Three Ways to Use PALS
Teachers use PALS to identify students at risk of developing reading difficulties, diagnose students’ knowledge of literacy fundamentals, monitor progress, and plan instruction that targets students’ needs.
Teachers use PALS to identify students at risk of developing a reading difficulty, so that they can receive literacy intervention to help them catch up. Many schools use PALS as a screening tool for dyslexia.
The screening purpose of PALS-K and PALS Plus is to identify students who do not meet minimal competencies in important literacy fundamentals and who are in need of additional reading instruction beyond what is typically provided to developing readers.
Meeting the Summed Score benchmark implies that the student has met a level of minimum competency and can be expected to show growth given regular classroom literacy instruction. It does not imply that the student is on grade level.
Benchmark scores are used only for the screening purpose of PALS. Students who do not meet the Summed Score benchmark in fall or spring are thus “identified” by PALS and should receive additional instruction beyond what regular classroom differentiation provides. This is typically referred to as “intervention.”
Intervention instruction should continue throughout the year, even if Mid-Year scores fall within Mid-Year Ranges, to ensure that these students are supported long enough to gain solid footing in literacy skills. In addition to participation in a literacy intervention program, these “identified” students should continue to receive reading and spelling instruction in the classroom that is on their instructional levels and that targets their needs.
The diagnostic purpose of PALS is to provide teachers with explicit information about what all of their students know and need to know regarding these literacy fundamentals so teachers can effectively tailor instruction and intervention to their students’ needs.
Students who have a reading disability or who are struggling for any reason need instruction in the areas currently shown to be weaker. Research in reading development supports targeting these weaker skills as an effective method of nurturing growth in reading ability for these students.
PALS provides rich information about students’ knowledge of literacy fundamentals, including:
- Developmental writing and spelling knowledge
- Mastery of foundational skills including uppercase/lowercase alphabet recognition, letter sound knowledge, and phonological awareness (beginning sound awareness & rhyme awareness)
- Concept of word developmental stage (emergent readers)
- Instructional Oral Reading Level (beginning, transitional, intermediate, and advanced readers)
- Automaticity of word recognition at grade level
- Accuracy, reading rate, prosody, and basic comprehension at instructional oral reading level
- Developmental spelling stage, including specific spelling features mastered
- For preschool: print and word awareness and level of exposure to nursery rhymes
- For students in grades 1-8 who are not yet reading: ability to blend sounds and to match sounds to letters
PALS data can and should be used to drive and target differentiated instruction for all students, including those who exceed the benchmarks. PALS diagnoses instructional levels for both reading and spelling, so that teachers can provide appropriate instruction for all of their students.
3. Progress Monitoring
PALS can also be used to monitor progress in specific skill areas and instructional levels in reading and spelling.
PALS Quick Checks are brief measures designed to measure progress in a specific skill that is being targeted in intervention instruction.
PALS Mid-Year is designed to monitor progress using tasks equivalent to those used in fall, so that teachers can revise groups and plan instruction based on current data in January or February. PALS Mid-Year Ranges reflect grade level expectations rather than minimal competency.
Frequently Asked Question PALS Data
If I don’t have any students identified by PALS, what should I do?
The short answer is that you should provide differentiated reading instruction for all your students so that everyone is making progress.
A student who is not identified as at risk for reading difficulty is not guaranteed to be successful and performing on grade level; meeting benchmark just means that the regular classroom should provide the instruction the student needs to continue to make progress and be a successful reader. That success depends a lot (if not entirely) on appropriate classroom instruction. The diagnostic and progress monitoring purposes for using PALS are to gather and use data to determine the best differentiated instruction for each student, and to check whether that instruction is making a difference in the student learning to read.
A student’s Summed Score alone (whether below the benchmark or just a few points above, or well above) does not give enough diagnostic information to plan instruction. Look at all of the PALS data collected to identify each student’s current stages of reading and spelling development–information that should be used for grouping and planning instruction for all students.
In kindergarten, for instance, you may form small groups for all students according to their levels of Concept of Word development or instructional reading levels, and then focus on un-mastered skills (e.g., specific letters for alphabet recognition and letter sound knowledge). Students should not only have solid understandings of these subcomponents of reading, but also get plenty of supported experience with applying these skills in oral language activities and meaningful contexts (i.e., Concept of Word in text).
The PALS Electronic Lesson Plans in the PALS Online System provide an example of how small group instruction should be tailored to meet the different needs of emergent, beginning, transitional, or intermediate/advanced readers. The underlying principle here is to use the data to inform your instruction. Meeting students where they have needs will provide the best, most targeted and effective instruction possible, which will in turn provide the strongest growth toward yearly instructional goals.
How am I supposed to get my students reading at the text level required by state academic standards?
PALS assesses the foundational skills that students need in order to achieve the language arts goals outlined in state academic standards. By “identifying” students who do not have these foundational skills, PALS makes it possible to ensure that these students receive needed intervention to catch up.
Both PALS assessments and PALS Electronic Lesson Plans are closely aligned with most state curricula. To make sure students reach end-of-year goals, use PALS data to determine students’ specific areas of instructional need.
If you are using the most current PALS data to create small group lesson plans that target students’ needs with developmentally appropriate instruction, then students will progress at a faster rate, and be better prepared to meet the end of year reading goals.
What support does PALS offer for using data to plan effective classroom literacy instruction?
Our PALS literacy specialist team is dedicated to supporting teachers and administrators in understanding the stages of literacy development, what makes reading intervention effective, and how to use PALS data to support effective literacy instruction for all students, including those not identified as having a reading difficulty. Teachers and administrators alike are able to contact a PALS literacy specialist to ask questions and receive guidance in administering PALS and looking at PALS data.
In addition to the instructional resources available in the PALS Online System, PALS offers a wide range of topics for professional development, both in on-site training and webinar format. Premier accounts have access to our monthly webinars, PALS Professional Development website, and additional time available with our literacy specialists.
Can PALS be used in an Rti or MTSS setting?
PALS is effective in conjunction with a school’s existing RtI (Response to Intervention) or MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) framework. Both PALS and RtI seek to prevent failure through universal screening and early intervention. PALS assessments allow teachers to establish a baseline for each student and to target areas in which a student may need additional intervention.
Administrators may find the PALS Grouping functions to be helpful in grouping students within and across classrooms according to common instructional needs. Visit the Accommodations page for more information about how to make PALS accessible to all students.