New students begin with the intake assessment. It is the first and, in some ways, most crucial component of our program. Based on the results of our intake assessment we will know specifically the areas in which a student is already strong and also where focused support will be required. This is what allows us to individualize our program for each student. We will also discover how a student learns best (by seeing? hearing? feeling? moving?) allowing us to ensure new material is delivered optimally for the student. Symbols is known for having among the most complete and thorough intake assessments and intake assessment reports available, and we take the process so seriously because of how important we feel it is. After all, if a learning center or tutor isn’t conducting a thorough intake assessment, how can they possibly know how to best help the student in front of them?
Our intake assessment typically spans the first 3 lessons of a new student’s schedule. This can, however, vary from student to student. Just like with our regular tutoring, we work through the intake at the student’s pace; some students are able to work through the intake in just 2 lessons, while others may require 4. Some parents express concern that the time spent conducting the intake is at the expense of “real” lessons and prefer us to rush through it. We feel this is misguided for two reasons. First, because of how important the assessment results are to designing an individualized program, it is not something to be rushed. Second, the intake assessment lessons are actually used as a learning opportunity; we teach new material, such as a sight word, in order to judge the student’s retention levels from lesson-to-lesson. We also teach the student new terms they need to know that are important in Orton-Gillingham tutoring (such as ‘sight word’, ‘macron’ and ‘breve’), orient them to various components of standard lessons, and establish rapport between tutor and student.
Symbols’ language intake assessment covers the following general topic areas in detail:
- Pre-reading and Reading Skills (includes complete assessment of visual phonological awareness)
- Spelling and Writing (includes complete assessment of aural phonological awareness)
- Ability to Learn New Material and Subsequent Recall Abilities
- Underknowledge and Basic Terms (examples of underknowledge include the days of the week and colours)
Our math intake assessment includes some of the same components of the language report listed above, as well as a level-appropriate assessment of various math and math-related skills.
Although we try to make the intake assessment as light-hearted and fun as possible, it is in essence an assessment, and as such can be somewhat stressful for some children. We encourage parents to explain to their children that the intake assessment is not a test, and that future lessons will be considerably more interesting and fun.
Note that the Symbols intake assessment is not similar to and should not be considered as an alternative to a psycho-educational assessment, which should be performed by a qualified psychologist.
The Symbols Intake Assessment Report
Although the results of the intake assessment are immediately available to us and used to individualize lessons following the assessment, the report typically takes approximately 2 weeks to write, edit, assemble and issue to parents. The language intake assessment report is substantial: approximately 20 pages long, not including appendices. Is that too long? Probably. That’s why we include an Executive Summary at the front of the report, which includes all of the summarized information that a parent really needs to know. But for those parents who want the details, or who want to share the findings with other professionals also working with the student, those details are all available in the report, along with samples of the student’s actual work provided in an appendix. The volume of the report speaks to the quantity and detail we assess in the intake assessment, and thus the degree to which we can support a new student in such a highly individualized way.