Can I contact you?
Yes. We always love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
Phone: 0455 491 199
Please do have a scan of these FAQs, just in case your query is answered here. It is challenging times for us all and we are trying our upmost to maintain our usual friendly and prompt service.
What is the LLARS?
The LLARS is the Little Learners Assessment of Reading Skills.
Is the LLARS “normed”?
The quick answer to this question is no - the LLARS is not currently a norm-referenced test.
What is a norm-referenced test? A norm-referenced test is an assessment (often made up of multiple-choice questions, but not always) designed to compare and rank your students with a comparison group of students. Test results are presented in percentiles (e.g. a percentile of 80 means that the student’s score is better than 80% of children who have already taken the test). This allows you to see if your students perform better or worse than a hypothetical average student taking the test.
Norm-referenced tests work best and are most useful to us, if:
- we are working off a common set of standards (curriculum) and therefore have common goals or benchmarks;
- the comparison group is roughly comparable to your students/classrooms;
- the assessment is online to capture the data,
- your aim is to compare students’ abilities.
Norm-referenced tests are not usually used to tell you whether the skills and knowledge taught to date have been acquired and mastered by the student. An example might be to compare the purpose between an IQ test (compares people’s intellect against each other) and a quiz (do you have the knowledge or not?).
How does the LLARS work instead?
We ask that you get all your children to master Stage 6 by the end of Foundation year, and Stage 7.4 by the end of Year 1. These are our benchmarks for our teaching sequence. If they are achieved then children will have the skills and knowledge required to pass the Phonics Screening Check, and to progress into Year 2.
The LLARS is freely available and can be used by schools who are teaching with the LLLL program and by those who are not - so long as the school is teaching systematic synthetic phonics and are aware of any difference between the LLLL Stages and their own teaching sequence.
Does the LLARS use non-words?
Yes - the new edition of the LLARS includes a non-word (or nonsense word) test.
The Single-Word Reading Subtest 2 now consists of:
- Real words, which test decoding and word recognition*.
- Non-words, which test decoding and mastery of PGC knowledge.
Non-words are not real words, but they use phoneme/grapheme correspondences in a regular way so we can decode them and read them out loud. Words like ‘zog’, ‘brip’ and ‘flait’ are examples of non-words.
The Little Learners Love Literacy® program is designed to get children reading and spelling at a mastery level and non-words are an effective tool for assessing this.
It is impossible for students to recognise or memorise non-words because they have never seen them before -they have to use their phonic knowledge to sound out and blend to read these unfamiliar words. This is especially useful in the early stages when CVC words are often familiar high frequency words. If children can recognise and read these familiar words this is great news, but we also need to be sure they have mastered the phonics content you have taught. Non-words simulate the scenario we want to prepare ALL students for - being able to read any word familiar or not by using their phonic knowledge.
Non-words are an assessment tool only. Non-words should not be taught or practised; they are not otherwise part of the Little Learners Love Literacy® program. A pronunciation guide is provided in the teacher materials for your reference.
*whole word recognition or now commonly referred to as orthographic mapping is the ability to read words with automaticity. Once a word has been decoded a number of times children should be able to read the word without sounding and out and blending every time. This is not the same as memorising words.
What does the LLARS assess?
The LLARS tests alphabetic knowledge and reading skills following the Little Learners Love Literacy Program sequence.
Skills assessed in each subtest:
- Subtest 1: Grapheme/phoneme knowledge. Assesses student’s knowledge of the 44 sounds (phonemes) of the English alphabetic code and the corresponding graphemes (spellings) of those phonemes - as covered in the LLLL program.
- Subtest 2: Single-word decoding. Assesses student’s ability to apply phoneme/grapheme knowledge to decode one and two syllable words with automaticity. The subtest is split into two word lists: non-words (to check mastery of PGCs and decoding) and real words (to check decoding and also word recognition).
- Subtest 3: Heart words for Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. Assesses automatically recognising and reading 15 words which are not decodable (at this stage but will become decodable as the student learns more about the alphabetic code) but are necessary for connected text.
- Subtest 4: reading unseen decodable texts. Asses student’s ability to read a short connected text by applying their phoneme-grapheme knowledge, decoding and word recognition skills. This subtest assesses decoding, word recognition, fluency, stamina and literal comprehension including vocabulary.
