Decodable books are books that contain only words that are phonetically decodable that a student has already learned. Decodables are designed to be aligned with phonics instruction that is explicit (lessons in which concepts are clearly explained and skills are clearly modeled, without vagueness or ambiguity)and systematic (teaching a set of useful sound/spelling relationships in a clearly defined, carefully selected, logical instructional sequence, so that the logic of the alphabetic principle becomes evident, newly introduced skills are built on existing skills, and tasks are arranged from simplest to most complex).
The stories include letters and letter-groups in words that the student has learned during this instruction, and because of such great instruction, the student is able to automatically decode all of these words.
So if a student learned that short /a/ sound for the letter /a/, and this is the only vowel the student knows, a decodable would include short /a/ words only.
The BOB books are an example of decodables.
When decodables first hit the education scene in the 1980s, the term suggested a continuum (Juel & Roper-Schneider, 1985). At that time, basal readers were all the rage.
Remember Dick and Jane? We would see Dick run. We would see Jane run. Then, we would get really wild and see Dick and Jane run up a hill.
Basal readers include a handful of words that are used repeatedly, adding more new words with each new book in the anthology. This approach is built on the belief that the more times a student encounters the word, it will eventually be memorized. So as a student memorized more words and progressed through the series, they are reading more words in more complex sentences that mimic more complex language.
Dick and Jane would get Spot the dog in the next series and maybe a friend named Tim and one named Beth.
Decodables, on the other hand, attempt to limit the number of words to words a student can decode.
This is what a decodable text would look like:
Pam. Pam ran. Sam. Sam ran. Pam and Sam ran.
Decodables will not contain words a student would not be able to decode. Decodables are phonics-oriented decodable texts containing an unusually high number of words with letters that follow a particular sound pattern.
Decodables are sometimes also referred to as controlled texts. This is because the words have been controlled to contain letter-sounds and high frequency words that the student has been explicitly and systematically taught.
The idea behind decodables is that the reader would be able to apply letter/sound knowledge to independently recognize words in text.
But what does the research on decodable texts say?
There have actually only been a handful of studies on the effectiveness of decodable texts on the instruction of reading for students. And that handful of studies dates back to the 1980s. Oftentimes, the studies were impacted by an inability to agree on one definition for a decodable text, what outcomes should be expected from reading decodables, and what the studies should compare decodables to.
Another issue is that even though initially the decodable text definition expected that decodables contain 80% of previously-taught words, close analysis of decodable text proved that 80% is actually unattainable in most “decodable” materials (Foorman et al., 2004).
Among the handful of studies, one study found that a strong phonics curriculum, delivered in 25 one-one sessions can negate the impact of text on a reader’s progress (Jenkins, Peyton, & Sanders, 2004). The study looked at two groups of first graders receiving one-on-one tutoring using the same scripted phonics curriculum. The only variable in the tutoring was whether instruction included more or less decodable texts. One group read texts consistent with the phonics program while the other read texts without phonetic control. The study concluded that the degree of decodability used in the reading instruction did not matter. It had no significant impact on students’ decoding, word reading, passage reading, or reading comprehension skills.
But other studies have suggested some real benefits from using decodables in your instruction. Research has found that decodable texts prompt students to use letter-sounds during connected reading (Juel & Roper/Schneider, 1985; Mesmer, 2001, 2005; Vadasy, Sanders, & Peyton, 2005). This means that after learning the three-letter blend /spr/, my student can get a chance to practice reading this blend in the context of sentences and paragraphs in a decodable text. If I taught this three-letter blend and then, asked my student to read a grade level text, my student may not get a chance to encounter this blend in their reading. It may take a few days of reading this text before my student ran into the word spring or sprint. But with a decodable text, I am guaranteed that my student will get a chance to practice the three-letter blend /spr/. I’m actually guaranteed that my student will have multiple opportunities in the decodable text to read words containing the three-letter blend.
Because of these guarantees with decodables, students are able to develop robust decoding abilities and retain words they have read in text.
And if you're a teacher - or a parent - who uses decodables in your instruction, you have seen their benefits. Decodables are a great tool for practicing to read taught and learned phonics skills in connected text. They are great for practicing the prosody and expression of fluency in connected text that the reader can be automatic with. And decodables are a great way to build your students’ confidence. I mean think about it - don’t you feel great when you get to achieve with a skill that you have been practicing. Well, decodables allow your students to get a chance to do just this!
