Assessing Students in Phonological Awareness

Estimated reading: 2 minutes

There is a direct correlation between reading success and phonemic proficiency among children (Kilpatrick, 2015). Teachers who teach preschool, kindergarten, and grades 1-2 should be incorporating phonological awareness daily. Ideally, students would have phonemic proficiency by the time they reach third grade. Realistically, this isn’t the case. Teachers may need to continue to teach this skill throughout the higher grades to struggling readers.

Why is phonological awareness important:
  • Children must be able to hear and manipulate oral sound patterns before they can relate them to print. Phonics instruction builds on a child’s ability to segment and blend together sounds she hears (Fitzpatrick, 1997).
  • The English language is built on the alphabetic principle. That is, letters have names and sounds, and when these sounds are combined, they form words. Phonological awareness helps children understand the alphabetic principle and enhances their ability to decode (Zgonc, 2010).
Here are some tips using Interventions for All: Phonological Awareness by Yvette Zgonc:
  • First, assess students using the Phonological Awareness Skills Test (PAST) located in Interventions for All: Phonological Awareness book. You can also use the PAST assessment in David Kilpatrick’s Equipped for Reading Success for a shorter, more in-depth assessment. 
    • If students were not assessed the year prior, start with the first subtest. Best practice indicates that you should give every subtest. However, use your judgment. If a child is exhibiting signs of stress or frustration, you may want to consider stopping. 
    • For a skill to be considered mastered, a child must receive 5/6 correct answers on a given subtest. Also, take into consideration the length of time a student takes to respond. This provides you with another layer of understanding. 
    • When a student misses 2 or more in any given subtest, teach that area using activities from the book. 
    • It’s ok to give subtests 1 and 2, then teach those areas if less than 80% of your class mastered that corresponding skill. Then reassess to check for mastery, and give the next subtest. This may be easier than giving the whole assessment in one sitting.
    • Use the guide on p. 29 in Interventions for All: Phonological Awareness book to determine when a skill is typically mastered.