More on the Teaching with Books at the Students' Reading Levels

  • amount of reading within instruction instructional level scaffolding challenging text
  • 28 February, 2015
  • 25 Comments
Teacher question:
Please provide the research about how teaching students using instructional level texts does not yield results! I am a literacy coach with five years of successful guided reading with below-level ELL's, working with them at their instructional level for TWENTY MINUTES A DAY. The rest of our two-hour block is spent with students immersed in either an independent book of their choice (also about 20-25 minutes) or in grade level text (1+ hours). I feel confident that I am teaching CCSS Standard 10 because my students read complex text in whole group with my scaffolding. I understand you've probably posted it many times, but please post it again here so I can see the research about why these 20 minutes of my students' day, where I see them growing by leaps and bounds, is actually preventing them from achieving the Common Core standards!
Shanahan response:
I’ve never written that no learning results from being taught from texts at one’s instructional level. In fact, the majority U.S. kids are currently taught in that fashion—and most American kids are learning to read, albeit not as well as we want them to. I have no doubt that your students are learning something from the instructional level teaching that you are offering them.
But the real issue has to do with what’s best for kids, rather than what works. The men and women who manned the “iron lungs” of the 1950s did much for polio victims. No doubt about it. But they didn’t do as much as Sabin and Salk who took a different approach to the matter. Iron lungs worked. Polio vaccines worked better.
Teaching kids at their instructional level works. But you can often do better if you give kids the opportunity to learn more by placing them in more challenging texts.
You don’t indicate which grade level you teach, so it’s important to stress that instructional level appears to matter initially—that’s when kids are first learning to read—but it doesn’t seem to matter after that. Perhaps you are working with first-graders or kids who are reading at a first-grade level, in which case, I think you're going the right direction. (Of course, if you’re talking about kids who can read at a second- grade level and up, then I’d question why you are teaching everyone as if they were first-graders.)
Your instructional use of time seems peculiar to me. Two hours of reading class with no explicit instruction in decoding, fluency, vocabulary, or comprehension? I know there are fans of the idea that we just learn to read by reading, and I’ve certainly been critical about the lack of reading withininstruction, but the research records on explicit teaching of the skills noted above--including to English learners--are just too good to ignore. Teaching any of the skills listed above has several times the impact on kids’ reading growth than having them off reading on their own. (I do encourage kids to read independently when I don’t have a highly skilled teacher available to work with them, but having them off reading separately from instruction when I do have such a teacher available seems wasteful.)
Unlike what has been traditionally proposed by guided reading advocates, I have supported the idea of teaching kids with texts at multiple levels. That is, not all of the required reading should be at a student’s instructional level. Learning and consolidation come from taking on different levels of challenge—varying the workload from easy to strenuous. I like that you are intentionally having students read texts at multiple levels of demand. 
Nevertheless, I’m puzzled as to why you work so closely with children when you believe they will have little or no difficulty with a text (you indicate that you work in small groups with kids in books at their instructional level—in other words, texts—that if left to their own devices—they could read with 75% comprehension). But when students are required to read texts more likely to be at a frustration level, then you only provide scaffolding on a whole class basis (oh, how I wish you would have described that explicitly). 
My approach to this is different: when children need a lot of help to carry out a task (such as when asked to read a text that they can’t manage on their own), I think it’s best to provide a lot of close support. And, when they can do reasonably well without me, I try to step back a bit and give them their head. You apparently believe the opposite—you are close by with few distractions to interfere when they don’t need you, and you are more distant and removed when real and immediate support would be beneficial. I find that puzzling.
  Ultimately, the only thing that matters in this is how well your students can read. If they can successfully read the text levels set by your standards—on their own—then what you are doing sounds great to me. But if many of them can only do such reading successfully—with adequate word recognition and comprehension—when you’re scaffolding for them, then you might want to rethink some of your approaches. Your kids might be growing by “leaps and bounds” (I’d be happy to examine the evidence), but if they aren’t growing sufficiently to reach the standards, then I’d encourage you to be less dedicated to particular instructional approaches and more dedicated to helping your kids reach particular goals. 
Finally, you requested some research sources. There are many bodies of research that nibble at the edges of this topic, including studies that have challenged the accuracy and reliability of the ways that we identify children’s instructional levels, examined correlationally the relationship between how well students are matched to books and student learning, relationships among text levels and student interest, and the effectiveness of the kind of group instruction that you describe including its impact on various demographic groups like high poverty populations or African American children. Those bodies of research aren’t particularly kind to the instructional level theory, but here I’ll only provide citations of studies that have directly compared the effectiveness of teaching students (second graders and up) with instructional level texts and with frustration level texts. I’d gladly include similar studies that have found instructional level teaching to be more effective; unfortunately, no such studies exist at this tim in the scientific literature. 
References
Kuhn, M.R., Schwanenflugel, P.J., Morris, R.D., Morrow, L.M., Woo, D.G., Meisinger, E.B., Savrik, R.A., Bradley, B.A., & Stahl, S.A. (2006). Teaching children to become fluent and automatic readers. Journal of Literacy Research, 38, 357-387.
Morgan, A., Wilcox, B. R., & Eldredge, J. L. (2000). Effect of difficulty levels on second-grade delayed readers using dyad reading. Journal of Educational Research, 94, 113–119.
O’Connor, R. E., Swanson, H. L., & Geraghty, C. (2010). Improvement in reading rate under independent and difficult text levels: Influences on word and comprehension skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 1–19.

