An Effective And Quick Way To Assess Student Decoding Skills

If you’re like me, you want to make sure your students are on track with their decoding skills. But, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. This quick assessment can help you get a sense of your students’ decoding abilities in just a few minutes. Today, I am sharing a *FREE* and simple decoding survey you can use.

What is a decoding survey?

First, let’s talk about the basics. A decoding survey measures a student’s ability to read words that are able to be read by sounding out. It typically organizes words by reading skill starting with the most basic phonics skill. The survey continues with more advanced skills so you can identify what phonics patterns a student needs to explicitly practice.

This free decoding survey will help determine the next steps for your readers.

TEACHER TIP: Decoding surveys should be untimed. However, if a student is struggling to decode a word after a few seconds, move on to the next word. If they get 3 errors in a row, discontinue and start at that skill.

In addition, a decoding survey is an effective, quick, and easy way to identify which skills students need to work on in reading. By looking at a student’s ability to read and decode words, the survey can pinpoint areas where the student may need more help.

Then, this information can then be used to create a more tailored reading plan for the student. As a result, a decoding survey is an invaluable tool for any teacher or reading specialist working with students on their reading skills.

This is a great secondary assessment to use after a universal screener like Acadience, FastBridge or a running record is completed. If your district does not utilize a school-wide assessment, at the least, I would list to my students read a grade-level passage first to determine who might need more intensive reading skill instruction.

TEACHER TIP: I would not necessarily use a decoding survey on all students. You will likely have students who are well above this skill level and it would be a waste of time.

Factors to Consider

Anytime you get to sit down 1:1 with a student to listen to them read, there is so much you can learn! Here are a few things to listen for that can help with identifying needs and planning instruction:

  • Does the student read the whole word automatically or sound it out letter-by-letter?
  • Does the reader go back to self-correct when an error is made?
  • What consistent errors, if any, does the student make?
  • B/D reversals
  • Speed/rate
  • Guessing based on the first letter

How do I use the information from a decoding survey?

Finally, you want to connect what you have learned about a student’s strengths and areas for improvement with the correct instruction. Choosing an intervention that aligns with your students’ reading needs is the next step in building successful readers.

As a classroom teacher, there was never enough time in the day to prepare everything I needed to differentiate and meet each student at their level. In my first year as a teacher, I reached out for help with a student who was struggling with reading. I was told to put an intervention in place and collect data. I had no clue what I was doing but did my best I can’t help but feel I fell short because I wasn’t sure where to even begin.

The decoding survey information can help you:

  • select appropriate and decodable texts for lessons
  • plan whole group instruction
  • choose focus skills for small group lessons
  • valuable data for the RTI process
  • identify specific deficits and implement intervention
  • drive decisions to administer additional assessments

Overall, gathering information about your students’ reading abilities will help you better plan instruction. As a teacher, you are always looking for ways to help your students learn and grow. Quickly assessing their decoding skills will help you determine which students need extra help and which students are performing well. The decoding survey is the first step, but what next? These one-page interventions are perfect to print and get started targeting specific skills. Read more about how I use them.

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