Knowledge is power! So given what the research says and what we know about learning to read, do we use decodables in our instruction?
Yes! But let’s talk a little bit more about it!
When should we use decodables in our reading instruction?
Use decodables to support phonics instruction. Decodables help students learn to apply their knowledge of explicitly taught phonics skills or spelling concepts.
So after you introduce a new phonics skill, have your students practice the skill by reading in the context of a decodable. Reading this decodable text will support our students' success because the text is being controlled to only include a newly introduced skill cushioned in previously learned skills. And most importantly, the text does not contain any new skills.
For example, let’s say I introduce the digraph /ch/ and its corresponding sound. The decodable text will only contain any letters and letter combinations that have been taught before the digraph /ch/ was introduced. The text will also include those letter and letter combinations in words that contain the new skill of /ch/. High frequency words that have been taught to the reader before learning the digraph /ch/ will be in the decodable as well. But that’s it! Those are the only words the text should contain. This is why systematic (following a scope and sequence) phonics instruction is so important.
If you are using a research-based program, a systematic approach will be provided to you. If you are providing Specially Designed Instruction, I would suggest following the scope and sequence of the research-based programs. This helps you to make sure that your instruction follows a research-based scope and sequence. Personally, I like Wilson Reading’s scope and sequence and the Sonday level one and level two programs.
Reading decodables strengthens orthographic memory and brain pathways! This is because the use of decodable text forces readers to practice their decoding skills instead of relying on pictures or guessing. Brain research tells us this strengthens the growing neuronal connections in the brain.
As much as I love using decodables to build my students’ automaticity with learned skills and to build their reading confidence, I do have one CAUTION that I will give you about decodables. Do NOT exclusively use decodables!
The problem with decodable texts is that they lack some of the cognitive calculations a reader needs to experience in order to become more automatic with the complexities of the English language. In one study, first graders reading multi-criteria books outperformed those reading literature in word reading and reading level, and other studies have suggested that a student’s fluency may be compromised when only reading highly decodable texts.
Decodable texts lack some of the cognitive calculations a reader needs to experience in order to become more automatic with the complexities of the English language.
It’s okay to use decodable texts as part of phonics instruction. I would actually encourage you to use decodables! But I beg you to make sure students are reading varying texts in order to generalize and become automatic with learned skills.
Learn more about decodables by checking out this interview with Dr. Timothy Shanahan, a literary expert and reading researcher with extensive experience in working with students with special needs.
And grab my own decodables HERE! My decodables are all aligned with Orton Gillingham and the Wilson Reading scope and sequence - PLUS - my decodables come with additional ways to practice skills from story writing to warm-up activities and games.
Happy & Healthy Teaching!
“Written language is invented; it is code based. To become literate, students must become masters of the code.”
Did you know that learning to read is dependent upon our oral language skills?
Really, it is! Research has proven this. And learning to encode (spell) is also dependent upon our oral language skills.
Spelling practice is critical for developing orthographic recall.
Research has discovered that our memory for words is connected to language processing and based upon 4 interrelated aspects of word knowledge.
1-phonological form, or phonemic makeup, meaning its pronunciation,
2-orthographic form or spelling,
3-semantics or word meaning, and morpho-syntax,
4- a word’s morphological structure and grammatical role
(Adlof & Perfetti, 2014; Treiman, 2017).
Reading words is easier than spelling them.
Spelling practice is critical for developing orthographic recall.
Reading words is easier than spelling them, though. This is because words in print can be recognized, even on the basis of a partial word memory. Spelling, on the other hand, requires a complete and accurate word memory. Oftentimes, spelling requires a more precise orthographic sequence than reading. However, the teaching of spelling supports reading development.
Learning to spell occurs in phases:
1-Pre-Alphabetic ex. kkeedb
2-Early Alphabetic ex. b
3-Later Alphabetic ex. boe
4-Consolidated ex. Boy
As a student progresses through the stages of spelling development, teachers can design instruction based upon a student’s needs. An understanding of this development enables teachers to teach students at their own individualized instructional level. But before we get into what that instruction should look like, we need to know how to identify what stage of development a student is at.
