Skills Block Step by Step | EL Education Curriculum

Skills Block Step by Step

Skills Block Benchmark Assessment: High Level Overview

Below is high-level guidance for administering EL Education's Benchmark Assessments for teachers. The description below gives directions on the cycle and steps for assessing, grouping, and instructing students.

Assessments are administered three times per year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Skills Block

Question #1

If I have a student who scores in a later microphase with decoding words, but scores in an earlier microphase with encoding words, which microphase should I place the student in?

When a student places later with decoding skills than encoding skills the teacher should take very detailed notes about the data from the assessment paying close attention to the skills that need to be reinforced.  For example, the student might have difficulty identifying the medial vowel sound and omit this in their writing, or maybe the student forgets to add the ending vowel to the bossy "r" words. In either case, we must ensure that the learning of a particular skill or pattern is solid.  If we advance the student based on the decoding score and not the encoding score, we run the risk of widening the gap in the student's learning because the complexity of spelling and having a firm knowledge of phonetic patterns will increase over time. The aim of the curriculum is to ensure that the student is both decoding and encoding at the same level.  It is advised to default to the earliest microphase to fill the missing gaps. Through progress monitoring along the way, teachers can later determine if the student is ready to advance to a later microphase based on data from cycle assessments and benchmark assessments.

Question #2

How do I decide the correct cycle to start my small group differentiated instruction?

After students complete their benchmark assessments, it is imperative that teachers analyze the data.  While there is guidance around the microphase that students place in based on the results of the assessment; it is up to the teacher to determine the cycle that most aligns with the area of need.  For example, using the conversion chart in the Resource Manual, we see that the late partial alphabetic phase begins with a review of Kindergarten skills in cycles 1-4. If a student places in the late partial alphabetic phase but has mastered Kindergarten skills, that student might start instruction at cycle 5 of the late partial alphabetic phase as opposed to cycle 1.

Question #3

I have graded my assessments, placed my students into microphase groups, and I know which cycle I want to begin teaching each group. Now, what do I do?

After groups and instructional cycles are determined, it will be important to begin the task of organizing the materials for workstations based on the skills that will be taught according to the cycle in the respective microphase. Keep in mind that the materials will be reused by different students over the course of the year as students progress through the microphases, and so creating structures for clean up and taking care of materials will be important. Materials should be assembled for the following work stations where appropriate: accountable independent reading (AIR), fluency, writing, and word work. 

 Question #4

How do I know if I have my students in the correct microphase or not?

The curriculum suggests microphases based on student performance on benchmark assessments.  Students are dynamic people who are ever-evolving and for this reason, progress monitoring is especially important for students who appear to exceed or lag behind in a microphase.  Conducting frequent cycle assessments and monitoring snapshot assessment results is the most efficient way to determine if students are ready to move on to the next microphase or double down with the skills in their current microphase.  When time permits, administering the benchmark assessment in a shorter interval will be helpful to determine movement. This should only be done with the few students who seem to be overly exceeding or lagging behind in the current microphase.

Question #5

I am giving the Letter Name and Sound Recognition assessment and am confused about how to place a student.  How do I place students in the correct microphase?

To demonstrate proficiency in letter recognition, <Total Letters Known>, students should recognize at least forty-two out of fifty-two letters. To demonstrate proficiency of letter-sound identification, <Total Sounds Known>, students should recognize at least forty-two out of fifty-two correct letter-sound correlations. Although there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, students are assessed on combined upper- and lowercase letters, which reflect the number fifty-two indicated on the letter name and sound scoring sheet. It is important to note that the Phase Theory research does not identify a specific number of letters or letter sounds that a child should be able to name in order to move from one phase to the next. Therefore, the guidance above is given to reflect that a student knows at least 80% of the skills being assessed.

If students meet the guidance above, teachers can administer the spelling benchmark assessment, starting with the partial alphabetic word list for spelling and the middle partial alphabetic word list for decoding to determine the highest leverage goals for the students who are ready for more challenges. If students do not master these assessments, don't worry; return to the late pre-alphabetic microphase, which begins in our EL Education Curriculum at Kindergarten Module 1, and monitor their growth in letter and sound identification through snapshot assessments. 

For students who do not recognize at least forty-two combined upper- and lowercase letters and sounds, teachers may administer the phonological awareness assessment to identify discrete skills that need to be learned.

Conversion Chart

Pre-AlphabeticNot ApplicableNot Applicable

GKM1, C1-4: ABC sounds and recognition; syllable and rhyme identification, concepts of print

GKM2, C5-11: ABC sounds and recognition, syllable identification; rhyme identification and production, concepts of print


GKM3, C12-18: digraphs, decoding CVC words, comparing short vowel sounds

GKM4, C19-22: decoding CVC words and beginning to decode CVCC; comparing long and short vowel sounds

GKM4, C23-25: Long vowel sounds and r-controlled vowels

G1M1, C 1-4 Kindergarten review cycles, and would not be appropriate for readers in the Late Partial Alphabetic phase.

G1M2, C5-6continued review of phonemes taught in Kindergarten

G1M2, C7-11: initial and final consonant clusters, "y" as /i/


G1M3, C12-17: syllable types: closed- syllable, open- syllable, and CVCe syllable-type words

G1M3, C18: two-syllable, CVCe syllable-type words

G1M4, C19-20: introduction r-controlled vowel sounds

G1M4, C21-24: long vowel patterns

G1M3, C18: two-syllable, CVCe syllable-type words

G1M4, C19-20: introduction r-controlled vowel sounds

G1M4, C21-24: long vowel patterns


G2M2, C7-C12: new vowel teams and spelling generalizations, contractions, affixes: "-ed" suffix (three ways), "-tion" and "-sion"

G2M3, C13-C19: consonant-le (C-le) word endings, other word endings, new vowel teams, and contractions

G2M4, C20-C26: "y" generalizations with plural endings, schwa, homophones, compound words, new word endings, and contractions

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