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?

Tags: English, Reading

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Oh now I beg to differ. There is considerable research that shows a positive correlation between good fluency and comprehension. Your previous post stated things better: "...comprehension is the end focus, not fluency." However, you go a bit far stating that "fluency is irrelevant."
Thanks for your input!
One of the quickest ways that I have found to assess a student's reading level is the Schlagel Spelling Inventory. The Schlagel has been highly correlated (researched for years) with student's word recognition abilities. Instructional level for schlagel is 50%. Therefore, you can find independent, instructional & frustration levels for both writing & reading. The most important facet for independent & instructional reading is a high level of word recognition - it's much more important than comprehension as it's a better gauge of ability.
Hope that helps.
Learn how to match reading levels of texts to reading levels of your students without time-consuming assessments. Also, learn how much independent reading is needed to make grade to grade progress. Check out How to Choose the Right Book.
No, Maryanne, word recognition is NOT more important than comprehension. Comprehension is the whole purpose of reading. Without comprehension, reading is meaningless.
Hi Rachel,

Actually I am a retired teacher, but remained active with our technology department in our school district.

Our school district uses the Dibels program to determine reading levels. (I see several good answers down below for more tools.) Many districts have their own tools for teachers in place already, so you may not have to worry about finding your own.

There are programs out there that can help with this. Before our parish could afford tools for this, many of us just used teacher judgement. (look at a combination of oral reading, comprehension grades and overall reading abilities and divide them into groups). You will have to move some at times, but that should not be an issue.

Personally, I feel the secret doesn't lie only in the tool to determine levels, but what to do with the information once you have the information and reading level..

Once the levels are determined, we use centers, grouping and differentiated reading to address individual student needs. It can all be a little overwhelming at first, but personally I feel the best advice is to take it slow and move at your own pace with all of it. It may take time, but you will find your stride.

My NECC 2009 presentation was on Raising the Bar: Differentiated Learning and I tried to break it down for others to see how to get started after the reading levels are found.

This is just my two cents.... I found success with it. Good luck with your teaching experiences!


My website is @ http://www.vrml.k12.la.us/smbodin.
Email me if you have questions @ stacybodin@aol.com or smbodin@vrml.k12.la.us. I also have a twitter account @ http://twitter.com/stacybodin.

Learn how to match reading levels of texts to reading levels of your students without time-consuming assessments. Also, learn how much independent reading is needed to make grade to grade progress. Check out How to Choose the Right Book.
When I taught reading several years ago I used the San Diego Quick assessment with my 7th graders. My district uses a couple of different standardized tests but I wanted something fast at the beginning of the year. It really was quick and it was fairly accurate. I then tried to steer kids to books that were written at their level. It's hard when you have a large class and reading levels from 3rd grade through 12th grade. When teaching one story to the whole class you have to help those struggling. Tapes of stories that they may listen to, reading with a partner, reading aloud yourself are some ways to help. None of them are perfect, but when you have your own class you will get to know your students and will figure out the ways to help...
In reading responses, I can see that everyone (or each district) seems to have their own route in choosing groups/levels.

I have used DRA and Dibels and found both very helpful in placing students in my reading center groups when school started. For the most part, the information gathered served as a catalyst in placing the students and gave me a sound direction where to go and what their strengths or weaknesses were. Once I had that, I was ready to move forward, so in my experience, it was a good route for me.

Thanks for posting such a wonderful question! I love the great responses here!
I use STAR Reading (REN Place). It gives a great diagnostic report, IRL, GE,SS andZPD I have students take the test 3 times each school year and I can see the growth.
We have worked with Star for awhile now too. It was used to begin AR reading. This is the first year we are testing the students three times to see growth level. ! I think it is a wonderful way to assess the growth in each student. We are using it for Math as well this year. Thanks for the input!
I hope by now you are a teacher. There is certainly lots of good advice we can harvest here. The danger is relying on any one assessment. If I were to rely on Lexile scores alone, it would miss those students who successfully read more challenging novels. Their responses in Literature Letters (this year they will blog) provide another opportunity for assessing growth. At the other end of the spectrum, I've taught several word callers. They read fluently and with expression, but they have little understanding about what they have read.

This year, I noticed a group of boys who are not performing as I expected. So my observations are part of that assessment. Past Report cards, State assessment, and Lexile scores all help, especially when they are in agreement. Something doesn't match here. I'll be talking to past teachers and parents, too. I'll probably give an Individual Reading Inventory to one or two of them. Each method has strengths along with weaknesses. When I'm not confident of my assessment I use a broader range of tools and continue to keep my eye on them. Maybe they just need motivation.

You're right not to trust testing alone, but accurate assessment will make use of multiple tools. Strong teachers also are willing to realize it's possible to "get it wrong" and make adjustments. Keep asking these questions. I still do even after 30 years of teaching. When I stop it will be time to retire.



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