How do we know how well a student can spell?
And how do we know what grade level a student’s spelling skills are at?
How do we know how well a student can spell? And how do we know what grade level a student’s spelling skills are at?
Spelling inventories assess students’ ability to write letters to represent the sounds they hear. Many of these inventories align to the stages of spelling development and can be used to design instruction and for progress monitoring.
Suggested Universal Screeners of Spelling:
- Words Their Way Spelling Inventories: Primary, Elementary, and Upper Elementary Spelling Inventories)
- DSI Diagnostic Spelling Assessment
- WIST subtest of spelling
Remember how back in the day, we used those things called spelling lists?
I would get my list of 10 words on Monday, never look at them again until Thursday night when I would quickly memorize them for Friday’s test, on which I would always get a 100 percent on.
My experience is probably not different from many others; although, some may not have been able to memorize those words and not scored as well as I did. The problem with this is that we would then label this student as a bad speller, tell their families to study the words every night with them, or we would refer them for Special Education eligibility.
And also remember back in the day, we would ask a student to use their knowledge of phonics to decode a word? This meant that the learner had to memorize the sound or sounds for all letters and letter combinations in order to decode an unfamiliar word. It also meant that when it came time to write these words, we would advise students to spell a word by sounding it out.
Spelling lists do not teach our students how to spell because they do not provide them with an understanding of why words are spelled in the ways that they are. And the problem with telling a student to “sound it out” is that this strategy only works on a limited number of multi-syllable words. There are still a ton of words that are not amenable to this strategy.
Spelling lists do not teach our students how to spell because they do not provide them with an understanding of why words are spelled in the ways that they are.
Instead, we should be giving our students multiple, meaningful exposures to words and explicitly teach them spelling patterns and the “rules” of the English language. We need a better way to instruct students on learning to spell that will assist their automaticity of spelling pattern recall than spelling lists!
Not only are there layers to our language, but there are also rules. Students are taught the rules of the English language through aligned instruction in decoding and encoding. The instruction of phonics skills needs to be directly taught. If not, students can make inferences, and we know that skilled guessing is not skilled reading. When students are taught word-based strategies, they will outperform readers who were taught text-based strategies on all reading measures. However, when poor readers become proficient in the code of the English language, they can begin to build a sight vocabulary (remember - this is a pool of words that a student can instantly and effortlessly recognize [Kilpatrick, 2015]).
We spell words through our phonological filter. To spell, we use our mouths and our ears.
This is because we spell words by how they sound and are pronounced. Initially, while learning to spell, students may trial what we call inventive spelling. This is when a student spells a word that has not been stored in their memory phonetically. Inventive spelling can support phonemic awareness learning and skills. However, we should give our students corrective feedback at a point to help establish this long-term memory.
Added Bonus for Learning to Spell:
The spelling process is responsible for word recognition. Readers build spelling patterns. The memory developed for spelling functions on 2 broad levels: orthographic recall and orthographic recognition.
Orthographic recognition is the essence of word recognition. This is because orthographic recognition occurs when a reader recognizes familiar orthographic sequences in words. To spell these words, orthographic recall is required. Orthographic recall necessitates a more intricate, well-encoded memory of orthographic sequences. So spelling practice is critical to developing orthographic recall. (Click HERE to read more about orthographic mapping!)
Therefore, spelling instruction has been shown to improve reading skills. When we are deliberate in our instruction and explicit in making the connections between sounds and corresponding print of the sounds, students are able to make that much more progress.
Best practice suggests this scope and sequence for teaching spelling!
And do you know why it works?
Because this sequence aligns with what we know about orthographic mapping. So really, I am not teaching you anything new at this point. This should be old news to you already! Especially if you already ready my blog on orthographic mapping. But if you haven’t, click HERE and get to learning!
Now, I know what you are thinking - so now how am I teaching spelling if I am not doing tests? Am I just presenting a word to my students, mapping it a few times, and then, students are good to go? And if I am individualizing instruction based upon their spelling inventories, how am I finding time to map all of these words with all of my students?
Well, first take a deep breath. Most students will fall within the same developmental stages of spelling. Therefore, whole group instruction can be focused on the developmental stage that the majority of students fall in. There will be a few outliers, ofcourse, and those students should receive both whole group instruction and small group instruction that targets their lagging skills. Targeted instruction will propel a student’s development.
