PALS 1-3 is used with children in grades 1, 2, and 3 to identify students at risk of reading difficulties. PALS 1-3 is designed to measure young childrenís knowledge of important literacy fundamentals and can be used as a diagnostic tool to provide teachers with explicit information to help guide their teaching.
PALS 1-3 is a leveled instrument that is used to (a) screen and identify students in need of additional instruction based on their Entry Level task scores, and (b) diagnose specific skill deficits in students whose Entry Level scores do not meet a benchmark that represents minimum grade-level criteria. Those students then proceed to subsequent diagnostic levels of PALS (Level B tasks, and Level C tasks).
Students are asked to spell lists of words representing phonics features necessary to be successful at each grade level. Teachers score spelling based on the specific phonics features that are represented in each word.
Word Recognition in Isolation
The capacity to obtain meaning from print depends strongly on accurate, automatic recognition of core reading vocabulary at each grade level. As a result, PALS provides eight graded word lists to gauge studentsí progress throughout the year.
Level A: Oral Reading in Context
The Oral Reading in Context task is used to assess three components of oral reading: (a) oral reading accuracy, (b) phrasing, intonation, and expression, and (c) reading rate.
Students are asked to read a leveled passage while the teacher takes a running record to determine the studentís instructional reading level.
Timing Passage Readings
Teachers can time passage readings with a stopwatch. Entering the studentís time in minutes and seconds into the PALS score entry system enables the system to calculate the studentís reading rate in words per minute.
Comprehension is assessed in PALS 1-3 as part of the Oral Reading in Context task. After reading a passage out loud, students answer a set of comprehension questions about that passage. The comprehension questions are in a multiple-choice format.
Oral reading fluency is rated with the PALS fluency rating guide. Studentsí oral reading is scored on a 3-point scale according to their phrasing and expression.
Level B: Alphabetics
Students whose Entry Level scores do not meet minimum criteria must be further assessed with Level B tasks.
The single best predictor of early reading achievement is accurate, rapid identification of upper- and lower-case letters of the alphabet (Adams, 1990). PALS 1-3 assess childrenís ability to name the 26 lower-case letters of the alphabet.
Students are asked to produce the sounds of 23 letters of the alphabet, as well as three digraphs.
Concept of Word
The Concept-of-Word task measures childrenís ability to accurately touch words in a memorized rhyme as well as their ability to use context to identify individual words within a given line of text. Both of these phenomena are important precursors to learning to read.
Level C: Phonemic Awareness
If Level B benchmarks are not met, children are routed to Level C for a more in-depth evaluation of phonological skills such as blending and segmenting speech sounds.
In the Blending task, students are asked to blend individual phonemes together to come up with a word (e.g., /c/ + /a/ + /t/ = cat). Items move from two-phoneme words to four-phoneme words.
The Sound-to-Letter task requires phoneme segmentation in addition to knowledge of letter sounds. The teacher says a word (e.g. map); the student segments a specific phoneme within that word and tells the teacher the letter that represents either the beginning, middle or ending phoneme in that word.
PALS 1-3 Scores and Expectations
Studentsí scores on specific tasks are added together to create a summed score. This summed score is compared against minimum expectations for fall and for spring. If a studentís summed score is below the benchmark, that student must receive small-group instruction in addition to the regular classroom literacy instruction.