Understanding DIBELS Scores

Understanding DIBELS Scores

With winter DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) benchmark tests right around the corner, let’s discuss the test in detail and what it may mean for your child. We’ll also look at effective reading tutoring for children who struggle to meet reading goals.

 

Today after school, I checked my kindergarten son’s backpack just like I always do. There was his lunchbox, complete with uneaten fruit but completely devoured cookies, homework packet, and his books from his teacher, just like normal. There was also something different, a DIBELS packet with activities to practice for the upcoming round of benchmark testing.

 

My phone almost immediately started buzzing with text messages and voicemails from some of my close mom friends who were wondering what this meant and what they were supposed to practice. They were also concerned about what the previous scores meant and how they could help their child improve.

 

DIBELS is one measure of reading ability that is standardized and used nationally in many schools kindergarten through 3rd grade (in some cases it may go further, but this is less common). The purpose of DIBELS is to measure a variety of reading skills and predict outcomes for students. When used correctly it can help teachers plan interventions and identify students who are at risk for reading difficulty.

DIBELS can also give parents some major anxiety. While it is not a perfect measure, it can be an accurate predictor of future reading outcomes, but in order to understand possible outcomes, you first must understand what is tested and what each score means.

 

Here are some of the areas included in the current DIBELS test. I am also including the common abbreviations you may see your child’s teacher use to refer to the individual sub-tests. Keep in mind these vary by grade level so your child may not take every test. Also, DIBELS is mostly oral, so students are tested one-on-one by a trained test proctor.

 

  • First Sound Fluency (FSF): This assessment is given only in kindergarten and only at the first and second benchmark period. It assesses students on phonemic awareness skills which are essential early literacy skills. Students are given a word like man and they are asked to identify that the first sound is /m/. Students who perform well on this test are less likely to have serious reading difficulties than those who do poorly.
  • Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF): This test is given in Kindergarten and the first testing period of first grade. Like FSF this assesses early phonemic awareness skills. Students are given a word like cat and asked to separate it into its individual sounds or phonemes /k/ /a/ /t/. Students must give sounds, not letter names. Like FSF this is a key predictor of how likely a child is to develop early literacy skills and students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF): Nonsense word fluency begins in kindergarten and is tested through second grade. It tests students understanding of phonics by having them read nonsense words like hig or nup. Using nonsense words ensures that decoding ability is tested as none of the words will be memorized by students (whereas real words like cat or dog could be memorized and would not indicate how well students understood letter sounds). When this test is scored, students receive a point for each individual sound as well as an extra point for reading the word without segmenting it. For example, if the word is hig, a student who read /h/ /i/ /g/ sound by sound would get 3 points. A student who did not have to sound the word out and simply read /hig/ would get 4 points. Since phonics and decoding is an essential early literacy skill, this assessment is a good indicator of early literacy development. Students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (DORF): This assessment asks students to read a grade level passage for one minute. They are scored based on how many words they read correctly in one minute. They are also then asked to retell the passage which gives an indication of their comprehension. This assessment starts in first grade and, depending on the school, may be used until students are in the 6th Fluency is a key component of the reading process and students who are not fluent readers are likely to experience significant reading difficulties.

 

Now that we have discussed the sub-tests within DIBELS, it is also important to understand the scoring system. Teachers will likely give you a number score. It is crucial that you ask them to also tell you where your child stands compared to the benchmark. This means you need to know if your child is Well Below Benchmark, Below Benchmark, At Benchmark, or Above Benchmark. You can ask for this information for each individual test as well as your child’s composite score.

 

By now, your head may be spinning, and that is ok. Let’s break down exactly what each one of these scores means for you and your child.

 

  • Above Benchmark: If your child scores Above Benchmark it means your child is performing well above the average for their grade level. Given appropriate core classroom instruction, the chances that they will meet literacy goals is above 90%.
  • At Benchmark: If your child scores At Benchmark they are performing at an average level for their grade. Without intervention and with only effective core classroom instruction, the likelihood that they will reach early literacy goals is 70% to 85% Students who score at the lower level of At Benchmark are likely to need some strategic intervention to reach reading goals.
  • Below Benchmark: If your child scores Below Benchmark, it is very likely that classroom support will not be enough for them to reach subsequent reading goals. In fact, with only core classroom instruction, the likelihood that students who score Below Benchmark will achieve reading goals is only about 40% to 60%. If your child scores in this area, it may be time to think about an effective reading program for them.
  • Well Below Benchmark: If your child scores Well Below Benchmark goals, it means they are significantly behind grade level norms. Without appropriate intervention, the likelihood that they will make reading progress is only about 10% to 20%. These students need intensive reading intervention.