But that does not answer all of your questions, does it?
So my next solution, or strategy, is word study. Word study is a cohesive instructional approach that teaches word recognition, vocabulary, phonics, and spelling. Word study provides students with opportunities to investigate and understand the patterns in words. Knowledge of these patterns means that students are able to learn the spelling of multiple words at one time, not memorize 10 words for a test of memory each week!
Here is one way you could teach Word Study in your classroom!
Let me give you an example so you can see it in action:
1-Introduce the spelling pattern by choosing words for students to sort.
-The teacher gives the students 20 words to sort (10 of them contain the hard /c/ sound and 10 contain the soft /c/ sound.
2-Encourage students to discover the pattern in their reading and writing.
-Once they are done with their sort, ask students to analyze the words, looking for a rule.
-Other activities may include comparing and contrasting word features, collecting words from text, etc. that fit the pattern and/or rule, or playing games or completing activities to apply their word knowledge.
-Teachers may construct a word wall illustrating examples of the different patterns studied.
-Students may keep a word study notebook to record the known patterns and their new understandings about words.
3-Use reinforcement activities to help students relate this pattern to previously acquired word knowledge.
-Ask students to find words on the word wall or in their word study notebooks that mirror these patterns.
To implement Word Study effectively, we must teach our students to become word detectives. Students begin to make sense of word patterns and their relationships to one another. Spelling "rules" are not dictated by the teacher for students to memorize, but rather, spelling patterns and generalizations are discovered - and then learned - by students. When students engage and make meaning of the content, they learn! By using such a sequence of instruction, students learn that spelling patterns exist and that these patterns help to explain how to spell, read, and write words. Exceptions to the “rules” can also be taught using this instruction.
Click HERE to check out other ways that I connect vocabulary instruction to Word Study!
And I know what the final question is going to be - how do we grade our students on their spelling knowledge?
So first, we can use our spelling inventories to progress monitor. This allows us to measure our students’ progress over time. Additionally, teachers can test students' pattern knowledge rather than their ability to memorize single words using word study as well. Maybe 20 words are on our word study list, and I assess 10 of them with a “spelling test” on Friday. This gives me a weekly way to progress monitor my students as well! Click HERE to grab some free Reading progress monitoring assessments!
Remember - awareness of the internal structures of words along with spelling practice has been seen by researchers to translate into stronger reading ability. So let’s study those words so we can learn to spell and read!
Happy & Healthy Teaching!
Adlof, Suzanne & Perfetti, Charles. (2013). Individual differences in word learning and reading ability.
Kilpatrick, D.A. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties.
Lyon, G. R. (1998). Why reading is not a natural process. Educational Leadership, 55(6), 14–18.
Treiman, R. (2017). Learning to spell words: Findings, theories, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 21(4), 265–276. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2017.1296449
The reading scores of American children have remained about the same for over 40 years! Each year, the NAEP data shows about 35% of 4th graders are proficient in reading. This is unacceptable. But what can we do???
When we know better, we do better!
When we know better, we do better!
Research tells us that even though learning to read is harder for some students than others, with evidence-based reading instruction, the majority of our students can become proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade.
This research is called the Science of Reading. The Science of Reading is our WHY. It drives our decision-making for policies and to strengthen our instruction and assessments of reading.
What is the Science of Reading?
“The body of work referred to as the “science of reading” is not an ideology, a philosophy, a political agenda, a one-size-fits-all approach, a program of instruction, nor a specific component of instruction. It is the emerging consensus from many related disciplines, based on literally thousands of studies, supported by hundreds of millions of research dollars, conducted across the world in many languages. These studies have revealed a great deal about how we learn to read, what goes wrong when students don’t learn, and what kind of instruction is most likely to work the best for the most students.”
So what has changed in the way we teach reading?
Our families are our partners in teaching our students to learn to read. So let's teach them about the Science of Reading!
Share this knowledge with your families by grabbing this resource!
Happy and Healthy Teaching!
Well, first let’s start with some background knowledge.
What is the Science of Reading???
The Science of Reading is 20 plus years of reading research, and it gives teachers the best strategies for teaching students to read based on research of how the brain learns to read.
