GL Assessment: Phonological Assessment Battery
The PhAB2 Primary provides a series of ten diagnostic and standardised assessments that can be used to explore phonological awareness in children with reading difficulties. Phonological awareness plays a significant role in children’s development of reading and spelling skills. This battery can help identify the specific phonological difficulties that some children experience so that appropriate intervention may be provided with processing sounds in spoken language. 20-30 minutes testing with 10 subtests exploring: Alliteration, Blending, Fluency, Naming Speed, Non-word Reading, Phonological Working Memory, Phoneme Segmentation, Phoneme Deletion, Phoneme Substitution and Rhyme.
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What is the GL Assessment PhAB2 Primary?
PhAB2 manual The GL Assessment PhAB2 Primary was designed to assess children’s awareness of phonology, or the ability to process sounds in spoken English. Phonology is the part of language that concerns the sounds of words, rather than their meanings or grammatical structures, and phonological awareness is a crucial ingredient for the development of reading and spelling in English.
Whilst the development of children’s literacy and the cognitive skills that underpin this are important, phonological awareness is not the only prerequisite for the development of literacy. Children need to be supported and helped to develop other skills as well. They need to be able to understand and use language (though not necessarily orally) and be motivated to learn. The ability to support children in those ways is the province of skilled teachers and parents working in partnership.
AIM of PhAB2 Primary
The aim of PhAB2 Primary is to provide a way of identifying how different aspects of a child’s phonological awareness are developing. One thing GL Assessment has not tried to do is provide a battery of tests that will discriminate between one group of children and another. GL Assessment does not intend that these tests should be used to provide labels for children. Standard scores are provided to enable users to identify a child’s relative strengths and weaknesses across aspects of her or his phonological awareness and to compare these over time and, when appropriate, in response to intervention.
Since children may bring prior skills to bear on reading (such as visual recognition of words), when assessing underlying phonological awareness it can be helpful to use some unusual test contexts and materials. Thus, for instance, asking children to read ‘non-words’ requires them to draw more upon their phonological skills than any prior knowledge of what the word ‘says’. Conversely, for young children it may help to reduce the burden of strangeness or unnecessary loads on memory by providing pictures when trying to find the words that rhyme.
Overview of PhAB2 Primary
PhAB2updates Since the first edition of the PhAB was published in 1997, researchers have revealed more of what is important about phonological awareness and related matters. Users of the first edition of the PhAB have fedback to GL Assessment what is helpful and useful when seeking to identify any underlying difficulties that children may have in learning to read or spell words. In revising the battery of tests GL Assessment have been mindful of both what recent research has revealed and the feedback from previous users. Ultimately, however, tests need to be useful. They should provide help for teachers, psychologists and others to understand what children can do and what skills they need help in developing in order to become competent readers and writers. GL Assessment hope, therefore, that in reviewing the PhAB they have produced materials that enable test users to investigate what, in the domain of word reading and associated phonological skills children can do and what they might benefit from developing.
PhAB2 whats in the batteryIn light of these considerations, GL Assessment have revised and, where appropriate, extended the tests published in the first battery. For the PhAB2 Primary, GL Assessment has also developed some new tests that provide evidence of children’s abilities to detect and manipulate sounds at the level of the phoneme. GL Assessment does not suggest these are administered one after another. Rather they may be used selectively to assess different abilities or skills. While some of these tests have only been standardised for certain age groups, users of the battery may find that these can be of value with some other children when, in light of other evidence it is thought that more detailed investigation of certain skills would be profitable.
What does the battery consist of?
Overall, the resulting battery consists of the following tests:
The Alliteration test (5–11 years) is designed to assess a child’s ability to isolate the initial sounds in single syllable words. Children aged 5–6 years listen to three words and are asked which two of the three words start with the same sound (e.g. road, light, rain). Older children (7+ years) are asked to listen to four words. For children aged 5–6 years, the spoken words are also accompanied by pictures in order to reduce the cognitive burden of holding the words in mind whilst arriving at a response. The child can then either say the answers or point to the pictures for the words that start with the same sound.
The Blending test (5–6 years) assesses a child’s ability to combine sounds (phonemes) to form recognisable words. In undertaking these tasks, children have to be able to hold sounds in their working memory and assemble and speak the resulting word. For younger children the first few items make use of two-syllable words that will be familiar to most children. Older or more competent children will encounter words that consist of up to four distinct phonemes.
