An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement  4th ED Cover

An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement 4th ED

4th Edition

What are young children learning as they engage with literacy instruction at school?

Are they experiencing success or falling behind? How soon can we tell?

An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, 4th edition, provides teachers and school systems with essential information about how to assess young children's progress in literacy learning.

The six tasks of the Observation Survey are used by teachers across the world to explore children's knowledge of early reading and writing, to monitor progress, guide instruction and reliably identify children for supplementary assistance.

The tasks are:

  • Observation task for Concepts About Print
  • Taking records of reading continuous texts - Running Records
  • Observation task for Letter Identification
  • Observation task for Word Reading
  • Observation task for Writing Vocabulary
  • Observation task for Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Revised)

This fourth edition of Marie Clay's seminal text includes two important new developments:

  • a revised task for assessing children's phonemic awareness and sound-letter knowledge is more sensitive to different rates of progress and to the difficulties some children might have
  • updated norms for five of the Observation Survey tasks will enable teachers and schools to more accurately monitor and compare the progress of five-to-seven-year-old children across different aspects of literacy learning.

The observation procedures arose from a theory of how children learn to manage the complex task of learning to read and write continuous text. That process is described in Marie Clay's books - Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control; By Different Paths to Common Outcomes and Change Over Time in Children's Literacy Development.

The intervention described in Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals makes use of these observation tasks.

Research Reports
Pilot study to develop a new version of the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words task (PDF)
Renorming five tasks of the Observation Survey for New Zealand (PDF)

The digital edition of this publication is intended for reference purposes only, we request that you have already purchased a print copy before ordering.

Only the print version of this text should be used with children.

Ages: 5-7 | Pages: 216 | Code: GE0212 | ISBN: 9781927293102

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Picture of Marie Clay

Marie Clay

For three decades Marie Clay has been acknowledged as a world leader in research on literacy learning, child development and the prevention of learning disorders.

Her early academic work as a child psychologist involved the observation and study of children as they acquire literacy. An outcome of this research was the development of reliable tools for assessing progress with literacy learning and these instruments have been published and are widely used around the world today.

Marie's decision to focus on struggling learners and the resulting development of the Reading Recovery early intervention changed how the education community worldwide viewed these children's chances of becoming literate.

There are many other publications by Marie Clay in the areas of writing, oral language and classroom learning.


1. Observing change in early literacy behaviours4
An introduction to systematic observation4
Standardised tests are poor measures of slow progress11
Systematic observation of learners12
Characteristics of observation tasks13
2. Reading and writing: processing that information in print14
Reading continuous text14
Learning to write18
The blank page21
Seeing print from two vantage points22
Independent learners22
3. Assisting young children making slow progress23
A self-extending system of literacy learning25
Early intervention26
The sensitive observation of literacy behaviour29
The early detection of literacy learning difficulties31
Literacy processing34
Constructing self-extending systems35
4. Observation tasks for Concepts About Print39
Concepts About Print39
Using the Concepts About Print observation task43
Recording and scoring43
Interpreting Concepts About Print scores49
5. Taking records are reading continuous text51
Running Records51
Reading continuous text52
Uses for Running Records53
Learning to take Running Record55
Finding an instructional text level58
How to record what you see and hear59
Conventions for recording60
Scoring of error and self-corrections66
Conventions for scoring66
Quantifying the Running Record69
Interpreting the Running Record72
Processing the information in print75
Older readers: different signs of progress76
Records of individual and group progress77
Suggestions for using Running Records in classroom settings80
6. Observation task for Letter Identification84
Letter Identification84
Using the Letter Identification observation task85
Recording and scoring86
Interpreting Letter Identification scores90
7. Observation task for Word Reading93
Word Reading93
Using the Word Reading observation task93
Recording and scoring94
Interpreting Word Reading scores98
8. Observation task for Writing Vocabulary101
Writing Vocabulary101
Rating technique for early writing103
Writing Vocabulary task105
Using the Writing Vocabulary observation task107
Recording in scoring108
Interpreting Writing Vocabulary scores110
Keeping records of writing progress110
9. Observation tasks for Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Revised)116
Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Revised)116
Using the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Revised) observation task117
Recording and scoring119
Interpreting Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Revised) observation task125
10. Summarising the Observation Survey results126
Change overtime in early literacy learning126
Making a summary of the Observation Survey results128
Writing the Observation Survey summary129
A shorter summary for classroom teachers138
11. The teacher and the observations141
Sensitive observation: guiding literacy learning141
Information for the education system143
Information to support in early intervention for some children145
An overview147
Achievement stains149
1. Background to the Observation Survey163
2. Validity and reliability reports for the Observation Survey tasks166
3. A study to develop a new version of the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words task173
4. New Zealand norms for the Observation Survey186
5. Canadian norms for the Observation Survey193
6. United Kingdom (England and Wales) norms for the Observation Survey196
7. United States norms for the Observation Survey202
8. Ohio Word Test208
9. Duncan Word Test210
10. Original observation tasks for Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words212
References to222