Our brains are wired to speak, but not to read. We have been speaking for over 100,000 years, but we have not been reading and writing for that long. The first writing systems were invented about 10,000 years ago. Alphabetic writing (so when we changed from drawings to express stories to letters to convey words) evolved about 5,000 years ago.
The Science of Reading research, provides an evidence-based best practice approach for teaching foundational literacy skills called Structured Literacy. Structured Literacy emphasizes a purposeful, direct, systematic, and explicit reading and language arts instructional framework for instructing students to decipher words in prints and to focus on the goal of reading, which is to learn, enjoy, and comprehend text, through individualized instruction, informed by deliberate assessment.
-The Simple View of Reading looks at reading like a math equation:
Decoding x Linguistic/Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
-There are 5 Pillars of Reading: Phonemic Awareness, Alphabetic Principle, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension, all integral to the…
-3 Layers of Reading Development:
1 - letters and sounds,
2 - phonic decoding,
3 - orthographic mapping
What are advanced phonemic awareness skills?
Early phonemic awareness are the skills typically develop in preschoolers and include rhyming (e.g. sit, pit, lit), alliteration (e.g. the cute cat can cry), being able to segment words into syllables (e.g. /syll/ /a/ /bles/), and being able to identify the first sounds in words.
Basic phonemic awareness skills are typically developed throughout kindergarten and first grade. Basic phonemic awareness skills include phoneme blending and phoneme segmentation. These basic skills are instrumental in phonic decoding and early spelling.
Advanced phonemic awareness skills are the skills typically developed by about third or fourth grade. Advanced phonemic awareness skills include the ability to manipulate phonemes, such as
AND they are required for proficient reading. This means that phonemic awareness skills must be explicitly taught. Students must be able to achieve mastery of advanced phonemic awareness skills to be able to proficiently read.
Orthographic Mapping is the formation of letter-sound connections to bond the spellings and pronunciations of specific words in memory
It explains how student brains memorize how words look-sound. The process we use to store printed words in long-term memory is the third level of reading development called orthographic mapping. Orthographic mapping is the efficient expansion of sight vocabularies, requiring letter-sound skills and advanced phonological awareness skills. Research has demonstrated that orthographic mapping is the most efficient strategy for moving word patterns into long-term memory for students, thus increasing a student’s sight word vocabulary.
Get this instructional sequence AND grab my FREE Phoneme Grapheme Mapping Board by clicking HERE!
Happy and Healthy Teaching!
When the school closes for summer, millions of students lose access to critical services and learning opportunities. Research shows that income-based reading gaps grow over the summer. Summer learning loss may be a contributing factor in the reading performance achievement gap between high and low-income students. And worse - many students who qualify for federally subsidized meals during the school year do not receive the same nutritional content over the summer.
So what can schools do???
Well, first districts should offer summer programming for all identified students. They can offer meals through federal funding.
Schools or teachers can check local libraries for free activities and share with families. Museums are learning opportunities.
Schools can offer game nights for families (virtually too!), camps, trips to museums, and more.
And when your schools don’t do this, what can teachers do???
15 to 30 minutes per day is all it takes to prevent regression.
Send home ideas on activities to families. During the last week of school, have students make games and activities to take home for summer practice.
Offer incentives for reading journals, writing journals, math project completion, etc.
Set up a field trip for the last few weeks of school to the library and sign up any student who does not have a library card.
Invite your students to virtual weekly game nights with you, read alouds, or a check in!
Share websites with families so students can have continued learning practice over the summer.
It takes a village to raise a child.
By: Miss Rae
Reading fluency is fundamental for academic development.
Oral reading fluency is a student’s ability to read connected text quickly, accurately, and with expression. The goal is for a student to be able to read smoothly, when reading aloud or silently. Fluent reading enables a student to understand or comprehend a text. So without oral reading fluency skills, students' understanding of content is impacted!
What is the secret to teaching oral reading fluency?
Reader's theater is a strategy that can be use for developing students' reading fluency.
What is reader's theater?
Reader's theater is when students read a text aloud as a script. Reader's theater does not typically include props or costumes. Instead, students practice reading a script and then, "perform" it as a group by standing in front of an optional audience and reading aloud from the “script”.
