Phonics data is a treasure trove of information that can significantly impact education and support students’ learning journeys. However, surprisingly, many educators and professionals often overlook its potential. In this blog post, we’ll demonstrate just how accessible and valuable phonics data collection can be. Whether you’re a teacher, a speech therapist, or an education enthusiast, join us on this journey to discover the essential tips and tricks for harnessing the power of phonics data. Let’s explore how this data can drive instruction, set meaningful IEP goals, facilitate intervention decisions, and foster collaboration with families.
When to Collect Phonics Data
You should aim to consistently collect phonics data. And yes, that’s a super vague answer! Here’s the thing, there shouldn’t be a set schedule for every student in your class – students that are below grade-level may need more frequent monitoring than students who are above grade level. My personal rule of thumb is collecting data at least once a week on those students who require intensive instruction. This helps me to quickly make changes to instruction based on the data.
You should always aim to collect data before instruction begins. This provides you with a baseline value. This value will tell you where your students are starting from. Picture this:
It’s the end of the year, you are giving a final assessment. Johnny scores a 85%. Susie scores a 65%. Initially, you might think Johnny did better. And while that’s true, what if I told you that Johnny’s baseline was 80% and Susie’s baseline was 20%. Who really did better now? Even worse, what if Johnny started at a 95%? Baseline data shows you exactly where a student started and how their trajectory changes as a result of instruction.
How to Collect Phonics Data
I collect phonics data in isolation (lists of words) and in text (when reading a passage). Sometimes students can do one, but not the other, so I like collecting both so I get a well-rounded idea of student success. Phonics data doesn’t have to be tricky to collect. Try jotting down notes on a post it note, using a tally counter on your phone, or giving a formal assessment. By collecting data in a variety of situations, you will have a better picture of student growth and need.
Materials to Collect Phonics Data
Three times a year, I give my students a phonics assessment. This assessment is used for baseline data, middle of the year data, and end of the year data. It provides an apples-to-apples comparison of how students are performing and changing. This one is designed to target specific skills so that it’s easy to see exactly where more work needs to be done.
During small group instruction, I use a double sided dry erase board and a tally counter on my phone to collect data. On one side of the board, I can write words or sound patterns using a dry erase marker for students to identify. On the other side, I use a wet erase marker and make notes to myself about the phonics data. I might indicate a pattern a student had a hard time with, or a blend strategy that really worked. By using wet erase markers, my valuable phonics data won’t be accidentally wiped off – it will stay there until I get a wet paper towel to remove it!
I also like to use a tally counter on my phone.
Analyzing Phonics Data
After you’ve collected your phonics data, the next step is to analyze it. What are the patterns showing you? Are there consistencies in certain word families or patterns? What about specific sounds? This will allow you to specifically target those skills and create flex groups based on student need. Each group can consist of students that have the same needs as measured by the phonics data.
Sharing Phonics Data
What’s the point in collecting data if you aren’t sharing it?! Seriously. Share. The. Data. Share it with co-workers, interns, parents, reading specialists, anyone that is legally allowed to have access to it. Consider using some sort of online cloud based software (think Google Docs) so that it can be updated and seen immediately by everyone. This allows everyone to be on the same page about where the areas of weakness are, what is being done to correct them, and whether it is effective.
Tools for Collecting Phonics Data
No matter what tools you use, you want to make sure they follow the best practices for phonics data collection. If the assessments are not valid or reliable, then you are wasting both your time and your students’ time. It’s critical that the tools and assessments you use, whether they are formal or informal, are done effectively so that you can gather relevant information on your students.