Areas for phonics assessment transcript

Elaine Stanley:

Let's begin by considering areas for assessment within an SSP (Systematic Synthetic Phonics) approach.

This chart shows us phonics-related areas for assessment across Foundation to Year 2. It's aligned with content in the Australian Curriculum, Version 9.0 for phonics and word recognition. We'll unpack how it's aligned with expectations at each year level shortly, but we'll also just put the link in the chat now so you've got access to that and it's in your handouts for this session as well.

  • We can see on the chart that phonological awareness begins in Foundation and then continues into Year 1.
  • For letter–sound correspondence knowledge, students begin in Foundation with knowing all single sounds (or single letters and the most common sounds), and then progress to learning more and more complex code across Year 1 and Year 2.
  • As students learn to apply knowledge in Year 1 and Year 2 with their code knowledge, the types of words they're reading and spelling also become more complex, so you can see that there as well.
  • At the same time, students are moving from reading at the word level to developing text-level reading fluency beginning in Year 1 and progressively building into Year 2.

Schools often start to think about these areas of assessment when they start their SSP journey and start SSP instruction. They want to start aligning their assessment schedule and the assessments they’re using so that they’re assessing the things they’re teaching during their phonics lesson. So, it might be useful to schools who are starting to think about that.

And what we'll do is just break down each year level to look at the curriculum expectations. So this is for the literacy strand in the Australian Curriculum and the phonics and word knowledge sub-strand. In Foundation, we can see, for phonological awareness, students begin by identifying rhyme and syllables and they move to identifying individual phonemes in words and then slowly build their skills at blending and segmenting syllables and phonemes.

They're expected to know all letters and most common sounds, and then by the end of Foundation, they're expected to be able to spell and read CVC words, so consonant-vowel-consonant words. Also, they will know some high-frequency words by the end of Foundation and, as part of word reading and spelling, they begin to understand that words are actually units of meaning, so that's where your morphology area starts to come in as well.

Then in Year 1, we've got lots of content covered in the phonics area, so for phonological awareness, students begin to isolate individual phonemes in more complex word types. For example, if I said to them, ‘What are the sounds you can hear in “spoon”?’ they'd be able to tell me, ‘/s/, /p/, /oo/, /n/’. So, the words become more complex that they're working with.

They begin to be able to manipulate phonemes in words, so that's add or delete or substitute phonemes. For example, if I said to them, ‘Your word is “pan”, now take away the /a/, and put /e/’, they'd be able to manipulate that word to make ‘pen’. They're developing an understanding of short- and long-vowel sounds and the common letter patterns that make them, and now they're reading and spelling one- and two-syllable words, so they're slowly building their knowledge and skills.

They’re moving onto complex code in Year 1, so more complex than Foundation, so now they're understanding that sounds can be represented by more than one letter pattern, and letter patterns can have more than one sound. They're recognising an increasing number of high-frequency words and their morphological knowledge is also developing as part of reading and spelling, so they begin to understand how words are related to each other by phonemes. For example, ‘play’, ‘plays’, ‘played’, ‘playing’, how they’ve all got the same base. And fluency starts to develop in Grade 1 in reading.

In Year 2, students are applying phonological awareness skills to more and more complex word types. They're learning the more complex parts of code, for example, less common letter–sound correspondences like silent letters, for example.

And now they're beginning to use spelling patterns or generalisations to make spelling choices, because by this stage they've learned enough of the code that when they want to represent a particular sound, they've actually got choices of different letter patterns that can make that sound, so knowledge of spelling generalisation starts to come in.

They're building on their knowledge of morphology and word families, so they start to understand how words share the same morphemes or are part of the same word family, and how prefixes and suffixes are added to base words.

And text-level fluency is now starting to become an expectation that that's developing by Year 2.

Teachers often ask us about assessments available in some of these areas, so we'll just highlight a few here that are free and readily available to schools. There are lots of others available, but these are just a few examples for you. We'll put the links in the chat as I mentioned, so you know where to find them if you'd like to explore them further.

A popular one that's used for phonological awareness is the Quick Phonological Awareness Screening or QPAS.

To assess students' knowledge of individual letters and their single sounds there's an assessment on the Reading Rockets website, which is the Name and Letter Sound Assessment.

Then assessing word-level decoding for words with increasing complexity and requiring increasing code knowledge, the Year 1 Phonics Check is a really good one to assess your students there for those knowledge and skill areas.

DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators for Basic Early Literacy Skills) is also really popular in schools, that's a suite of assessments that assesses all areas we've just mentioned, plus they have oral reading fluency assessments, so that will give you expected scores for accuracy and rate for reading, for fluency, and that actually spans from Kindergarten to Year 8. The link we’re giving you now is for the Australasian version of those assessments, which has just been newly released.