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Primary One Literacy Assessment and Action Resource (POLAAR)

Last updated:
16 May 2017


What is this?

​The Primary One Literacy Assessment and Action Resource (POLAAR) is designed to support improvement by helping P1 teachers identify and assess children who are most at risk of developing later difficulties with reading and writing.

It is based on a staged intervention model of ‘observe-action-observe’ which helps identify the most effective intervention to take at classroom and child levels.

Who is this for?

This resource is designed for use by P1 teachers and others who support young children’s literacy learning and development.

Download(s)

Zip file: Primary One Literacy Assessment and Action Resource (4 MB)

​Explore the resource

In the following video, Dr Nancy Ferguson, depute principal psychologist, explains why the POLAAR resource has been created.

Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).

1. Observing the literacy environment and taking action

Children’s literacy abilities can only be accurately assessed when they have had appropriate literacy learning experiences. Observing the literacy environment and taking action is, therefore, a key component which should be addressed first.

Once areas for action in the class environment have been identified using the Early Literacy Environment Assessment, more accurate judgements about the child’s own literacy development can then be made.

Word file: Early literacy environment assessment (99 KB)

See how to use the early literacy environment assessment - In the following video, Dr Nancy Ferguson, depute principal psychologist, and practitioners including Jill Cameron, head teacher of East Calder Primary, discuss how to use the Early Literacy Environment Assessment.

Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).

2. Observing the child and taking action

Observing the child and taking action comes next. The Child Observational Assessment is designed to be used with individual children rather than with groups or whole classes.

It is in two parts – an observational schedule (questionnaire), which is done with the child first, then a list of suitable actions and experiences which relate to each of the 20 questions of the observational schedule.

The observational schedule offers 20 questions to be answered on the basis of teacher judgement which are highly predictive of children’s future literacy abilities. Each can be scored on a four point scale of independence.

As children require less adult support and move towards greater independence, the scale provides a good index of their current literacy skills. Of course, children will normally only approach full independence across all 20 items towards the end of P1.

For each of the 20 questions, associated actions to improve each skill are suggested in the Child Observational Assessment with Actions section of the resource. Look at the question(s) you are interested in to see the suggested actions which relate to it/them.

It is advised that the P1 teacher initially uses this assessment with any pupils whom they consider to be struggling with early literacy development fairly early on in Primary 1.

Word file: Child observational assessment (79 KB)

Word file: Child observational assessment with actions (89 KB)

See how to use the child observational assessment - In the following video, Dr Nancy Ferguson, depute principal psychologist, and Carol-Ann Campbell, class teacher at Holytown Primary, discuss how to use the Child observational assessment. Jill Cairns, class teacher at East Calder Primary School, then demonstrates an example of an intervention that can be used to support pupils.

Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).

3. Three-minute teacher assessment

Over time, your actions should have an effect. You may wish to complete the Child Observational Assessment checklist a second time to demonstrate progress.

If your action is not working, you may wish to change the action or focus on a different literacy skill from the checklist.

Alternatively, you might decide to do a more detailed assessment using the three-minute teacher assessment, below.

This provides three measures to take for each of the three areas most predictive of future literacy development according to the Literature Summary research. This will take around 10 minutes with one child.

PDF file: Three-minute teacher assessments (293 KB)

See how to use the three-minute teacher assessment - In the following video, Dr Nancy Ferguson, depute principal psychologist, and Lynne Brennan, head teacher at Holytown Primary, discuss how to use the Three-minute teacher assessment. Head teachers then give their endorsement of the POLAAR resource.

Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).

4. Further detailed assessment

In a further three months, you might want to undertake a more detailed assessment of a child’s strengths and areas for development using a computer-assisted assessment.

These generally take more time, so you may wish for a classroom assistant to sit with the child during the assessment.

Various commercially-produced, computer-assisted assessments are available which administer, score and report the assessment.

Computer-assisted assessments are of two kinds: attainment and diagnostic. Attainment assessments tell you the level the child is at. Diagnostic tests try to give you some idea of why the child might be struggling with certain aspects of their literacy development e.g. reading.

For further information on computer-assisted assessments, see the summary of research findings in the related links section.

About the author(s)

This resource was created within Education Scotland’s literacy team.

Download video transcripts

Word file: POLAAR Video 1 - Introduction

Word file: POLAAR Video 2 - Observing the literacy environment

Word file: POLAAR Video 3 - Child observational assessment

Word file: POLAAR Video 4 - Three-minute assessment




Tags:

Learning and assessment; Scottish Attainment Challenge; Literacy

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) links

Oral language interventions

Reading comprehension strategies


​Related links

British Dyslexia Association - What works for pupils with literacy difficulties

National Reading Panel - Teaching children to read

National Literacy Trust - Rose review

Pearson - A systematic review of the research literature on the use of phonics in the teaching of reading and spelling