Okay, so back to my point - reader's theater is a strategy for developing reading fluency.
Let's think about it! Oral reading fluency is a student’s ability to read connected text quickly, accurately, and with expression. The goal is for a student to be able to read smoothly, when reading aloud or silently. Fluent reading enables a student to understand or comprehend a text.
Recording readings aloud, repeated readings of the same text, developing and increasing students’ reading confidence, drill sight words, and creating a stress-free instructional environment are all ways students can improve their oral reading fluency.
And guess what? Reader’s theater includes all of these oral reading strategies!
Reader’s theater promotes fluency.
So what better way to practice oral reading fluency than with a reader’s theater?
But here’s another good question -
How do I teach reader’s theater in my classroom
1-Find a script or turn a text into a script.
Reader's Theaters for Students...
2-Choose or assign roles to students.
When students have roles, they become the character, and this motivates our students to be more engaged in the text.
Students “become” the character. They read the script with the same expression that they believe the character would. They will read in phrases and add expression appropriately, and this increases fluency.
3-Ask students to practice reading their scripts orally for practice.
When students re-read their parts, reading fluency is improved because it helps them to develop automaticity. Essentially, students are improving their ability to read quickly and accurately
Repeated reading will help students to learn to read aloud with expression. Repeated readings help with word recognition as well. Students will build a strong sight word base. This improves their oral reading fluency rate increase.
4-Have students read assigned parts to an audience. No audience? That's okay! Read it for yourselves. Record it instead.
Watch your performance. Recorded readings help to improve fluency.
Reader’s theater makes reading easier for students, which ultimately makes reading more fun! All of the components of reader’s theater help to support student engagement in reading and the story. And we know that engagement increases progress and makes learning more meaningful. By making the learning more meaningful, the stories become more meaningful. And guess what? This improves comprehension. And we all know that comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading.
By Miss Rae
Are your students cheating on phonological assessments? Maybe!
Phonological awareness is the most powerful predictor of achievement in reading. It is a critical component in learning to read any alphabetic writing system. Research has proven that deficiencies in phonological awareness are responsible for most word-level reading problems and can be used to predict poor reading and spelling development.
Furthermore, research has demonstrated that systematic teaching of phonological awareness skills to all kindergarteners and first graders, we can reduce reading problems by 50 to 75 percent!
But when students struggle to make progress with this instruction - or in reading in general - we need to intervene! Early intervention is key! And in order to implement effective interventions, we should be strategic in our assessments. We can use these assessments to design and guide our interventions.
Phoneme manipulation tasks are more highly correlated with reading measures than segmenting tasks. These manipulation tasks can best assess advanced phonemic awareness skills.
BUT - students can CHEAT on phoneme manipulation tasks.
Are your students cheating on phonological assessments? Maybe!
Students can “cheat” on assessments that ask students to delete phonemes and substitute phonemes. They do this by using something called a mental spelling strategy, rather than by using learned phonemic awareness skills. If you ask a student to say the word /cat/ and then say /cat/ without the /c/ sound, they can "picture" the word in their head and "picture" the deletion of the /c/ sound. This would not end in an automatic response. And it does not mean that the student has advanced phonemic awareness skills! Instead, it could indicate that a student does not have these skills!
So how do we know if our assessments are reliable and accurate enough to prevent student cheating???
One way to prevent “cheating” is through assessments of nonsense words or words that are orthographically inconsistent. Nonsense words, or orthographically inconsistent words are pronounceable letter strings that are not English words. For example, /cat/ is a real word that is orthographically consistent, but /jat/ is a nonsense word. And the most common reason a student would struggle to read a nonsense word is due to lagging phonological awareness and blending skills.
Another way to prevent cheating is to add a timed element to the assessment. Timed tests prevent cheating. Phonological manipulation tasks do not become tests of working memory when they are timed because they require instantaneous responses. When a test requires student responses to be one second or less, the test is not assessing the student’s working memory ability, but rather, proficiency and efficiency with the skill.
So now that we know two ways to prevent our students from cheating on phonological awareness tests, are we back to being teachers who have to create our own materials including assessments?
NO - teachers do enough already! They shouldn’t have to create their own assessments too!
Teachers do enough already! They shouldn’t have to create their own assessments too!
