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Translating Teacher Talk: Reading Levels?

Translating Teacher-Talk:

Families, do you have questions about your children's literacy "levels"? Are there other things you're wondering but you haven't had the chance to ask their teacher? Are you wondering about observations you're making as your child develops reading and writing skills? What is a "normal" thing to do and know at X age?

Feel free to post questions or send me a message here. I'd be happy to answer them. I'd love to put together a list of interests and develop 2-5 minute videos that could explain those very points!

This week I've had several questions about the meaning of "reading levels A-Z". If you look at the chart to the right, you will see something teachers call "Guided Reading Levels". This means that the child can read a text of that level with teacher support and instruction. In contrast, "Independent Reading Levels", in which the child can read it alone with at least 94% accuracy. As new decoding challenges present themselves and content becomes more complex, reading levels increase in accordance with the alphabetic labels, Z being grade 8 and beyond. Text complexity is a scientific concept and linguistically compelling. It does make determining reading level a complex process, so it is wise to consider a range for each reader.

The Levels A-Z were classified by two literacy experts, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, from Lesley University, as they analyzed the ranges of number and types of words on a page and other information on the page that readers might use to gather information. The youngest, emergent readers (age 4-5) would read level A books, as seen below.

When teachers determine a students' guided reading level, they also consider the reader behaviors, such as whether the reader knows the direction to read, the frequency and manner in which they problem-solve through words, whether they can understand and talk about the text.

As someone who has studied literacy development from birth and beyond for over 20 years, I want to share with you that a reader is not an "exact" reading level. If the reader knows and is interested in the content of the story and if they are an impassioned reader, they can bring much more to the reading experience and therefore be various levels at once. Reading and writing are such complex and dimensional, cognitive and psychological experiences, that one cannot truly provide a reader an exact level but instead, a range.

As a diagnostician, through analysis of a number of observations, I can determine the landscape of a reader/writer's knowledge and a their thinking process, and identify the next steps for teaching. Reading and writing instruction is a fascinating endeavor! If you'd like to know more about myths about reading levels, click on this link. : )

I hope this is helpful. Continue to send questions my way!


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