Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Phonics and Word Attack Skills

The phrase "word attack" can be used interchangeably with the word "decoding" to describe the process of figuring out how to pronounce a word. The term "phonics" refers to the sound-symbol correspondences and patterns found in words.

DIBELS Nonsense-Word Fluency Subtest
This is a test that includes only non-words and takes one minute to administer. The scores from this test let the teacher know whether the student demonstrates low risk, moderate risk, or high risk. It can also determine if a student is above average in the skill. Because some students struggle with nonsense words it is recommended that you follow up with a supplemental test.

Names Test
This is an example of a test that can supplement the Nonsense-Words Fluency Test. This test gives valuable information about a child's decoding skills in a unique format. This test is very simple to administer. You simply give the child a list of names and have them read the list. If they are not sure about the pronunciation they should make their best guess. To obtain a copy of the Names test you can go to and search for articles that contain this assessment tool.

Checklists and Anecdotal Notes
Checklists are a valuable, informal type of assessment that a teacher can easily use in the classroom. In order for the checklist to be most beneficial, keep it simple and geared to the child's stage of development. Anecdotal notes are also useful and easy to use. Any time you observe the child taking part in reading orally you can jot down notes on a Post-It or in a journal. Know in advance exactly what you are looking for so that you can investigate as to whether or not the student is applying the skill.

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