Have you assessed your students’ decoding skills? Do you have a starting point for teaching those skills?
If your answer is no, then here’s a free tool to help you get going! This assessment for decoding one-syllable words is suitable for your kindergarten, first, and second-grade students. It is designed to be given to individual students.
There are 12 black/ white lists with 20 phonetically regular words covering short, long, r-controlled, and diphthong vowel patterns. You can also use the beginning lists to assess knowledge of single consonants and consonant blends/ digraphs.
As much as possible, the words selected for these lists are not common or high-frequency words. This keeps the focus on decoding. There are a student copy and a teacher copy for each list. There is, also, an alternative flashcard version.
What is the purpose of this assessment?
With this assessment, you can determine your students’ skills in applying knowledge of vowel sounds and patterns to decode unknown one-syllable words in isolation. In turn, you can use the results to inform your instruction. While the results will correlate directly with the steps in my phonics resources, particularly the word lists, they can be used to place your students in most any systematic phonics program.
This assessment is more than a brief survey of skills. It is not appropriate for progress monitoring for IEP’s or RTI, as there is only one form. You could administer it 2 or 3 times a year if needed, particularly if you use the flashcard version.
What skills are covered?
Some of the 12 lists focus on a single vowel pattern. Other lists combine patterns. Can your students discriminate between the patterns and apply different vowel sounds?
- Short vowel words without consonant blends and digraphs
- Short vowel words with initial/ final consonant blends/ digraphs
- Silent e words without consonant blends or digraphs
- Silent e words with consonant blends/ digraphs
- Mixed CVC and silent e words without consonant blends or digraph
- Mixed short vowel and silent e words with consonant blends or digraphs
- Long vowel teams- ay, ai, ee, ea, ie, igh, oa, oe, ow, ue
- Mixed short vowel and long vowel patterns
- R-controlled vowel patterns (includes “long vowels”)- ar, er, ir, or, ur, are, air, eer, ere, ear, ire, ore, oar, ure
- Mixed short vowel, long vowel, and r-controlled patterns
- Diphthongs and remaining vowel teams- al/ all, au, aw, ew, oo (both sounds), oi, oy, ou, ow
- Mixed list of one-syllable words
Who can I give this to?
This assessment can be given to students who, at a minimum, know most of their consonant and short vowel sounds and can blend them to read at least some CVC words.
Check out this blog post, How to Build in Support to Decode CVC Words, to help your students who are not yet ready for this assessment.
How do I give this decoding assessment?
Use your knowledge of each student (other reading assessments, anecdotal data, instructional exposure, etc.) to determine an appropriate starting point. Determine the percentage of words read correctly that will be necessary to show mastery. Consider using 80 or 85% accuracy.
You need one copy of each student list. Print on cardstock for durability. Lamination might produce a glare. You need multiple copies of the teacher lists for multiple students. Print on paper. Cut the lists on the dotted lines.
Have the student orally read the selected list. Provide a bookmark, index card, or highlighted reading strip for tracking, as needed.
Record the responses on the teacher list as correct or incorrect on the line before each word. Use + and – or 1 and 0, or any system with which you’re familiar and comfortable.
Record any errors on the line after each word. Write the actual mispronunciations or highlight the part of the word they misread. Continue having the student read subsequent lists until he/ she reaches a point of frustration.
Likewise, step back a list or two if a student doesn’t demonstrate mastery on the first list you selected.
This is an informal assessment so there are no basals and ceilings. Keep in mind that students can have a scattering and smattering of learned skills! If a student is not overtly frustrated, keep going as long as you’re acquiring valuable instructional information.
To save time, you might want to just give the single focus word lists and omit the mixed ones.
Analyze the word errors to determine instructional needs. Be sure to look at both consonant and vowel sounds.
For the flashcard version, print one copy of each set on cardstock. Then, cut and separate by numbered list. Shuffle each set before using. Use plain paper to record student errors.
What do I do with the results?
You can use the assessment results to place your students in instructional groups. Look for groups of students with similar levels of mastery and similar types of errors on each list you administered.
Analyze the decoding errors your students made to determine instructional starting points and needs.
Some points to ponder:
Does he/ she
- know the sounds for x, y, w, and qu?
- not know the short vowel sounds or just substitute the sounds for a/ e/ i or u/ o?
- use intial sounds to guess the word?
- produce the correct sounds but have difficulty blending them?
- confuse similar letters (b/d or p/ q) or sounds (/t/ /d/ or /p/ /b/)?
- not know any consonant digraph sounds or simply confuse ch and sh?
- know those consonant digraphs represent one sound (/th/ instead of /t/ /h/)?
- recognize vowel teams and diphthongs as representing one sound (/ea/ instead of /e/ /a/)?
- add extra consonant sounds?
Share your points to ponder in the comments below.
Be sure to read this blog post about using a systematic and explicit approach to phonics instruction, How to Empower Your Students with Decoding Skills.
Then, match your student needs to your available instructional materials.
If you need those instructional materials to teach decoding skills…
I just added an extensive set of easy to prepare phonetic word lists with an adorable hedgehog theme to my TpT store. It is a step-by-step resource that can be individualized for your guided reading, intervention, and resource groups or for tutoring sessions. You can purchase the word lists separately (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4) or save 20% when buying the bundle. The sequence of skills matches the free decoding assessment.
I also have the same resource available in a superhero theme.
While you’re there, browse the phonics section of my store to find more games and activities!
Title photo image is by Malinkaphoto.