Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Assessing Reading Levels

What's Schoolin'?

One of the most effective ways that I've seen to increase reading proficiency is to target a child's instructional reading level.  It's much more effective to scaffold them up than to start at the goal and push/pull them through frustration level reading when they are "behind" where you think they should be according to their age/grade.

I found Reading Workshop a la Nancy Atwell to be especially useful while teaching 4th graders.  By that point I had students ranging in reading levels from pre-1st to 6th and beyond PLUS the same variety of levels in their second language (English).  A few had never been to school before and had the whole gamut of print concepts and lots of catching up to do (they did :) ).  Others were ready to exit the Bilingual Ed program and be at the top of their regular class after transitioning (a few went straight into the gifted program).  A few others stayed at grade 1 reading level and were waiting to get special help through Special Ed but still maintained their positive image as readers throughout the school year.  How did I know all this?  I individually tested every single child for their reading levels.  In both languages.  Twice - at the beginning and end of the year.  Quite a few grew 2 grades + in their reading levels in one or both languages.

The trick to their growth?  Focused reading in their instructional reading level.  During Reading Workshop the kids were strewn all over the room, under desks, in corners, and some actually in chairs :).  I taught them how to select books at their targeted instructional level.  I went around constantly listening to them read and asking comprehension questions.  They knew to start vocalizing (reading aloud softly) whenever I approached them.  Then I would either move on or ask questions.  We had questions that were general to the class for them to respond to in their notebooks regarding the particular book they were reading.  It was glorious!  Seriously!

At other times they could read whatever they wanted (during SSR or after finishing work early), but during Reading Workshop they only read books at their individual instructional levels.  At other times they could also talk while they worked (you should have seen 'contract time' or cooperative group activities!) but during Reading Workshop it was truly silent reading with no distractions for an extended amount of time.

There are 3 basic reading levels:
- Independent
- Instructional
- Frustration

This fits within Montessori (in my humble opinion) because once you test and show the child how to select books at their instructional level they are empowered and can move forward on their own as they are ready.  You provide the prepared environment of appropriate books and they can select them by choice.  That said, I also firmly believe that books of interest, regardless of reading level, should also be available - they just serve a different purpose.

To find out the reading levels there are several Informal Reading Inventories that you can use.  I will post some resources in my next post.  And yes, YOU can do this! :)  

What's Cookin'?

Another cracker recipe (1 C yogurt; 3 C flour; 1/2 C butter and salt):

Oldest dd is in the middle of making a blueberry pie.  She's adjusting a recipe from Whatchagot Stew by P.McManus.  Basically she is mixing 4 C blueberries (or one bag of frozen blueberries) with 3/4 C rapadura, a dash of Real Salt , and 3 tablespoons of flour.  After putting that in the pie crust she is putting 1-2 tablespoons of butter pats on top.  She is topping it with another pie crust.  I'm sure it will be delicious and much better, health-wise, than a store-bought version with trans fats, etc. [Update:  It was so excellent that we pigged out and each had 2 pieces with dinner... no leftovers!]

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