The purpose of the Fluency test (5–11 years) is to assess a child’s ability to retrieve phonological and semantic representations from long-term memory. Children are asked to say as many words of a particular type as possible within 30 seconds. There are three parts to this test. In the first part (Rhyme), children are asked to provide as many words that contain a given rhyme (e.g. words that rhyme with ‘more’). In the second part (Alliteration), children are asked to provide words that all start with a specified sound (e.g. words that all start with /k/). In the third part (Semantics), children are asked to suggest as many words as they can connect with a subject (e.g. things in my school).
The Naming Speed tests (5–11 years) are designed to assess speed of phonological production, involving the retrieval of phonological coding at the whole-word level. The tests require the child to say aloud the names of pictured objects or strings of numerals as quickly as possible. The Picture Naming test uses line drawings of five common objects: a table, a door, a ball, a hat and a box. The Digit Naming test uses numbers 1 to 9. In each case the child is shown a visual display of randomly presented items and asked to name them in sequence as quickly as they can.
The Non-word Reading test (5–11 years) is designed to assess a child’s ability to decode unfamiliar strings of letters. When children read phonetically regular real words, they may draw on their phonological processing skills and knowledge of letter-sound relationships to decode the word; and/or they may draw on their sight vocabulary to recognise the word; and/or they may draw on their spoken vocabulary for clues to the word’s identity. However, these last two strategies, which are based on visual processing and meaning, cannot be used when reading non-words. This test taps the phonological processing involved in reading non-words. Although an apparently artificial task, non-word reading is, therefore, a powerful predictor of likely success in reading.
In the Phoneme Deletion test (7–11 years), children need to detect the individual phonemes in a word and process how the word would sound without a specific phoneme (e.g. ‘team’ without the /m/ gives ‘tea’). This is a test in which children need to be able to manipulate phonemes. While younger children might be more likely to be successful with words where the phoneme to be deleted is at the beginning or end of the word, in later more challenging items, the target phoneme may be found within the word (e.g. being asked to delete /l/ from ‘slip’ and respond with ‘sip’).
The Phoneme Segmentation test (5–6 years) requires children to demonstrate their ability to detect the individual sounds within words. Each target word is spoken by the test administrator and the child is asked to separate and say the individual constituent phonemes in that word. For younger children the first items contain just two distinct phonemes. Older and more competent children are asked to segment words consisting of up to four phonemes.
The Phoneme Substitution test (7–11 years) replaces the ‘Spoonerisms’ test in the first edition of the PhAB. This provides a more advanced means of testing a child’s ability to both detect and manipulate phonemes. Children are asked to detect and delete the first sound of a word and replace that phoneme with another (e.g. ‘cat’ with a /f/ gives ‘fat’).
The Phonological Working Memory test (5–11 years) is designed as an explicit test of a child’s short-term phonological memory. A substantial body of evidence indicates that phonological memory is likely to be associated with learning to read and spell. However, performance in a number of the PhAB subtests places demands on children’s short-term working memory. Thus it is possible that poor performance in a certain PhAB test may be at least partly because of difficulty in holding phonological material in mind. In order to test this children are asked to listen to and repeat one non-word at a time. The task becomes increasingly difficult as the number of syllables in the non-words increases.
The Rhyme test is a test for young children (5–6 years). It helps to assess if a child has the ability to detect similar sounds in words. For each item in the test the child is shown pictures of three words spoken by the test administrator and asked to point to the two words that share the same rhyme sound (e.g. fish, cap, tap). While there is still some debate about how significant the awareness of rhyme is as a predictor of later reading or spelling, this test provides an opportunity to determine if children have the beginnings of phonological awareness.
Who is the PhAB2 Primary for?
The PhAB2 Primary is intended to be used by:
Practitioners (e.g. psychologists and speech therapists) experienced in administering and interpreting educational tests.
Specialist literacy support teachers and experienced special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs). Initially, in interpreting the results of PhAB2 Primary and using them to draw up parts of a child’s individual education plan, SENCOs may find it helpful to consult with their local educational psychologist and/or specialist literacy support teacher.
Researchers interested in the development and assessment of children’s phonological processing skills.
The PhAB2 Primary is suitable for children aged between 5–11 years. It is intended in particular to be used with children whose literacy progress is causing concern. For ease of administration the battery is presented in separate sections for children aged 5:00 – 6:11 and 7:00 – 11:11 years and has been standardised for each of those age groups separately.
Time and materials required
A total of 20–30 minutes should be allowed for administration of all the tests in the battery. Younger children tend to require more explanation, but the tests can generally be discontinued sooner. The materials required to complete scoring and administration of the tests are the PhAB2 Primary Manual, the PhAB2 Primary Record Form and where necessary, the PhAB2 Primary Picture Book.
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