There is already a test that will prevent cheating!
The Phonological Awareness Skills Test (PAST) is an informal, verbally-administered diagnostic tool, used to evaluate 14 different aspects of phonological awareness.
The PAST actually correlates more strongly with reading than most commercially available assessments. The CTOPP-2 is the go-to test that research supports as being the best measure of phonological awareness skills, and the PAST is highly correlated to the CTOPP-2.
The PAST is a criterion-referenced test that can be used to avoid cheating! The entire test is given orally, and each section should take no longer than 3-4 minutes to administer. Due to the fact that the tester is able to give corrective feedback after each test item, a misunderstanding of directions can be ruled out, unlike on other tests such as the LAC-3 (a progress monitoring phonological awareness measure).
And even better - the PAST includes a timing element! This means that when the PAST is administered an immediate response is required from the student. Because of the timing element and the orthographic inconsistency of the items, a student would have great difficulty compensating for phonological awareness skills via mental spelling.
And get this? The PAST has five alternate forms, and it is FREE!
Grab your own copy of the PAST on my blog by clicking HERE.
By Miss Rae
RTI is a comprehensive and multi-tiered early detection and prevention strategy used to identify struggling students and provide intervention prior to the students falling behind. RTI combines universal screenings with high-quality instruction for all students with interventions targeted for struggling students (MTSS).
Here are the basics...
Tier One - reading instruction provided to all students. Instruction should be a high quality evidence-based reading instruction program with balanced, explicit, and systematic reading instruction that promotes both code-based and text-based strategies for decoding, word identification, and comprehension.
Tier Two - supplemental, small group reading instruction aimed at building foundational reading skills required to meet the general education expectations. Participating students demonstrate weaknesses on screening measures or in progress in the Tier One curriculum.
Tier Three - interventions provided to students who do not progress after a reasonable amount of time with Tier Two instruction and require more intensive support. If difficulty persists after intensive intervention, students should be evaluated for Special Education eligibility.
Things to consider...
*All tier curriculum should be high-quality and research-based
*All tier groups should be flexible
*Tiers 2 & 3 should have consistent progress monitoring of small group instruction (It is recommended that Tier 2 be assessed monthly)
*It is recommended that Tier 2 students receive small group 3 to 5 times weekly for 20 to 40 minutes
*Tiers 2 & 3 instruction should be...
**systematic - building skills gradually; introducing them first in isolation and then integrating with other skills to provide practice and generalization
**explicit - involving a high level of teacher-student interaction with frequent opportunities to practice the skills and receive clear, corrective feedback
*For Tier 3 students, recommended instruction times range from 45 to 120 minutes per week. In most cases, it is recommended to offer a “double dose” of reading time (introduce skills during one session, re-teach with added practice during the second session
*Include opportunities for extensive practice (10 to 30 times as many practice opportunities as peers) and high-quality feedback with one-on-one instruction (or small group if necessary).
*Scaffolded instruction is recommended using multi-sensory supports.
*Targeted comprehension proficiencies (summarizing, use of story grammar elements, vocabulary development, listening comprehension development) need to be part of Tier Three interventions.
More things to consider...
RTI & MTSS can be overwhelming for classroom teachers and schools!
Grab this RTI Response to Intervention in Reading Implementation Guide provides educators and schools with a step-by-step guide for implementing a Response to Intervention model paired with a Multi-Tiered System of Support for ALL students in reading! Use this guide to learn how to monitor and remediate student progress!
This guide will give you everything you need to implement RTI and monitor students' progress in your classroom or school.
7/4/2019 3 Comments
The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a popular literacy assessment, which I absolutely love! This universal screener is administered individually, requiring about 20 – 40 minutes per student. The screener includes an oral reading component and a comprehension component. When taken together, these two components provide an instructional level for each student (independent, instructional, frustrational).
The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a great tool to drive instruction and place students in guided reading groups, but…
A Fountas & Pinnell reading level should NOT be the determining factor for a Special Education referral!
F&P is Subjective!
The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a subjective measure. This is because there is no right or wrong answer, and a teacher’s beliefs, assumptions, emotions, and opinions can influence the outcome of the score.
Objective assessments have a single correct answer. Think true or false, multiple choice, and matching questions. Subjective tests include extended response questions and essays, or in other words, the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.
