The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 15




how they in turn can use the strategies modeled by the teacher (Ness & Kenney, 2016). Once each student has read through the story at least once, the teacher can choose a time to stop and proceed with the remainder of the guided reading lesson.

Especially at the beginning levels, if teachers are actively differentiating and providing each student the specific help they need to expand their word problem solving skills, students should be moving up to new levels. Many teachers use independent reading inventories (IRIs). If using one, the choice of which IRI to use should be made with care so that the assessment is valid and meets the needs of the children (Flippo et al., 2009; Nilsson, 2008). Both word recognition and comprehension should be at or near the independent level for the child to move up to the next level.

Leveled texts should not be used for the wide reading component of a literacy program. Burkins and Yaris (2016) tell the compelling story of a student who goes through the process of choosing their own book for recreational reading. They select a book. The teacher then tells the student that the book is not at their level. The student chooses a different book, and the look on the student’s face tells the tale that all motivation has been lost.

In their January 18, 2018 blog Fountas and Pinnell specifically say not to level the classroom library, retrieved from They go on to say:

Choosing books by level is not an authentic way to choose books. It’s not how we, as adults, choose them, so why would they? The classroom library should include attractively displayed books in a variety of genres that reflect cultural sensitivity and relevance to the age group. They should be organized by topic, author, illustrator, genre, and award-winning books that are organized into baskets or bins with the titles facing out so that students can sort through them. Forcing students to choose books by their reading level puts limitations on them. If they want to choose a book that interests them but may be a little too easy or too hard, let them. Never take a book out of child’s hands.

Calkins (2000) recommends a slightly different approach. She has long advocated that teachers should level only a part of their classroom library. One advantage we see to this is that teachers have resources immediately available to scaffold those students who consistently make book choices that preclude them from being able to read their self-selected books. Both Calkins and Fountas and Pinnell indicate that teaching students how to shop for their own books is an important part of literacy instruction.

The common theme that seems to have emerged from literacy scholars such as Burkes and Yaris, Fountas and Pinnell, and Calkins is that a child is not a level. Our opinion is that leveling is a teacher’s tool best used within the confines of the guided reading component of the student’s literacy program. It is not a child’s label.

Expand Sight Vocabulary

We have already discussed wide reading as one method of developing sight vocabulary. A way of teaching high frequency words that we recommend is using predictable books with a high percentage of sight words. We use “Keep Books” published through Fountas and Pinnell. Two other advantages of the Keep Books are normal syntax and authentic story lines. We also use a “writing our way into reading strategy.” Students use the Keep Books, and Rasinski’s (2010) high frequency phrase lists as sources for words and phrases to use to write their own stories. Rasinski developed lists of short phrases based on the Fry list. In this way students can practice sight words in context. These lists and their Keep Books allow teachers to then use a language experience approach to create stories. The teacher “takes dictation” for the student as they tell this story. We often use commercial programs so that the stories we type in can be published in book form. The activity where participants take on the role of student and teacher and create stories is one of the most popular activities during our presentations. This technique is especially effective for older children who lack a well-developed sight vocabulary. Since the stories are their own, there is an intrinsic motivation to read and reread them. Where interclass class activities are possible, using this activity also provides a real audience for older students to