Comments

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Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:00 PM

3/1/2015

Dr S. - Please clarify what you mean my the appropriateness of using "instructional level" text in 1st grade. You say, "...it’s important to stress that instructional level appears to matter initially—that’s when kids are first learning to read—but it doesn’t seem to matter after that. Perhaps you are working with first-graders or kids who are reading at a first-grade level, in which case, I think you're going the right direction."

I am guessing you do not mean instructional level in terms of systems such as the F&P A-Z text gradient. Am I correct in thinking you mean "instructional level text" in terms of where students are in the progression of acquiring the knowledge necessary to read? For example, a first grade teacher works with a small group of children who need to learn the CVC syllable pattern. She explicitly teaches this and gives students text that allows ample opportunity to solve CVC words. Then she meets with a different group of students who are solid with the CVC pattern, so she teaches those children the VCe syllable pattern and has them use text that offers ample opportunity to solve VCe words, and so forth, until students have the knowledge they need to access more complex, less decodable texts.

Is that what you mean by instructional level text being appropriate for 1st grade? Thanks!

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:00 PM

3/1/2015

The term "instructional level" has been used in the field since the 1940s to refer to how texts are matched to students. The claim has been that texts must be at a students' instructional level if they are going to learn well. Instructional level is determined by how well students can read a text aloud and how well they can comprehend it (typically the instructional level designation is accorded to a text if students can recognize about 95% of its words and answer about 75% of the questions asked about it).

So, yes, I'm talking about text gradient (F&Ms scheme, but also text leveling schemes with stronger research supports like Lexiles). The guided reading claim has been that children need to be taught with books at their instructional levels; however, research does not support such claims beyond a beginning reading level and most states have now adopted standards that specify the levels of text that students must learn to read if they are to meet standards (in other words, if you teach students in Grade 2-12 at their instructional levels instead of the grade levels, you will NOT be teaching your state's standards).

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:01 PM

3/1/2015

I guess I am confused about the lack of attention to text decodability in this post. I worry that K/1 teachers in schools that emphasize the F&P text gradient could walk away from this post and think it was best practice to assess a child's instructional level with the F&P benchmark assessment, determine "He's a G," and only instruct that child using books that F&P have stamped with a G - regardless of the texts' ability to help students acquire and apply specific skills that align with current instructional targets.

Would decodability and text-lesson match not be something for K/1 teachers to consider when selecting books for students, especially in the context of explicitly and systematically teaching the Reading Foundational Skills outlined in the CCSS?

See the following for the same idea in an intervention setting: Murray, M. S., Munger, K. A., Hiebert, E. H.(2014). An analysis of two reading intervention programs: How do the words, texts, and programs compare? Elementary School Journal, 114(4), 479-500

Thank you for your time and thoughts.

Dick Schutz
Jun 13, 2017 04:02 PM

3/1/2015

"Instructional level" made a bit of sense in the 1940s+ pre-Standards&StandizedTests era when primary reading instruction was conducted with a grade-by-grade textbook and workbook per child.
Then, by Grade 3ish, reading instruction had ended and was morphing into Literature. The protocol worked out (albeit dysfunctionally) because there were no "tests aligned to standards" that teachers had to contend with.

