Download a free phonics assessment and learn how to assess your entire class in 15 minutes or less, discover exactly what phonics skills to teach next, and create differentiated phonics groups for targeted and effective phonics instruction!
If you teach phonics and reading, it’s likely that you’ve previously (or currently) been overwhelmed trying to figure out exactly what phonics skills to teach next.
Those pacing guides do not know your students! So while your teacher’s guide or your district may be telling you that it’s time to teach long vowels, Jane’s progress at the reading center may be telling you otherwise.
My go-to mantra as a kindergarten ESL teacher, first grade teacher, and as a reading interventionist was this:
Assessments are truly an integral part of effective phonics and reading instruction.
Why are Phonics Assessments Important?
Research tells us that phonics instruction must be explicit and systematic. Systematic implies that there’s a step-by-step process.
Like anyone who has ever tossed out a manual and made a huge mess trying to compile Ikea furniture while skipping the directions, step-by-step processes are there for reason.
By figuring out exactly where your students are in the phonics scope and sequence, you can pinpoint what they need to be taught (or retaught) next.
As they master that skill, you continue by teaching them the next skill, and with each step of mastery your students are climbing the ladder of learning to read.
Before you know it, they’ll be at the top of the ladder where they make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn! #goals
Making Time for Phonics Assessments
I know that time is not of abundance in the classroom, and making time for one more thing is not always possible.
But I’m telling you, like a friend tells another friend when they have spinach in their teeth, you need to make time. Phonics assessments are necessary. #truefriendstellyou
The Fastest Phonics Assessment Ever
What if I told you that you could assess your entire class in phonics in 15 minutes or less?
I’ve created a FREE Phonics Assessment Snapshot that allows you to assess your entire class at once.
(If you teach small groups or work with a student one-on-one, this assessment is still for you!)
The best part is that this assessment will take you 15 minutes or less. That’s not per student, that’s total!
If you tell me that you don’t have 15 minutes to spare to make sure you’re making the most of your phonics instruction, I definitely won’t believe you. 😉
All About the Phonics Snapshot Assessment
Did you catch the word snapshot? A snapshot can be defined as a brief look or summary.
The results of this assessment will give you just that: a brief look at one student’s journey through phonics, and, if applicable, a summary of your entire class’ journey through phonics.
Now you might think that this assessment looks a lot like a spelling test!
You might think that that’s weird, but literacy involves decoding (sounding out words through phonics) and encoding (sounding out and spelling words through writing).
If a student is able to spell it, they’re able to decode it! So yes, this looks a lot like a spelling test. But the word list is extremely intentional.
Administering the Free Phonics Snapshot Assessment
If you can give a spelling test, you can administer this assessment!
In fact, it’s easier than a spelling test because I have scripted all of it for you! #easybutton
All you need to do is read the script and be sure that your students understand that this is not a test.
We don’t want them stressing over whether or not they know the answers. It is extremely likely that as the “spelling test” increases in difficulty, many students will not know how to spell the words.
Stress is the last thing that we want for them. After all, this assessment is a tool for you, not a grade them.
So be sure they know that they need to try their best, but this is NOT a test!
The Student Answer Sheet
While I’ve provided a numbered sheet for students to record their answers, please know that you do not need to use this sheet! You can use a plain sheet of lined paper and either number it for your students, or have them number it themselves.
Scoring the Free Phonics Snapshot Assessment
After you’ve used the script and spent 15 minutes or less giving students the assessment…let the fun begin!
This is the part where we figure out exactly what phonics skill(s) your student(s) need to be taught next!
Next to each word is a breakdown of the phonics skills within that word.
You’re going to analyze the way the student encoded (spelled) the word to decide whether or not they have an understanding of that phonics skill.
Knowing Which Skills a Student Understands
For example, let’s say a student spells the word chip as ship.
The word chip has the following phonics skills: digraph / short vowel / final consonant.
The student wrote ship. That means that on the Phonics Snapshot Assessment Score sheet, I would circle only short vowel and final consonant because those letters and sounds were accurately depicted in their spelling.
I can’t circle digraph because even though they wrote a digraph, they wrote the wrong one. That tells me they do not have that sound-spelling understanding.
If you’re slightly confused, don’t worry! It will make sense once you have the printable in your hands. I have included a sample scoring sheet as well as explanation sheet to help you if you need it.
You’ll notice that the bottom of the page has a place to calculate score totals.
This is the area that will show us which skill you need to teach (reteach) the student next – YAY!
You’re going to count each time you circled (or highlighted) that specific skill. In other words, you’re adding up how many times they got that skill correct during the assessment.
After doing so, it’s time to decide what you consider mastery.
Every school/teacher has their own take on this. I have chosen 80% or above to indicate mastery.
This means that any scores that are 80% or above are skills that student has already mastered. The first skill that falls below 80% is the skill that I’m going to target (teach or reteach) next!
The Order of the Skills
We’ve already established that phonics should be taught explicitly and systematically, and this is the general order in which phonics is typically taught.
The skills are listed in order from left to right, top to bottom (the same directionality we use to read). (initial consonants > short vowels > final consonants [all of these are letter sounds] > digraphs > blends > silent e (AKA CVCe) > vowel teams > r-controlled vowels > diphthongs.
(Don’t forget that I’ve also included a explained sample inside of the assessment packet, in case you would like to refer to it later on.)
Now that you know how to find the target skill, be sure to note it on the top right-hand corner of the page! Now you know exactly what you’ll be teaching (or reteaching) that student next!
There will likely be many students who show that they are below mastery on multiple skills within the assessment. That’s okay! You’re going to start with the first skill that falls below mastery. You’ll follow up with the other skills after the target skill is mastered.
Filling in the Class Results
If you’re working with an entire class or group of students, which most of you are, you can use the Class Results sheet to track all of your student results on one page.
Simply take the target skill in the right hand corner and check that box next to their name.
Because the skills are in order, you know that anything before the box is already mastered, and anything after the box is what you’ll teach them later on.
How’s that for having a snapshot at your class’ (or groups’) understanding of phonics?! 🙌🏼
Create Differentiated Phonics Groups
If you need to group students according to target skill, which you likely will need to do, use the Student Groupings sheet to do so.
Work through your Class Results sheet and write each student’s name under the box that has their target skill.
A note phonemic awareness & the alphabet and multisyllabic words
- If a student does not have mastery of initial consonants, short vowels, and final consonants, it is likely they need to go back and learn the alphabet (letters AND sounds). If they still need this type of instruction, they likely need more phonemic awareness practice. Be aware that any students falling into the target categories of initial consonants, final consonants, or short vowels, probably need overall alphabet and phonemic awareness practice.
- If a student has mastered all of the skills in the assessment, they are likely reading, or are ready to learn to read, multisyllabic words. Place them in this grouping.
You’re going to feel so accomplished and ready to teach when your students are divided into these targeted groups! 🎉 Reading, here we come!!
Download Your Free Phonics Snapshot Assessment
Are you ready to stop the stress and assess?!
I promise you will feel better when you know you’re giving your students the targeted instruction that they need!
…and their reading will thank you!
Get the FREE Phonics Assessments!
When you enter your name and email in the boxes below, the Phonics Snapshot Assessment file will immediately open in your window! YAY!
I would love to hear how this transforms your phonics instruction! Be sure to come back and leave a comment letting me know how this assessment worked in your classroom or tutoring! 👇🏼
If you’re looking for more in-depth phonics assessments that you can use all year long, check out my Focused Phonics Assessment Binder!