An innovative assessment tool is helping new entrants play a central role in their own learning.
The tool, developed by University of Canterbury PhD student Karyn Carson, has taken two-and-a-half years to perfect.
It works like a simple 15-minute computer game and can be operated by a five-year-old without adult supervision.
It features four tasks on rhyming, identifying the first sound in a word and recognising letters and letter sounds. More complicated tasks can be added to suit children aged between five-and-a-half and six.
The tool has been designed to assess a child’s phonological awareness and produce data a teacher can use to develop tailor-made reading programmes.
Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and use the sounds in spoken language. Children need phonological awareness to read.
“In the past, a child may have sat down with his teacher and been assessed using a formal paper-based test, which can be time consuming for both teacher and child,” says Ms Carson, a former speech-language therapist and New Zealand Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship recipient.
Ms Carson’s tool also identifies children who are likely to struggle with reading a year down the track. Preliminary tests show her tool is between 92 to 94 per cent accurate in assessing a child’s reading ability at six years old.
“This tool not only frees up teacher time, it also means five-year-olds – including those who may experience reading difficulties – are more likely to get tested in this crucial area of reading development.”