Today, "instructional level" is a figment of imagination and it depends on who is imagining. The teacher's "resources" have expanded from a textbook to a trunk load + "computers." Students at each grade level are strewn "all over the place" "below grade" and "above grade" as well as "at grade."

If a child has learned/been taught how to handle the English Alphabetic Code in interacting with text, "the kid can read"--and will comprehend what is being read as well as if the communication was spoken.

With that capability, individuals can read anything they want to or that EdLand wants them to. If they don't have the requisite background experience they won't comprehend what they are reading, no matter how much "close reading" is crammed into them.

"Instructional levels" and "leveled texts" meet the needs of publishers and professors, but they are cruel and inhumane to everyone else.

Granted, the pubs and profs mean well, but who doesn't.

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:03 PM

3/1/2015


I disagree with much of what you have to say here. Instructional level didn't work any better in the 1940s than it does now. The problem is that the theory just doesn't work despite its wide popularity with teachers. Publishers are providing the books that teachers have wanted to buy--they haven't forced schools to do that.

Your theory about how prior knowledge works in reading makes little or no sense. If prior knowledge is needed to allow any of us to learn anything, then how does learning get started. Do you really believe that kids are born with cultural knowledge?

Close reading is a form of critical reading that requires readers to analyze not just what an author writes, but how the text works (how it has its effect on readers). You might think that is something that just professors want, but, in fact, it is something most of us want for our children (no matter who we may vote for).

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:03 PM

3/1/2015

There are very strong theories about beginning reading and the role that decodable text plays (and even what decodability means). It would be the rare text that received an easy rating in anyone's text scheme if it didn't use a large proportion of words that followed simple CVS patterns. So far research has not been particularly helpful in showing us how to measure what is easy about a text. Freddie Hiebert and Jill Fitzgerald are working on such a project right now. When they report a research finding we might be able to figure out the best sequence for early texts.

In any event, the idea of the instructional level has nothing directly to do with decodability or predictability. It is based entirely on the child's performance with the text. That is, whether the text is decodable or not, if the child could read it with 95% accuracy, we would have classified it as being at the instructional level and appropriate for that child.

My earlier point is that we should not be increasing text difficulty over what it may be now at Grades K-1. The standards in no state require that we do so, and theoretically there are good reasons to think that might be a bad idea. However, from Grades 2 and up, we don't have to be afraid of raising text difficulty above a child's instructional level.

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:04 PM

3/2/2015

Dr S. - I completely understand the concept of "instructional level text" meaning that the child can successfully "decode" 95% of the words and correctly answer 75% of questions asked about it. I completely understand that this shouldn't matter beyond Grade 2, once children have learned to read, and they should be given more complex texts.

What I am concerned about is that your original blog post might be interpreted, in a school using the F&P framework, as justification to keep the status quo in K-1. I have to strongly disagree with your statement, "It would be the rare text that received an easy rating in anyone's text scheme if it didn't use a large proportion of words that followed simple CVS (CVC) patterns." Here are some examples of the texts used in the F&P Benchmark System:

Level A has only 1 word that follows the CVC syllable pattern:

Best Friends
We like to run.
We like to dance.
We like to swing.
We like to climb.
We like to slide.
We like to ride.
We like to paint.
We love to read.

Level B has only 2 words that follow a CVC syllable pattern:

Playing
I like to play with a truck.
I like to play with a car.
I like to play with a ball.
I like to play with a doll.
I like to play with a train.
I like to play with a plane.
I like to play with a boat.
I like to play with my dog.

Level E (mid-first grade)
The Zoo
You can see elephants at the zoo.
The baby elephant can walk on the day it is born!
You can see brown bears at the zoo. The baby bears stay with their mother.
You can see polar bears at the zoo...(and so forth.)

Accurately "decoding" 95% of these texts does not mean that students have learned the skills necessary for accurate and fluent decoding. It means they have learned a few sight words, catch on to a pattern of predictable text, and can use the pictures and initial consonants to guess the correct words. Additionally, the F&P Benchmark assessment does not use the 75% comprehension question accuracy construct to define instructional level. There is a "comprehension conversation" that is scored on a subjective 0-3 point rubric.

In K-1, the decodability of a text and its match to lesson objectives in the context of the Reading Foundational Skills of the CCLS needs to enter the conversation, because many teachers understand "instructional level" to mean what the F&P benchmarks say, not what you (and the literature since the 1940s) are saying.

