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Be Systematic about Moving Kids from One Reading Level to the Next

Teaching children to read can be challenging. Reading is a meaning-making process, and it requires the building of skills and strategies designed to make sense of the words on the page. Teachers have about 175 days during which they can help guide their students’ reading. Understanding how reading levels work can significantly improve literacy development in the students you teach. Fountas and Pinnell are two women who created a reading level system designed to help teachers and students make sense of the reading process.

Be systematic about moving students from one reading level to the next

Why do reading levels work?

Fountas and Pinnell’s teachings about reading levels are rooted in the work of Marie Clay, who researched the reading process extensively. She discovered that when a text is too difficult for a child, the child’s reading process breaks down. When the text is just challenging enough, but not too much, the child can build on skills and strategies already learned. Fountas and Pinnell developed a systematic process for moving kids from one reading level to the next. This increases a child’s literacy development because they are reading and skill building daily.

How to use leveled reading?

When students start school, a teacher will sit down to read with each student from leveled books. They will do a formal reading assessment to figure out at which level each student is currently reading. Each leveled book is assigned a letter or number based on how difficult the text is as well as the strategies needed to decode or comprehend it. Teachers assign students reading levels based on the data from the reading assessments. Teachers meet with students in small groups and individually. They teach skills and strategies designed to help students move to the next reading level. This systematic approach increases literacy development by helping students build skills and strategies at their own pace.

The 10 text characteristics for guided reading

  1. Genre/Form
  2. Text Structure
  3. Content
  4. Themes and Ideas
  5. Language and Literary Features
  6. Sentence Complexity
  7. Vocabulary
  8. Words
  9. Illustrations
  10. Book and Print Features

As readers become more expert at reading, their fluency and comprehension grow as well. Reading levels are designed to grow as readers grow. As children build stamina and understanding of how to connect texts to their experiences, their literacy development increases as well.

Learn about the UT Arlington online master’s degree in literacy program.


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