Assessing phonemic awareness skills

Given that phonemic awareness skills play an important role in early reading acquisition it makes sense to screen children’s ability early on in their school life. Weaknesses in phonemic awareness are characteristic of children with reading problems across a broad span of general verbal ability. (However, not all students, 25-30%, will show a weakness in phonological awareness measures (Moats 2016), but will still develop reading difficulties, this is because reading is complex and made up of many skills.)

When assessing children’s phonological awareness skills it is useful to understand which of these skills are best predictors of word- level reading proficiency. Research seems to suggest phonological manipulation tasks are the best measures and display a higher correlation with reading measures than segmentation tasks.

Screening or assessing phonemic awareness should be carried out EARLY in the Kindergarten/ prep year and monitored throughout.

Principal Paul McDermott and the importance of early screening

Principal Steven Capp and screening for phonemic awareness

Tools

Some simple phonological and phonemic awareness screening tools can be found at;

When assessing children’s phonological awareness skills it is useful to understand the ages at which 80-90 percent of typical students have achieved phonological skill.

Ages at which 80-90 percent of typical students have achieved a phonological skill

Age Skill Domain Sample Tasks
4 Rote imitation and enjoyment of rhyme and alliteration pool, drool, tool
“Seven silly snakes sang songs seriously.”
5 Rhyme recognition, odd word out “Which two words rhyme:
stair, steel, chair?”
Recognition of phonemic changes in words Hickory Dickory Clock. That’s not right!”
Clapping, counting syllables truck (1 syllable)
airplane (2 syllables)
boat (1 syllable)
automobile (4 syllables)
Distinguishing and remembering separate phonemes in a series Show sequences of single phonemes with colored blocks: /s/ /s/ /f/; /z/ /sh/ /z/.
Blending onset and rime “What word?”
th-umb
qu-een
h-ope
Producing a rhyme “Tell me a word that rhymes with car.” (star)
Matching initial sounds; isolating an initial sound “Say the first sound in ride (/r/); sock (/s/); love (/l/).”
6 Compound word deletion “Say cowboy. Say it again, but don’t say cow.”
Syllable deletion “Say parsnip. Say it again, but don’t say par.”
Blending of two and three phonemes /z/ /ū/ (zoo)
/sh/ /ǒ/ /p/ (shop)
/h/ /ou/ /s/ (house)
Phoneme segmentation of words that have simple syllables with two or three phonemes (no blends) “Say the word as you move a chip for each sound.”
sh-e
m-a-n
l-e-g
Phoneme segmentation of words that have up to three or four phonemes (include blends) “Say the word slowly while you tap the sounds.”
b-a-ck
ch-ee-se
c-l-ou-d
Phoneme substitution to build new words that have simple syllables (no blends) “Change the /j/ in cage to /n/.
Change the /ā/ in cane to /ō/.”
7 Sound deletion (initial and final positions) “Say meat. Say it again, without the /m/.”
“Say safe. Say it again, without the /f/.”
8 Sound deletion (initial position, include blends) “Say prank. Say it again, without the /p/.”
9 Sound deletion (medial and final blend positions) “Say snail. Say it again, without the /n/.”
“Say fork. Say it again, without the /k/.”

Moats, L, & Tolman, C (2009). Excerpted from Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS): The Speech Sounds of English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Phoneme Awareness (Module 2). Boston: Sopris West.

Further reading : http://www.readingrockets.org/article/catch-them-they-fall-identification-and-assessment-prevent-reading-failure-young-children