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:05 PM

3/2/2015

Your point about "instructional level" and the amount of teacher time involved really got me thinking. I'm getting so many requests for more "leveled readers" - can't guided reading use more complex texts? Seems to me it could. I do believe that teachers working with small groups of students based on skill level. I can see it with small groups, even later on, who struggle with finding main idea, author's purpose, etc. Am I missing something?
Thanks!

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:05 PM

3/2/2015


No, you are not missing a thing. Why not take those small groups and use them to scaffold more challenging grade level texts rather than having kids reading relatively easy materials with that level of support. The way we have been doing this needs to be rethought--it sounds like you are doing that right now.

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:05 PM

3/2/2015

Fair point. Thanks for taking the time on this. One of the problems with grading beginning readers is that there are so many schemes for scaffolding these texts to allow kids to read them (controlled vocabulary, limiting the phonemic-alphabetic matches, rhyming, predictable text, etc.). My comments should not be taken as endorsing approaches to beginning text design that do not support children's early development of decoding skills as the primary way of reading the texts.

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:06 PM

3/3/2015

Have you read this article yet? http://www.burkinsandyaris.com/ccss-frustration-vs-instructional-level-texts-comparing-apples-and-oranges/
It seems to refute some of the studies that you use to support your position although I know that it was published in 2012 and a couple of your examples are after that. Are your more recent examples similar in that they look at one-to-one instruction? Do any of the new studies use small group instruction of reading of "frustration" level texts or whole group?
Thank you for your time.

RtI Specialist
Jun 13, 2017 04:07 PM

3/3/2015

Thanks for the great responses so far and I am glad to see your last post expand more on things.

Especially at K-1, I think it is important to start recognizing and discussing how much work needs to be done by the adult prior to the child's reading when matching a book to a child's instructional level.

Unfortunately, there are teachers out there who do so much in terms of previewing the book ahead of time, through picture walk, and point/locate words, that if a child has a pretty good memory, both auditory and visual, when it comes to time read that piece of leveled text, do seemingly well. And of course, when done, seem to do okay during the comprehension conversation. But, given the amount of discussion prior to the actual reading, one would hope they would.

What are your thoughts on this? If that much scaffolding/previewing is needed in order for a child to read, is it truly then an instructional level?

And, should we not get back to defining children as readers who have certain characteristics that need to be supported and choosing books based on this rather than calling children a level. Books are leveled, children are readers.

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:07 PM

3/3/2015

Anonymous, while I appreciate your commitment to teaching kids the necessary skills to read, I have to take issue with your supposition that there is a single way to teach kids to read. After 30 plus years of teaching kids to read, I have taught from mainly sight word series, phonics based series, Orton Gillingham, and guided reading. Most kids can learn in any of these systems. What they all have in common is limiting some aspect of reading for the beginning reader so they can master just a bit at a time. Currently in my first grade class my instruction is a combination of guided reading, a reading series, and Orton Gillingham style letter card activities for phonics. Teachers who do guided reading really well do address phonics, but just like any of these systems there is a danger in thinking any of these systems have everything every student needs.

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:08 PM

3/4/2015

I'm not sure what supposition you think that I'm making. No, I recognize that there are many ways of teaching reading. However, that doesn't make them all equal in their effectiveness. For example, it is possible to teach students to read English while minimizing phonics or other skills instruction; no question about that. However, taking such an approach does mean that fewer kids will learn to read, and the average performance of those who do learn successfully will be a bit lower (and those limitations fall hardest on those who are the least well prepared).

Despite the fact that students can learn what is needed in a variety of ways--what they have to learn to be readers does not vary. Teachers do best when they focus on what kids need to learn rather than on particular activities that they like to do.

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:08 PM

3/4/2015

You are thinking about this in the correct way. Instructional level is not a book placement, but a book placement plus all the scaffolding. It makes little sense to place students in texts with a very low level of challenge (instructional level) and then providing a substantial amount of scaffolding (scaffolding should be varied based on the amount of challenge). Clearly, as the last few comments have emphasized, beginning readers need scaffolds that focus their attention on the alphabetic code rather than picture interpretation or memory.

