I'm actually not even a teacher yet, but I'm getting very close! Teaching reading when there are different reading levels in your class is an issue that has been grabbing my attention lately. What are some effective ways any of you have found to at least somewhat accurately gauge a student's reading level? I still hate the idea of tests for such a thing, but do they work? Any other ways that are more effective?

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Once you have found the reading levels of your students you may want to level as many books in your library as you can to match books to students. I have found a site that has places to find levels for your books. (You may want to train a parent volunteer to help with this.) http://www.beavton.k12.or.us/home/staff/library/books/leveling/
If you use AR, the books are all leveled and it is a great program to increase reading.
At my school we do benchmark testing with Fountas and Pinnell's program. First they read a list of words, which generally points us toward the level where we should start them. Then they read a passage while we do running records. We find out accuracy, fluency rates, self-correction rates, and comprehension levels through this. Then based on a combination of the accuracy rate and the comprehension level, we find what's called an instructional level--a level where they can read somewhat successfully but still have a challenge. Then I put my students into their reading groups based on their insturctional levels.

Another place we get our benchmark materials is from Reading A-Z. They have a correlation chart so we know how it compares to the Fountas and Pinnell levels.

We also use Accelerated Reader for all levels, DIBELS for K-2, and MAPS for 3-6.
The DRA is a great way to gauge at what level students are reading. Not only do you give them a reading record, but they are also tested for reading engagement, fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. When I get my new class list for the next school year, I have access to all of their records, including past DRA scores so I have a fairly good idea of how to group them for guided reading before I even meet them.
Personally, I like a more structured assessment to determine initial reading levels particularly at the beginning of the year. I come from a very data driven training background and find that there is value to that. When there are any concerns with a child, it's the data that drives future support. I use the DRA and QRI tools for assessing reading levels. Both of these tools assess decoding abilities and comprehension. Comprehension is what drives my reading instruction at the third grade level. I also, however, look at daily work samples from the students. I look at their independent reading of self-selected books, as well as their ability to respond to literature both in writing and in oral discussions. I also assess fluency more formally through fluency assessments because fluency has a direct correlation to reading comprehension. Timothy Rasinski (the guro of fluency) has many valuable resources out there to assess and teach for fluency. Thus, I formulate a holistic picture of the child and his/her reading ability/level.
I'm wondering how teachers who group readers into leveled groups think about potential esteem issues that arise from that? I'm not saying that I agree with the research but research demonstrates that skilled groups do not always work effectively.

Just wondering?

Andrew Pass
You know, we've discussed this while doing our training for guided reading, and I have to tell you that upon implementing it, I haven't noticed it. It's not like the teacher is going to go around and say, "You're the high group, you're the middle group, you're the low group" (at least they better not). My students enjoy being in smaller groups where they can get more teacher face time, and they enjoy being successful--reading at their instructional level challenges them enough but they're not struggling over every word. To be quite honest, I don't think many of my students realize they're grouped by ability--they're just in small groups where they can read fun books and talk about them without competing with 14 other students for my attention.

I also do a combination of whole group and small group reading instruction from our basal text. This allows my students to feel they're doing the same thing as everyone else. The higher students can model good reading for the lower students.

The biggest problem I've had with doing small leveled groups is figuring out what to do with the other students so they're staying busy but not just doing busy work.
Andrew, What about the self esteem of the kid who is always asked to read material that is 3-5 years below his reading level? Each student should learn at the level they are capable in an environment that stresses what is 'fair for one is not necessarily fair for all". If the content is real rich and relevant all kids will be learning something new everyday.
I agree. Here at my school we try to use the word "equitable" rather than "equal." It goes with any type of differentiated instruction. The kids may notice at first that they're not doing exactly the same thing that other students are doing, but they get into the fact that they're doing something that they can do and kind of forget about it.



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