When should I use the LLARS?
The LLARS is a formative assessment. Use it at least twice per year - at the end of Term 2 and at the end of Term 3 or midway through Term 4. Do not use the LLARS until you have finished teaching Stages 1-4.
To keep the assessment to a reasonable time for children’s concentration, we recommend organising 2 separate sessions per student when you administer the LLARS:
- Session 1 for the grapheme/phoneme knowledge and single word reading (subtests 1-3)
- Session 2 for the unseen decodable texts (subtest 4).
How do I store and present my LLARS data?
We recommend that you keep 1 folder per student throughout Foundation and Year 1. Keep your student summary sheet/s at the front of the folder showing dates of tests, an overview of scores, and your targets/next steps. Also store your score sheets/notes from each assessment. Behind the studen summary sheet for reference. Each score sheet should be named and dated at the time of assessment using the spaces provided.
Use the LLARS Excel templates to record and display your class results. This can also be used to present year-level data.
What should I do with my LLARS data?
The aim is the assess and monitor students’ skills to inform your teaching and identify the specific needs of each students. The LLARS will identify exactly what students know and to what level that can apply their skills. Our aim is for every child to demonstrate mastery of each LLLL Stage.
Use the data to:
- plan your next term’s teaching – does anything need to be re-taught to the majority of the class?
- inform your tier 2 intervention groups – do you have any children with common specific skills problems or knowledge gaps that you could address in regular, short group sessions in addition to your usual lessons.
- make arrangements for tier 3 intervention – is any child not achieving as expected? Do they need an more intensive 1-1 program?
- identify areas that more able students need to work on/ could be stretched by – did your more able students read continuous texts fluently? Might they be ready to learn more morphology? Is there non-word reading score as good as their other scores?
- feedback to stakeholders -parents/carers, colleagues. This data can be used for report writing as it clearly identifies what the child has mastered, and what is the next step to teach.
The LLARS manual contains guidance and information for error analysis to inform your specific next steps for each child.
(If you have a split year classroom and stream your students into groups, you can also use the LLARS to inform the grouping of your students. You will need the Set B materials as you will be assessing on a more regular basis to ensure groupings are fluid and appropriate for each child as they develop.)
Can I use the LLARS with all children?
Yes – you can use the LLARS with all of your students until they have mastered the content of Stage 7.5. There are some exceptions to consider:
- If a child can’t decode (sound out and blend to read) a CVC word, don’t use the LLARS with them yet.
- If a child has auditory or visual impairment: Contact us if you would like permission to use the LLARS in a large print or braille version.
How does the LLARS work with my other assessments?
The LLARS supports an explicit and systematic synthetic phonics teaching approach. It will not correlate with benchmarking kits such as Fountas and Pinnell and PM, which are based on a balanced literacy approach. No phonics-based assessment will do this.
Consider why you are assessing and what you want to find out from it. If you want to know what PM level book a child can read, then the LLARS isn’t for you. If you want to know what alphabetic knowledge and word reading skills your student has and what their next steps are to move them forward (based on reading-science) then the LLARS is for you. Your assessment must match your teaching approach and philosophy. To the best of our knowledge there is no state or federal requirement to report PM levels or similar. If you are concerned about this, you should discuss it with your leadership team and perhaps consider talking to a Little Learners Love Literacyã school to share information and experience.
- The LLARS does work well with the TOPALL – Test of Phonological Awareness of Little Learners. The TOPALL was developed by Vikki Stone a speech pathologist in Bendigo.
- The LLARS will not replace any specific special needs diagnostics that you already have in place.
- The LLARS can be used very nicely with the Phonics Screening Check. Use the phonics screening check at the end of Year 1 as a summative assessment to see if children have mastered the skills and knowledge required outside of the LLLL program’s progression. It is mandatory to do a Phonics Screening Check in SA at the end of Year 1. The NSW Dept of Education are trialling a Phonics Screening Check this year – 2020.
Can I use the LLARS to assess spelling?
No, the LLARS does not assess spelling.
Little Learners Love Literacy® have developed the Little Learners Assessment of Spelling Skills (the LLASS) to assess spelling separately.
How much will the LLARS cost my school?
The LLARS is free and can be downloaded from our website. You can also purchase a hardcopy LLARS Teacher Manual (or pack of manuals) from our website if you wish to.