Lit Research in Practice
Jun 13, 2017 04:09 PM

3/4/2015

This entire thread is so revealing, reaffirming, and refreshing. It reveals a predominant misconception among teachers/admistrators that any approach to teaching beginning reading is acceptable simply because it works moderately well for some kids. It is reaffirming because you are not afraid to say to these folks that some approaches ARE better than others, and we ought to be using the ones that work extremely well for the majority of kids. In beginning reading, this means approaches marked by systematic, explicit instruction in the alphabetic code. It is refreshing because it sounds like some teachers/administrators are learning about the rich, converging body of research on learning to read and starting to speak up about it. Thank you for this forum.

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:09 PM

3/4/2015

Thanks. I don't make that kind of statement as just an expression of personal opinion or preference. Scientists compare the effectiveness of various treatments/ approaches on the basis of something called an effect size (a standardized comparison that allows one to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches against each other). If apples and apples are being compared, then the treatments that get the highest average pay off are best (if the concern is the child's achievement).

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:10 PM

3/4/2015

Thanks. I hadn't seen that before. I don't know what their credentials are for reviewing research, but their analysis was pretty funny (exactly what you try not to do in a synthesis of research--unless you have an ax to grind). I was also impressed with their unnamed "experts" who agreed with them. First, the studies that I cited were not one-on-one instruction (I don't consider having kids working in pairs in a whole class situation as one-on-one, especially given how the data were handled in the Morgan study, for instance). Perhaps they could look at Kuhn, et al. 2006 and explain why their pet approach did so poorly in that comparison.

Here is the real key. If you don't think the evidence supporting the positive effects of teaching kids with more challenging texts is convincing, then cite the research that supports the teaching of kids at "instructional level." You might have noticed they didn't try that approach. Whatever the weaknesses in the research that shows that matching kids to text either doesn't matter or works better if the texts are harder, it is still stronger than the non-existent research on the other side of the ledger. Those critics are saying, "do as we say because Shanahan is an idiot," not "do what we say because the evidence proves we're right."

Julie in Chicago
Jun 13, 2017 04:11 PM

3/10/2015

Dr. Shanahan,

Thank you for the excellent response and for everyone who is contributing to this important conversation.

Dr. Shanahan writes, "My approach to this is different: when children need a lot of help to carry out a task (such as when asked to read a text that they can’t manage on their own), I think it’s best to provide a lot of close support". As a literacy specialist working with highs school teachers, I see a lot of interpretations of what the terms "close support" or "scaffolding" mean in practice. While all have good intentions, much of the "close support" looks like a students reading aloud and the teacher summarizing what students should have learned from the reading or the teacher stopping the reading to ask myriad comprehension, vocabulary, and background knowledge questions aloud or written. What are models or examples of "close support" that allow students to still engage with the text and problem solving? How do you help teachers move away from doing all of the work for students so that they can improve their reading?

Thank you in advance!

Julie in Chicago

Julie Price Daly
Jun 13, 2017 04:11 PM

3/11/2015

Dr. Shanahan,

I appreciate this topic and the ongoing conversation!

In your original response, you write, “My approach to this is different: when children need a lot of help to carry out a task (such as when asked to read a text that they can’t manage on their own), I think it’s best to provide a lot of close support.” Could you give some more specific information, ideas, or models to further describe what you mean by “close support”?

I am a reading specialist and coach, and I spend a majority of my time in high schools working with teachers both in and out of the classroom. Based on what I see in classrooms, there are common (mis)understandings of “close support”. I see teachers implement “close support” in these ways: stopping a student reading aloud a text to the whole class every three to five words to as a question about a vocabulary word or recall what was just said / read; a list of direct comprehension questions for students to answer along the way (often called “guiding questions”); or the teacher summarizing for students in multiple formats. This is all done in the name of “scaffolding” or “close supports” and with the very best intentions of helping students. This is one of the toughest habits for teachers to break, and I work to help teachers give students more opportunities to engage with text and problem solve with their peers.

Thank you for any insights you can give regarding “close supports”!

