Saturday, June 4, 2016

Can We Get a Level Please?

As many of you know there are so MANY ways to level text.  For years we have tried to determine what is a frustrational, independent and instructional level for the students we teach. I recognize that the notion of instructional levels (and even Guided Reading) is being challenged currently (see Shanahan) but some teachers are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea. I know- 'cause I work with them all over the country.  So before we challenge the idea of levels in our teaching practices... let's get a common understanding of what exactly is being challenged.

So... frustrational level... kids are going to see it! They should see it! They should be struggling with it and doing close readings of it.  But that would be the text we use in our whole class settings and spend time repeatedly reading for a different purpose to better understand what the text says, how it says it, and what it means.  So... to do this... teachers are looking more closely at LEXILE levels.  You can use Scholastic Book Wizard to do this. You can check out the Lexile suggestions for grade levels.  It is a step in the analysis of complex text which would also be FRUSTRATIONAL for most of our students.

So what about independent? Teachers need to know this... students need to know this... but it is NOT THE ONLY DETERMINING FACTOR for text selection!  Did you hear that? Don't believe it? Spend some time with Donalyn Miller... Kylene Beers... Richard Allington... Kelly Galagher... do I need to continue? It's typically the STAR assessment teachers use to help them understand a student's "independent" level.  Keep in mind though... motivation matters more than level.
Kids who want to- will!

I guarantee you some of you reading this post have a higher reading level than me... if we both walked into a book store together and through a scanner that reported our "level" and I had to go one way to the 24.5 books and you got to go another to the 26.7 books... I'd be pretty darn sad.

So this brings me to INSTRUCTIONAL LEVELS... still very much alive and well... as they should be in classrooms.  There are a variety of ways to level out there... but I encourage us all to convert.

Convert your numbers (DRA perhaps) to Fountas and Pinnell.  Why? Because their work gives us the most information to guide our work at the teacher table!  If you haven't seen it yet... the Continuum of Literacy Learning may be one of the best resources and one-stop-shops for what we teach in each component of the Balanced Literacy Framework by grade level.

If instructional levels are confusing to teachers... imagine what they are like for parents???!!! Oy vey! So... we've got to be clear about what a "level" is at the Guided Reading table as educators and be able to communicate that information to families.

Does that sound like a good idea? If you've read this far, I'm assuming it's because you want to know what FREE tool Leach Teach is going to offer?

Well... here is it!  (gosh I use a lot of ...)

This is just the first page, but this document outlines the characteristics of each level A-Z as well as the behaviors to notice/support/teach a reader at each level.  I created this when I was part of the team at DC Public Schools and encouraged teachers to send the page at their child's level home for parents with report cards or progress reports.  Just a good and simple way to explain "levels" for everyone.  You can get your copy HERE!

*NOTE: When reporting reading levels to parents... remember to report their independent level... if parents don't know how to do Guided Reading/Strategy Lessons then they can't be told their child's instructional level.

See how complicated this all is???!!!

Happy Teaching, y'all!

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