 

Now that you have an idea of what each test is and what each score means, you have the ability to help your child. Children who are below benchmark are not likely to reach subsequent reading goals with only classroom instruction. They need reading remediation.

 

However, not all reading programs are created equal. If your child needs intensive reading intervention, it is imperative that you find a high-quality program. A Structured Literacy program with a qualified reading clinician who can monitor and adjust to meet your child’s needs will provide the best chance at success.

 

By helping your child get the reading tutoring they need, you can help increase their odds that they will be successful in reading. Don’t let your child struggle and have a 10% chance of meeting grade-level reading goals. Reading intervention will give them the best chance of success.

 

If you don’t live near a qualified, certified clinician or you have a tight schedule or budget, online tutoring can be a good option. RW&C offers individualized support with a Structured Literacy model. We incorporate all elements of effective reading instruction and have trained clinicians who can assess, monitor, and adjust instruction to fit your child’s needs.

 

Contact us today for more information or to get started with our online tutoring program.

 

If you want to know more about DIBELS scores, or want information specific to your child’s grade level, check out this scoring guide from the University of Oregon. All information regarding benchmarks scores was adapted from this source.

 

 

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
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Fluency: Bridging The Gap Between Phonics And Comprehension

mosaic-catepillarIn our previous blogs, we discussed the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics development for pre-emergent, emergent, and beginning readers. While understanding and manipulating phonemes and decoding are both essential skills, children must move beyond them to become proficient readers. A critical development in the reading process is fluency.

Fluency is the ability to read words accurately with both speed and expression. When a child is able to read fluently, their reading should sound natural. The words should flow well, and the child will use appropriate expression and intonation when reading aloud.

If a child is not a fluent reader, their reading will sound choppy. They may get stuck on certain words or have to read parts of the text multiple times. Their reading will lack expression; questions, statements, and exclamations will be read with the same monotone intonation. They will disregard punctuation and pause at awkward spots in the text.

So, why is fluency an issue? Without fluency, it is tough to move from just decoding words to reading and understanding an entire passage. Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When children read with fluency, they do not spend mental energy on decoding words. Hence, they are able to focus on the passage meaning. If children do not develop reading fluency, comprehension will become difficult, and their ability to read at grade level will suffer.

mosaic-booksIf you are not sure if your child struggles with reading fluency, ask yourself a few key questions. First of all, does your child take a disproportionately long time to read a short passage both aloud and silently? Does your child’s reading sound labored and choppy? Does their reading lack expression? Does your child have trouble understanding what they read? Does your child self-correct many words read in the passage? If you answered yes, it is possible your child has difficulty with fluent reading.

If you suspect your child is having difficulty with reading fluently, there are a few things you can do at home to try to help. If your child seems to get lost in text easily, frequently having trouble keeping their place, have them try print tracking. Using a finger or some kind of pointer, have your child follow along with the words they are reading so they do not get lost.

Secondly, have your child read the text aloud more than once. The first time focus on decoding and then with repeated readings focus on fluency, particularly accuracy and expression. This activity is helpful because with repeated readings, the struggle to decode should diminish and your child can concentrate on reading fluently. While your child reads aloud, provide constructive feedback when errors are made.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPractice choral reading. Initially, read aloud to your child to model fluent reading while having them follow along in the book. Next, reread the book and invite your child to read any words he recognizes you are reading. Read the same book three to five times, however, not on the same day using this choral reading practice. Soon, your child should be able to read the story independently.

Use poetry or other books with clear rhythmic patterns. This can help your child hear the natural rhythm of the text, making it easier to read fluently. You can also try giving your child short phrases to read and asking them to read them as a statement, question, and exclamation to practice reading with expression.

mosaic-bird-of-paradiseIf you notice that these activities are not helping your child, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to get them professional assistance. Reading fluency is paramount to becoming a proficient reader and without it, it is unlikely that your child will make the progress necessary to go from learning to read versus reading to learn. With an escalating amount of reading each grade level, your child may quickly fall behind.