In addition, many of the benchmark tests include some inherent bias toward culture, background knowledge of the student, etc.
In addition, at the start of the year, students can be hesitant to talk to a new teacher, while some students are shy all year! The open ended questioning format of the test can be biased against shy students, students lacking language, and others. The personality of a student can impact the outcome of the assessment.
F&P is Only One Data Point
As teachers, we know that one data point cannot be used to make an educational decision. Good teachers use numerous types of data from many sources to determine student strengths and areas to improve.
How often does a student score one way on the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, but is unable to read that same level of authentic text?
Self-Correction Scores Do Not Impact F&P Reading Levels
Self-correction is not taken into account when determining a student's reading level in the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.
Some students are able to achieve high accuracy and high comprehension scores, despite also demonstrating a high self-correction rate.
Self-correction in reading is a good skill that teachers love to see. It shows us that students are visually attending to the text and self monitoring for meaning of the text.
Typically, a high self-correction rate impacts comprehension, but for some students, it does not. This can mean that a student is reading “too fast” and not attending to the text for phonics (decoding) principles. This should indicate to a teacher that the student requires explicit instruction in attending to the text and may indicate a need for explicit instruction of phonics skills noted in the self-corrections on the running record.
F&P is NOT Norm-Referenced
The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment is a criterion-referenced tests. Such tests are designed to determine if a student has a set of skills. A norm-referenced assessment compares the student’s performance to other same-aged students.
Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System touts itself as just that - a benchmark assessment! This means that it can be used to measure student progress against a grade level or learning goal. Benchmark assessments, like the F&P, are interim assessments and should be given in between formative and summative assessments.
The F&P Benchmark Assessment is based on empirical research on language development, vocabulary expansion, reading acquisition, and reading difficulties. The assessment system has been field tested, but there is no empirical evidence on it.
There are NO F&P Police
The F&P Benchmark Assessment does have directions for administration; however, as teachers, we know that every student is different, and not every student follows the rules!
What happens when a student makes an error on the same word repeatedly? Does this count as multiple errors or just one?
What happens when the fluency rate is extremely low, but the accuracy and comprehension scores meet expectations?
So who do we go to with our questions about the students who do not follow the F&P rules?
Many schools have literacy coaches, but every coach seems to have their own interpretation and answers to our questions!
For instance, I was once told that we stop assessing a student when he/she has achieved one year above grade level, even if we think this student could read at a higher level. Is this right?
While scores may have F&P norms in place, who is enforcing them? Are they F&P’s rules? And doesn’t this just add to more subjectivity?
Fountas & Pinnell Should NOT be used to Refer Students to Special Education
Independent studies examining the usefulness of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System as a universal screener are limited. Furthermore, in studies, using F&P to identify students as at-risk have resulted in moderate sensitivity, or unacceptable rates of identification (Burns, et al., 2015).
Fountas and Pinnell reading levels are one descriptor of a student’s reading ability, but it should not be our sole indicator.
But while The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System should not be used to refer a student for Special Education testing, it is very useful for teachers!
Its purpose is to inform instruction for teachers, relay to teachers, students, and families which skills are important to master, and express a student’s progress towards those learning goals, not to determine Special Education eligibility.
By Miss Rae
Burns, M. K., Pulles, S. M., Maki, K. E., Kanive, R., Hodgson, J., Helman, L. A., Preast, J. L., (2015). Accuracy of student performance while reading leveled books rated at their instructional level by a reading inventory. Journal of School Psychology, 53, 437-445.
Center on Response to Intervention: Screening Tools Chart (https://rti4success.org/resources/tools-charts/screening-tools-chart)
Klingbeil, D. A., McComas, J. J., Burns, M. K., & Helman, L. (2015). Comparison of predictive validity and diagnostic accuracy of screening measures of reading skills. Psychology in the Schools, 52(5), 500-514. http://doi.org/10.1002/pits.21839
Parker, D. C., Zaslofsky, A. F., Burns, M. K., Kanive, R., Hodgson, J., Scholin, S. E., & Klingbeil, D. A, (2015). A brief report of the diagnostic accuracy of oral reading fluency and reading inventory levels for reading failure risk among second- and third-grade students. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 31, 56-67.
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