Testing Code Knowledge
This is the last of four Phonics Assessment Tests to help you determine whether your child has the auditory skills and phonics knowledge necessary for effectively decoding unfamiliar words. Unlike the first three assessments, which concentrated on skills that your child must learn, this test covers the knowledge that he must possess about phonics.
To administer the Code Knowledge Test, you will need the test scoresheet that you can download in a PDF file from the first Page on phonics testing, Testing Blending Skill. This is a form used when administering all four tests.
You will also need the Code Knowledge Sheet listing the test items to show your child. You can get that as a PDF file here.
The Code Knowledge Test here has fifty items, the same as the test in Reading Reflex, but it is a significantly harder test because it covers more vowel sound spellings and leaves off many of the consonant letters.
Scoring the Code Knowledge Test
The Test Scoresheet lists the options for any particular item in the order that your child should come to understand them if you eventually use the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program. All of the answers on the Test Scoresheet are listed in the order that they are taught in that program. They are taught in a specific order so that they can be systematically tested when decoding an unfamiliar word.
Generally, you want your child to know at least the first option for each code item on the Code Knowledge Sheet. For example, if you point to the last test item, ou, your child should know that it is the /ow/ sound, as this is the most common sound for that digraph in the unfamiliar words that he is likely to encounter on his own. Granted, it may be far more common as /u/ in words ending with the suffix ous, but once he knows the pattern of that suffix, he will no longer need to recall overlap options to decode the ending. Among the one-syllable words he will encounter, the /ow/ sound (as in shout) is far more common.
Note: If you are administering the Code Knowledge Test to see if your child is capable of going right to the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method, without using the Advanced Code Phonics Workbook, then you want to make sure that he knows not only the first sound, but also some of the alternative sounds, for a letter or digraph. If your child can only come up with one response, when there are two or three, or even four, you are likely to find the workbook quite helpful in firming up his code knowledge.
When testing a client, I would mark the response correct if he knew the best (first) choice for an item. I would also circle all other acceptable options that he gave me, so that I would have some idea how many of the options he knew. However, if he could not tell me that ou is the sound /ow/, I would mark it wrong even if he knew all three of the other options. Generally, they should know the first options to be effective at decoding unfamiliar words.
If your child knows all of the options for every test item, you should have circled the relevant example as he gave each correct response and then put a check on the line for the item. If he can’t give you the first option, or if he gives you an impossible option, circle any appropriate example and mark what he actually said on the line. For example, if he says /u/ for the letter i and also says /ie/, circle the test example mind and write /u/ on the line so that you know he got it wrong and you also know what his replies were.
To score the test, count the check marks. There are 50 test items, so if he got 36 checks, he got 36/50 or 72% correct. If you really want to emphasis the overlap options, there are 84 possible correct responses and you could add up all the circled words and divide by 84 to get an even better idea as to your child’s actual code knowledge. At intake it is common for clients of OnTrack Reading to score between 44% and 60% on this test. By the end, they usually score 90% or higher and know most of the overlap options besides.
Design of the Code Knowledge Test
You’ll note that the test items are listed in five clusters. Here are details regarding each section of the test.
The first line lists the single-letter vowels and you should prompt your child to give the first sound listed on the scoresheet. If he can’t tell you /a/ for the letter a, mark what he actually said if it isn’t one of the other options, /ae/ or /o/, or just circle the option that he said. He must know the /a/ sound to get it correct.
The next cluster, lines 2 and 3, are consonant digraphs that your child needs to eventually learn. Some of these have more than one option, as you can see from the scoresheet.
The third cluster, lines 4 and 5, are single letter consonants. Line 4 has consonants b and d which are sometimes confused and line 5 has three consonant letters which each have two options. Again, your child needs to know the first option for a correct score, but circle the other options that he knows.
The last two clusters cover vowel digraphs. Note: While a digraph is technically just two letters used to write a single sound, I commonly refer to igh, eigh and other longer spellings of a single sound as digraphs also.
The fourth grouping generally consists of spellings that have only one practical option. Your child should know the option listed. The first line has four items in a row that can be answered correctly using the misleading “first vowel does the talking” rule, so if your child gets them all correct and then says aw is /ae/, ask him if that’s what he’s doing. If it is, the score will be too high on this line, but if he keeps it up, he’ll lose plenty of ground on the rest of the test.
The last grouping consists of three lines that have several options, with the very last line consisting of digraphs sporting three or even four options. As before, your child needs to know the first option to have the item scored as correct, but keep prompting him for more options to see if he knows them also.
This completes the discussion on the Phonics Assessment Tests that I used with each and every client of OnTrack Reading. If you do use the Advanced Code Phonics Workbook with your child, you should focus on getting all of the auditory skills to 100% and the code knowledge score into the 90’s, plus a good grasp of overlap options. Do that and you’ll have accomplished a lot.
Be aware, though, that your child will still be likely to struggle with reading if certain vision issues are present, or if other processing issues or developmental issues remain unresolved. For instance, the auditory processing tests in here do not test all auditory processing skills, just blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation. Just as you should not assume that passing a regular eye examination rules out vision issues, neither should you assume that perfecting the auditory skills covered in this curriculum rules out all other auditory processing issues.
If you've done all the testing, and are uncertain how to proceed, take a look at Choosing the Right Phonics Program. However, if you have already tried one or more phonics programs with your child and he is still struggling, I strongly urge you to read The Vision Piece of the Dyslexia Puzzle before attempting yet another reading program. There's a high likelihood that your most effective next step would be to visit a developmental optometrist to get your child a developmental vision evaluation, and that the following step should be vision therapy.