Phonics diagnostic assessment

Phonics is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds of spoken language) and graphemes (the letters that represent them in written language). The ability to use phonetic skills is an essential component of reading and writing.

About the assessment

The Phonics diagnostic assessment is a short, on-demand assessment that tells teachers how students are progressing in phonics. The assessment complements existing strategies used to identify students' progress in foundational literacy skills development.

The assessment is conducted by classroom teachers with individual students. Teachers use the online tool to enter student responses.

The assessment can be used for any student from Kindergarten onwards.

The assessment allows students to demonstrate what they know and can do and clarifies for teachers their students’ phonic knowledge. Teachers will be able to use the assessment flexibly, by choosing which area of phonic knowledge they will assess, to suit the needs of individual students.

This video provides an overview of the assessment and how it can support teachers.

About the Phonics diagnostic assessment

The Phonics diagnostic assessment is an online, on-demand diagnostic tool that informs teachers of student progress in phonics. The tool assesses how students blend sounds together to read words. The assessment tool is available to all NSW public schools and can be used by teachers to individually assess the knowledge and skills of any student- from kindergarten onwards. It can also be used to re-assess students at any time. We know that phonics knowledge and skills are essential for learning to read and write. The assessment tool supports teachers to plan for future teaching and learning, by helping them to: diagnose how students are progressing in phonics, determine areas for future explicit teaching, and monitor student learning progress over time.

Teachers will be able to use the assessment flexibly to suit the needs of individual students, by choosing which skill set and word list to use when assessing a student. The assessment is organised into four word sets, these are sequenced and start with beginning phonics skills and move to more complex skills. To support ongoing assessment and monitoring of student progress, each set has two lists of words to choose from: a List A and a List B.

Listen to this teacher share their experience using the Phonics diagnostic assessment: “After an initial assessment I completed earlier in the term, followed by explicit teaching after analysing student results, I was unsure about the learning progress of one student.  So I decided to use the Phonics diagnostic assessment to inform me of their progress. I found using the assessment quite easy. I had initially used List A in the second word set, Consonant digraphs and one-syllable words, to assess the student and so decided to use List B of the same word set to inform me of their progress. The assessment didn’t take long at all and the student enjoyed having the opportunity to demonstrate their new learning. The student’s responses and analysis of assessment feedback showed me that the student’s phonic knowledge had improved as they could blend and read words containing consonant digraphs. The assessment also identified the next area to focus future teaching and learning on- reading CVCC and CCVC words with consonant blends.

Teachers can access the assessment tool via the ALAN portal- in the on-demand assessments section.

Is this different to the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check?

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check, is a mandatory assessment for all Year 1 students, from 2021. This assessment uses 40 words to provide teachers with an overview of their student’s progress in phonics. An assessment is lodged for each Year 1 student during an assessment window in Term 3. More information on this assessment is available on the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check webpage.

The Phonics diagnostic assessment is available on-demand for all students. Students can be reassessed at any time. The assessment is organised into 4 sets of words which focus on specific phonic knowledge skills:

  • VC and CVC words
  • consonant digraphs and one-syllable words
  • split/vowel digraphs and longer one-syllable words
  • multisyllabic and more complex words.

Student feedback and analysis

Student responses are mapped to indicators from the National Literacy Learning Progression with information automatically recorded in PLAN 2. A Student assessment analysis will provide teachers with feedback to inform decisions about next steps in learning for that student.

A class summary analysis is also available providing teachers with an overall picture of the progress of the class. This can assist in making decisions based on patterns that may be evident in the data to plan next steps for a whole class, small groups or individual instruction.

How can my school access the assessment?

Teachers will be able to access the assessment tool at any time via ALAN from Term 2, Week 3.

How will my school be supported?

Visit the resources webpage for materials to assist you to implement the Phonics diagnostic assessment.

Visit the Literacy and numeracy PL webpage for professional learning opportunities looking at practical application of evidence-based teaching of reading.

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