Inventory --To plan your lessons in a content area unit, you'll need to know how to motivate your students to want to learn about your topic. To do this you'll need to know what their interests are, and how you can tie their interests to your topic. To do this, include 6-8 questions on your inventory asking about their interests and cognitive style (so that you can present materials matching their styles). Below are several sample questions, but be sure to make your questions tie in with your content area topic:

Sample Interest Question Starters:

  • What do you enjoy most about..... ? (the topic, school, etc.)
  • Tell about some things you like to do in your spare time....
  • If you need to know how to do something, how do you go about learning to do it?
  • What type of materials do you like to read?
  • How do you figure out words you don't know?
  • Would you rather read something you have chosen yourself, or something given to you by a teacher, parent, or friend?
  • What area of reading would you like to improve?

Sample Cognitive Styles Question Starters can be seen on this Learning Styles Chart from Chaminade College Preparatory School

STEP B -- Text Sample --look for a literary passage from text materials in your discipline, or literary sources. You need to find one that is "leveled" to the age of student you will be working with. There are several measures you can do to determine if the material you are using is appropriate for your level of students. Choose one of the following methods, and then indicate its use and your rationale for using it in your written reflection on the inventory:

Fry's Readability Graph (provided by Kathy Schrock)
SMOG Readability Formula
Microsoft Word's Readability Function (easiest to do)

You will type or copy and paste this reading selection into the survey question box, then create the vocabulary questions from it, as well as the comprehension questions.

STEP C -- Vocabulary Samples -- from the literary sample, or a list of vocabulary you will be using during the lesson, create a few questions to test their knowledge of the vocabulary. These could be matching the word with the definition, or including the words in a sentence and asking the meaning of its use. The following is an example:

What is meant by a smoking related illnesses as used in this sentence?

Many of those who lose their lives because of smoking related illnesses , could probably live longer if they didn't smoke.

(If you make these questions multiple choice, the computer can check them for you).

STEP D -- Comprehension Sample

Once your students have read the text sample, you will need to measure their ability to understand what they have read. To do this, create questions about the text sample utilizing Bloom's taxonomy to be sure you have different types of questions. Create a question from each category in the taxonomy (you can use the question starters given there).

Once you've gathered all your data together, you can enter it into our online survey creator, and use it either as an online tool for your students, or print out a copy to run off hard copies for the students. If you use it as an online tool, the computer tallies the results for you on the questions with limited answers. You will still have to grade the text based questions.

Survey Creation Tool

Take this Quiz

Post a copy (or the url) of your CARI to the Discussion Board forum CARI Rough Drafts. Respond to two other classmates by giving them feedback on their CARI.

Part 2

STEP E-- Administer the CARI

Set up a time with your cooperating teacher for you to administer the inventory to the class. This can be done in a computer lab if it's available, and you've created the survey online, or you can print out copies of the survey to pass out in class. Be sure to explain to your students that this "survey" will not effect their grade in any way, but will help you make decisions about the best way to teach them.

STEP F -- Analyze the Results

Once you have given the CARI to your students, the results for the choice questions will show up online automatically... simply click on the See Results button. Be sure to print out a copy for your portfolio. Then click on File/Save As and save an electronic copy to include in your online portfolio.

You will need to grade by hand any questions that are fill in the blank or essay questions. Compile your results, and choose three students to observe throughout the semester.

STEP G -- Observing students

The students you observe do not need to be the ones with the lowest scores, although at least one of the students should be. You can choose a middle student, and possibly a student with a top score.

You will need to send home permission slips to ALL parents requesting permission to utilize test results, and post student assignments. You can find the form under the Course Documents link, entitled Student/Parent Permission Slip Form . Right click on the link to it, and choose Save target as to put it on your computer, or choose print to print it out.

As you work in your field experience, keep notes on the three chosen students. Particularly look for what methods, pedagogies, etc. the teacher utilized with the students, and how it worked.

STEP H -- Writing Up Your Results

Once you have observed the students, and analyzed them, you will need to report the results by writing a summary report. For guidelines on this task, download the Guidelines for Final CARI Project found under the Course Documents link.

Drop your final version to the instructor's drop box by clicking on Tools, then on Digital Drop Box, then on Send. Use the Browse button to find your file, then click on Submit. Be sure to use the Send Button, as the Add button, just puts it in storage for yourself.

Remember Step G occurs throughout the course, while Step H occurs near the end of the course.

For now Go Onto the lesson on the Reading Process

Classes - (See Class site for details on class dates) Standard Objective Class Activities Assignments -
Delivered to...
Lesson 2
Content Area Teaching

Literacy, (K-12/7-12) Plans and organizes literacy instruction based on content needs, including:

2.1b using resources that support content learning, including young adult literature, professional published instructional materials, and library resources and technology.

Create a list of literary resources and materials for use in the classroom. Looking at standards in your discipline, research resources for use in the classroom. Create a log of the resources. Log of literary resources and materials

4.1 Utilizes valid and reliable assessment tools that are aligned with standards and benchmarks and that assess meaningful learning in all content areas

4.5 Uses assessment data as a basis for standards-based instruction in each domain of responsibility, meeting current learner needs and leading to next level of development, raising the academic performance level of individuals and of a group of students, over time, to a higher level.

4.7 Uses assessment strategies to involve learners in self-assessment activities, to help them become aware of their strengths and needs, and to encourage them to set personal goals for learning.

Develop a Content Area Reading Inventory to utilize with a field experience student.

Gather materials for the CARI

Read Chapter 2 of Vacca book.

  • Input data into the survey tool
  • Post a copy (or the url) of your CARI to the Discussion Board forum CARI Rough Drafts.

  • Respond to two other classmates by giving them feedback on their CARI.

  • Save an electronic copy for your portfolio.
  • Administration, reflection, and review of the CARI takes place in field experience, and final report is due before the end of the class