Julie

Julie Price Daly
Jun 13, 2017 04:12 PM

3/11/2015

Dr. Shanahan,
I appreciate this topic and the ongoing conversation!
In your original response, you write, “My approach to this is different: when children need a lot of help to carry out a task (such as when asked to read a text that they can’t manage on their own), I think it’s best to provide a lot of close support.” Could you give some more specific information, ideas, or models to further describe what you mean by “close support”?
I am a reading specialist and coach, and I spend a majority of my time in high schools working with teachers both in and out of the classroom. Based on what I see in classrooms, there are common (mis)understandings of “close support”. I see teachers implement “close support” in these ways: stopping a student reading aloud a text to the whole class every three to five words to as a question about a vocabulary word or recall what was just said / read; a list of direct comprehension questions for students to answer along the way (often called “guiding questions”); or the teacher summarizing for students in multiple formats. This is all done in the name of “scaffolding” or “close supports” and with the very best intentions of helping students. This is one of the toughest habits for teachers to break, and I work to help teachers give students more opportunities to engage with text and problem solve with their peers.
Thank you for any insights you can give regarding “close supports”!
Julie

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:12 PM

3/16/2015

Julie-

There are many scaffolds that one can provide to readers. It will depend on what the difficulties are, of course. Studies have shown that having the students read through the text once aloud on their own before taking it on for comprehension can make a huge difference with readers who will have difficulty with word recognition. Preteaching vocabulary that you don't believe the students can figure out from context is another research-proven idea. I'm also a big fan of showing students how to break down a sentence that they aren't making sense of (like separating the sentence at the punctuation, conjunctions, and relative pronouns); and helping them to make the cohesive links--between terms and their synonyms and pronouns. Prior knowledge can be useful, but this can be overdone as well (if it just tells kids what the text says before they read it). There are many more, but that should be enough to get started with.

Anonymous
Jun 13, 2017 04:13 PM

11/2/2015

When I was in Kindergarten, I focused more on letter sounds before letter names with the goal of knowing all (sounds and names) by the end of the year. I spent more time on phonological and phonemic awareness to start the year.

The teacher who posed the question seemed to specifically referring to learning letter names later one, not sounds/decoding.

Can you just clarify your thoughts a bit more on the teaching of names vs. sounds? Your summary sort of lumped it together in saying that the program being used should be more ambitious with names, sounds, and decoding.

I guess what I want to know is do you know of any evidence that supports one way or the other whether letter names or letter sounds should come first? Or is it one of those "Which came first, chicken or egg?" situations?

Randi Kay
Jun 13, 2017 04:14 PM

12/13/2015

Dr. Shanahan,

Thank you for expressing your professional findings and opinions on this topic. Text complexity and differentiation are two very challenging aspects of teaching. I often struggle with the balance and would appreciate your feedback.

I teach fourth grade, but the majority of my students (all of which are English language learners) read at a second or third grade level. I used to focus my instruction around reading groups where I would teach the same kinds of comprehension skills but with a variety of reading levels. Then came the epiphany that if students are never exposed to difficult texts, they will never develop the necessary skills to understand difficult texts on their own. I also came to dislike reading groups because so much of the class was left to their own devices for much too much time.

Those two factors led me to modify my instruction. My next approach was to teach the same comprehension skills to the whole class using a grade level text but then give students differentiated texts (at students’ levels) for independent practice. My thinking was that I wanted students to be exposed to higher-level texts during the model, but then be able to apply the new skills to texts that they can manage on their own. However, like you mention in several of your posts, I was not allowing students to break out of their assigned level.

So I adapted my instruction again. Currently I am using mostly all grade level texts and am providing much more scaffolding in a whole group setting when teaching comprehension. My concern is that the students that are already reading on grade level are not being challenged enough and the ones that are on the other end of the spectrum aren’t getting enough practice where they can be successful on their own. I can’t seem to find the balance of whole group and small group instruction when it comes to differentiation and reading levels. Do you have any advice for me?

~Randi Kay

Timothy Shanahan
Jun 13, 2017 04:15 PM

12/13/2015

Randi--

There is no research-proven mix of easy and challenging reading for kids. It is good that you have found opportunities to provide greater challenge levels for your lower readers, and you say you are scaffolding for them, but I wonder about that. Are you helping them to figure out the text, or are you or the other kids doing that for them? If it's the former you should see gains, if the latter, you may not.

How you can increase the amount of challenging texts for the beginning readers: (1) extra assignments in class--they probably finish stuff before the other kids, so having challenge opportunities would be a great idea; (2) involve their moms and dads to create some opportunities beyond the school day; (3) consider some different homework possibilities; (4) do some occasional small group work with them with higher grade level texts.

good luck.

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