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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles

Print Skills


Acronyms and Abbreviations

ARCS = Adult Reading Components Study

DAR = Diagnostic Assessments of Reading

GE = Grade Equivalent

Spelling words = Encoding = transposing speech into writing
Reading words = Decoding = transposing writing into speech

Good readers are able to spell at levels close to their word reading ability. This is not surprising because both abilities require the same skills: Phonemic Awareness, Word Analysis, and visual memory.


Published Tests lists standardized tests that are available to assess Spelling. Published tests have one of two formats:

Written Presentation
A word is presented followed by four possible spellings, only one of which is correct. The learner marks the correct spelling. Spelling words are at Word Recognition and sight word grade levels.

Example: Apples, grapes, and bananas are kinds of:
a. frute
b. fruit
c. froot
d. fruit

Oral Presentation
This is the most common format for Spelling tests. The examiner speaks a word followed by a sentence that makes the word's meaning clear (in order to distinguish homonyms such as wait and weight). The learner writes the word. Oral presentation with written response has the advantage of not confounding the learner's ability to read a written presentation with his or her ability to spell a target word. Both formats can be group administered.

The DAR Spelling subtest was given to ARCSRR learners. Spelling averages for each of the 11 ARCS Comparison Profiles are calculated from participants' scores on this oral presentation, written response test.

Test makers choose words that represent spelling rules as well as those that require Phonemic Awareness and visual memory (either to recognize or to write the correct spellings). For example: in GE 1-3, high frequency sight words with the sound of long a are encoded in different ways: wake, train, and weight. Even though these may be sight words, three spelling skills —(1) Phonemic Awareness to distinguish the sounds, (2) rules that govern possible encoding of those sounds, and (3) visual memory—all play a part in spelling them correctly.

Criterion-referenced, teacher-made tests are suited to ongoing checks of learners' progress. A teacher may want to know if learners have mastered particular spelling conventions or have memorized patterns of irregular words. Oral presentation and written response is the easiest and most common format to use.

Asking general questions about a learner's mastery of the prerequisite Spelling skills is an important initial assessment. Together, the five steps below give a teacher an idea of a learner's Phonemic Awareness, Word Analysis, and visual memory. Try several words at the learner's reading level.

  • Is the word pronounced correctly?
  • Can the learner identify the number of syllables in the word?
  • Can the learner separate sounds of a syllable in sequence?
  • Can the learner spell each syllable either correctly, or at the least, phonetically? Does the learner remember to include a vowel (even if it's the wrong vowel) in each syllable?
  • Can the learner remember specific spelling patterns such as -ight, -tion...? What teaching techniques are required to impress the pattern of a word in memory for this learner?

Suggestions for instruction

It makes the most sense to teach learners to spell word parts and words as they are learning to read them and to teach them to read words of adult interest that illustrate basic spelling rules. Word families can also be used to teach spelling patterns. Basic spelling rules, e.g., the doubling rule (set/setting), dropping silent e (graze/grazing) should be accompanied by lots of examples.

See how to test your learner's knowledge of some basic spelling rules and generalizations.

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