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Directions for Administering
the Primary & Elementary Spelling Inventories

These two tests are designed to assess the word knowledge elementary students have to bring to the tasks of reading and spelling. Students are not to study these words. That would invalidate the purpose of this inventory which is to find out what they truly know. You can administer this same list of words three times: in Sept, Jan and May; to measure children’s progress.

These words are ordered in terms of their relative difficulty for children in grades K to 5. For this reason you need only call out the words which sample features your children are likely to master during the year. However, do call out enough words to give the first five to eight words on the primary list for most children. For the first grade call out at least 15. For 2nd and 3rd use the entire primary spelling inventory. Use the entire elementary spelling inventory for grades 4 and 5 and for any 3rd use the entire primary spelling inventory. You should also call out additional words for any children who are spelling most of the words correctly at the K or 1st grade level.


Call the words as you would for any test. Use them in a sentence to be sure you children know the exact word. Assure your students that this is not for a grade but to help you plan better for their needs. Seat the children to minimize copying or test the children in small groups (recommended for K and early 1st grade).

Scoring the test.

Copy a scoring sheet for each child and simply check off the features for each word which are spelled according to the descriptors at the top. Add an additional point in the “correct” column if the entire word is correct. Note that some words are scored for some features and not others and the number of possible points varies by words.

Assigning points and analyzing the results

Total the number of points under each feature and across each word. Staple the child’s spelling test to the individual form. The total point score will give you a number which can be compared over time but the most useful information will be the feature analysis. Look down each feature column to determine the needs of individual students. Transfer these numbers to a class composite sheet to get a sense of your group as whole and to form groups for instruction. Highlight children who are making two or more errors on a particular feature. For example, a child who get 6 of 7 short vowels correct on the primary list can be considered in pretty good shape although some review work might be in order. A child who gets only 2 or 3 of the 7 short vowels needs a lot of work on that feature. Since the total possible number will vary depending on how many words you call out the criteria for mastery will vary. I generally think like this. If X is the number of possible correct responses the X or X-1 indicates good control of the feature while X-2, or more, indicates the need for instruction. If the child did not get any points for a feature it is beyond their instructional range and earlier features need to be addressed first.


If you have questions, click on this link to Discussion Group and post your question or concern. You can receive feedback from Patti and other teachers who are using this assessment tool with their students.


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