PreK-2 Writing Present Levels & Assessments

Writing a strong IEP begins with strong assessments and knowing what your student CAN do in each subject. This page walks through sample present levels (PLOPs or PLAAFPs) for students working at an early elementary level in writing and assessments you can use to write even better present levels for your own students!

Present Levels

The goal of a Present Level for any student is to tell about what that student can do. A PLOP that says, "Juan can read one work of a fifth-grade book per minute," tells you nothing about where Juan is at academically and nothing about what goals to set for the student. After having read far, far too many present levels that sound like that, I figured it would make sense to share what I think a strong PLOP might sound like. The ones below are very, very imperfect-- but they each give you concrete information about what the imaginary student can do-- information that you could use to come up with actually individualized goals.

Mikela can write 25 letters. She can spell final consonant sounds with 80% accuracy and beginning consonant sounds with 72% accuracy. She can spell medial vowels with 72% accuracy as well. In her writing, she spells a few basic sight words correctly like go, to, the. She will put down one to two sound for a word like "san" for "student." When prompted to sound out words, she can put down more sounds but on her own will often just put down the initial sounds. She will write a lot on topic and has good ideas in her stories. She continues to need extensive support to get those ideas down in a way that she or a teacher can read them.

Markus can write all of his letters. He often gets 100% on his classroom spelling tests and passes spelling tests in the phonics program. On a spelling sounds assessment, he was really strong on spelling initial and final consonant sounds but struggled with medial vowels (under 30% correct). He tried to put down letters for every sound that he hears but often inverted the letters like fxo for fox. When asked to write a story about the first time that he did something, he wrote about the story that the examiner had read to him instead. He wrote five complete, formulaic sentences about the story. His teacher reports that his thinking is there in stories but he needs extra time to get his ideas down. He is able to copy text from the board and keeps up in classroom note taking.

Assessments & Baselines

The most fundamental element of writing is letters. When you are assessing what letters students recognize, you also want to assess what letters they can write!

  • All you need to do here is ask a student to write upper and lower case letters in a mixed up order. What gets tricky is figuring out what you asked them to write! You want to give them a numbered sheet of paper and track on your copy what they were supposed to be writing.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • This one is pretty straight forward to administer. Sometimes it is helpful to know if they are doing reversals– if I see  p/q/b/d reversals or other broader reversals I write them down so I can include them in the write up. If a kid writes only one or two letters correctly, I would only do one or two words from the spelling test and make sure that I take dictation for an extra writing sample. 
  • I don’t specify whether a student needs to write a lower or upper case letter– and I count both as correct. You can test the two cases separately, but I have never really seen a major need for it (and it adds on pretty significant amounts of time).

Karla can write 22 letters. She is still working on lower case “b”s, “d”s, “r”s, and “w”s.


Spelling consists of how well students translate the sounds they hear into letters on a page. In addition to knowing what letters a student can write, you want to be able to discuss what sounds a student can write.

  • There are a lot of ways to approach this task! Asking students to write sounds in isolation can be hard– if you do it, you want to include a word too like “write mmm, like in mmmouse.”
  • Another option is to come up with a list of CVC words that capture a wide variety of letter sounds and see what a student does– do they get the first sound? The end? The middle? If they can do that, how do they do with blends or digraphs?

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • The idea of this assessment is to determine what types of sounds students are good at spelling– are they good at beginning sounds, end sounds, or vowels? If they spell they whole word correctly, that’s great– just add that to your write up. If a kid only knows one or two letters, only do one or two words. If they are getting only one sound down for a word stop at “quiz.” Only do the blends and digraphs if a kid is recording sounds consistently. Also, “c” and “k” sound the same so they both get credit– we want to know if the student can record sounds not if they guessed which homophone was making the sound.
  • I included above an example of a scored assessment to show how students get credit for any letter sound they put down– there are no points awarded for getting a word right. What we want to know is what types of sounds a student can write– this is not a test of perfection! The goal is to tell families what a student can do, not what words they can’t spell– and to get information that can guide phonics practice.

Rodrigo is proficient at spelling beginning consonant sounds in words. He can spell ending consonant sounds with just over 50% accuracy and short, medial vowels with under 20% accuracy.

Note: Because Rodrigo was at 50% on ending sounds and so low on short vowel sounds, we didn’t keep going on the assessment. You can choose to– but the goal is to say what a student can do and we are getting to a ceiling here. Your time is precious and so is your student’s!

Writing fluency is useful to capture if a student is at the point where they are consistently getting letter sounds down but getting them to write is a challenge (or a strength!). It is a fast assessment to administer and gives you a way to quantify for family’s how reluctant (or enthusiastic) of a writer a student is.

  • All you need to do is give a student a piece of paper, give them a writing prompt and set a timer!
  • For students who are emergent readers and writers, I count anything they get down– the word play might be p, but I would count that as a word. My goal is just to capture how quickly they are (or are not) getting sounds on a page.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • We want to know about how many words the student writes in a minute. We don’t care about spelling as long as there was a reasonable attempt to get sounds down. For younger student, one sound per word (l for like) is good enough to count as words. Basically we just want to know if the student can get anything down in a short time frame or if they need a much longer time frame to get their ideas down.
  • With all writing assessments, you might want to have the student read back to you what they wrote. Write it down next to their text– that can help you get a sense of what their spelling looks like in context and how they are thinking about the match between letters on a page and their stories.

Megan can write between three and four words in a minute.

Note: If one of your big challenges in class is to get a student to try writing, I would add more like: In class, Megan is eager to tell stories and will dictate long, complex stories. When she is asked to write her own stories, however, Megan will often state that writing is hard or engage in a different, preferred activity, such as drawing.

What does a student do when you ask them to write a story? Do they draw a picture and stop? do they write a few words? All of this information can help you form strong, actionable goals for a student– and writing samples paired with a clear rubric are an easy way to communicate to families where a student is at and where they are working towards.

  • You can give a student any writing prompt that makes sense to you! When they are done, ask them to read back the story to you and write down what they say so you can compare the story and the text. 
  • You also also want a rubric to use to score the sample– the goal of the rubric is to focus on what the student is doing so look for one with strengths language (can and not can’t language).

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • Your goal is to write down things that a student CAN do in their writing. With the youngest/lowest students that can be challenging. So use the rubric to help you come up with smart things to say! If a kid is getting all ones, make sure you get a dictated writing sample so you can get a sense of how well they can develop their ideas. Don’t forget that pictures are part of writing…. and that if a kid is getting all 5s you should probably be using some of the assessments from level 2 with them.

Student 1:

Kane is beginning to draw a simple picture in response to a writing prompt although right now his picture is mostly scribbles. He is also beginning to write letters when asked to write. Some of letters are poorly formed, but he knows the difference between letters and random shapes and is beginning to include only letters in his writing. He is also attending to the line when he is writing.

Student 2:

Paola is beginning to put down letters for the sounds that she hears in her writing. She is recording an average of two sounds per word and spelling basic sight words (is, go) correctly.  She was able to write a simple three sentence story in response to a writing prompt. She can also draw and tell about a picture that matches the story.

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