Our Structured Literacy online program incorporates reading fluency into each and every session. With repeated readings, sentence and phrase reading, and developing fluency in longer texts, we can help your child become the fluent reader they need to be.

Our trained Reading Clinicians understand how reading fluency develops and have multiple strategies to help nurture and expand this skill. They will help you make sure that your child develops the fluency needed to help them succeed in becoming a life-long reader.

If you have concerns about your child’s reading fluency or any other area, contact us today to find out how our online tutoring program can help your child flourish.

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

mosaic-catepillarIn a previous post about phonemic awareness, I discussed the importance of emergent reader’s understanding of phonemes or sounds in words. As children develop strong phonemic awareness skills, they need to begin to associate the sounds in words to letters or graphemes. The relationship between sounds and letters is called phonics.

 

Phonics is an essential building block in the reading process. Without learning to associate the phoneme with the grapheme, reading cannot occur. For fluent readers, phonics seems almost common sense, however, there is no natural connection between sounds and letters. Phonics cannot be learned through osmosis but instead must be explicitly taught.

 

748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPhonics is particularly important for emergent readers. Beginning around the age of 5, children should have daily explicit phonics instruction. Like many reading skills, some children may need only minimum exposure to a letter to connect the associated sound. Other children may need repeated and constant exposure to a letter to become automatic in connecting the correct sound. If your child is older and still struggling with letter-sound relationships, they can still benefit from phonics instruction. Every child must know the names and sounds of all the letters in the alphabet to become a good reader.

 

Here are a few ways that you can practice phonics skills with your child at home to help increase their reading proficiency:

  • Word Building: Using letter cards or Scrabble tiles, have your child build words. Encourage your child to first segment the sounds orally and then use the corresponding letter card to build the word and blend it back together. Talk with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to find out appropriate words to work on.
  • Letter Sound Practice: Make flash cards of letters or spelling patterns and quiz your child on them. For a list of appropriate spelling patterns talk with your child’s reading clinician  or teacher.
  • Race to Build a Word: Draw 7 consonants and 2 vowels from a stack of letter cards. Challenge your child to a race to see who can build the most words in 3 minutes. To make this more challenging use digraphs. Digraphs are two adjacent letters in the same syllable that represent a single speech sound. Some examples of consonant digraphs are (sh, ch, th, etc.). Vowel digraphs often called vowel team examples such as ( ee, ea, ay, ai, etc.) will add a higher level of practice . Check with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to see which digraphs are appropriate for your child’s level.
  • Slap A Letter: Create a game board of letters and digraphs that your child is working on using butcher paper or poster board. Give your child a fly swatter. Call out a sound and have your child slap the appropriate spelling pattern with their fly swatter.
  • Writing Practice: Say sounds and have your child write the appropriate grapheme. Say words and have your child segment the sounds and spell the words. Encourage your child to tell you how many sounds are in a word and identify any instances where two letters make one sound (like ck, sh, ay, etc.). Always ask your child to segment before writing and read the word when they are done.

 

mosaic-booksThese activities will help your child develop the phonics skills necessary to become a fluent reader. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you may consider trying some of these to find out if phonics is an area they struggle.

If your child struggles with this foundational skill, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading specialist with training in structured literacy. Without explicit phonics instruction, it is unlikely that students with reading difficulties will increase their reading proficiency. If your child struggles, the best thing you can do as a parent is get them help as early as possible.

In our online tutoring program, our trained clinicians systematically and thoroughly teach phonics concepts to ensure that children master reading and writing. We also encourage parents to work with their children at home and provide many resources for you to use to help your child. If you are worried about your child’s reading, call us today to discuss your needs and learn how online tutoring with systematic phonics instruction can help your child succeed.

Look for more reading tips and tricks coming soon. If you are concerned about your child’s reading, call us today to set up a screening and find out if our online tutoring program is the right fit for your child.

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

 

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.

 

Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.

 

Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.

 

mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:

 

  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.

 

  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.

 

  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.

 

748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.

 

If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.

 

Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.

 

 

 

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.