As homeschool mommas, we spend more one on one time with our babies than a teacher in a classroom would ever hope for. A teacher spends a good two months trying to get to know her 21 + first graders and hoping by mid October, she knows them well enough through assessing and working with them, that she can THEN begin to really get to the nitty-gritty of helping them from along on their learning, yes, all individually, all 21+, all with what they individually need. YIKES! So, what do you know about your students, homeschool momma? Let's talk reading levels today!
Reading is something I am super passionate about. I love children's literature and I love the magic that happens every time a child unlocks words in a sentence, unlocks meaning to new words and unlocks understanding in the pages of a good book! Okay, now that you have warm fuzzies (maybe it's not just me?), do we really need to know the reading levels on which our our children are reading? Yes. Let's talk about why. Then I'll talk about how to find determine reading levels and lastly, what do I do with reading levels?
We are educators in the home and we need to know our children's reading levels to be better equipped to provide them the education they need in the area of reading. We know how to take a preschooler who has little grasp on her alphabet and turn them into a fluent 5th grade reader in a few years, and sometimes we have trouble along the way. Yes, it's true that sometimes children, no matter what we do for them, still have struggles in reading. One tool we can carry in our belt is an Informal Reading Inventory (IRI). But even if your child is not a struggling reader, using an Informal Reading Inventory can help them soar even further in reading.
An Informal Reading Inventory is a book of informal assessments that you an use to figure out how your child "performs" at fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, oral reading accuracy and it also tells you on which grade level your child is reading.
You can find these on amazon here. It is well worth it to purchase one and have it handy. A school teacher would use an IRI at least 3 times a year to assess reading aspects for each child and that's not a bad idea for us either. This helps you see progress in learning and helps you decide if you need to slow down or even go back in the reading timeline.
When you begin school, do an IRI with each child.
Before Christmas break, do the IRI again.
Give it one last time before you let out for the summer. (Your child should always be improving in his reading skills each time you asses. Having data to show that is an awesome feeling of confidence in what you're putting your time, sweat, and tears into.)
This also encourages your children as you let them see their progress!
There are three reading levels you should be concerned with: the independent reading level, the instructional level and the frustration level.
The level at which your child should be reading library books or any other book without your help is her independent level. These are easy books to her and she enjoys them. She can tell you everything she reads and there are no words too hard for her in these books!
The instructional level should be the current grade level books you are using, and your child should be learning to read and comprehend at this level with your help. (Just because your child is in 2nd grade, for example, doesn't mean they are actually on that level and that's okay! because now you've pin-pointed it and can help them along.)
The frustration level is the level at which she picks up that library book she really wants to read and unfortunately misses more than 5 words on a given page. (quick way to check at the library if it's too hard). That's too difficult. Those can be read-alouds for you, but not used for instruction nor for independent reading.
How do I give the assessments?
You begin by giving your child the reading passage that you believe is a grade or two below their reading level. For example, if you have a 2nd grader, give them a kindergarten reading assessment. Obviously, they should pass it with flying colors.
Then you move up to the first grade reading assessment, called the primer in most IRI's. They should again be able to read the passage fluently (at a regular reading speed, not struggling with words in the least).
Finally, they should read the 2nd grade passage out loud to you. They should be able to read it fluently with only some difficulty, no more than a very few words here and there. They should be able to answer the comprehension questions for the passage without two much difficulty.
You may give the next assessment as well to be sure it is indeed the frustration level. At frustration level, you may see the child become uneasy, unsure, take longer to read, struggle with words in pronunciation, be unsure when asked comprehension questions and flat out well, frustrated!
Okay, I gave my child the IRI's and I know their reading levels. Now what?
It may be that you discover your child is not actually on the instructional reading level at which you are teaching, meaning she is also not truly on the independent level you once thought. Never fear! We can differentiate! In order to bring a child up to the grade level at which she is registered, fall back and work on fluency and comprehension within her independent level (even if it is way below). Begin working your way back up to grade level. It may take a year or more. Don't fret if she remains below grade level. Grade level is a national average and we know as homeschool moms, everyone learns at different rates. Give it time. Give it consistency. Give her instruction on her true instructional level. She's already receiving way more one on one time than any teacher in a classroom could hope to give and she'll make flying colors to catch up now that you've pinpointed the hiccup!
This could go either way as well! Let's say you learn your 3rd grade is actually on a 5th grade instructional level! Differentiate! Bring her independent level (4th grade) up. Prepare books that she can really feast her mind on by herself and instruct her on challenging literature. She was getting off easy!
Putting the DATA into Practice
Create a Go To Book System
Look for books you already have that can be separated into a level appropriate bin for independent reading time. Reading independently (reading to self) helps develop fluency. Set this aside and assign an independent reading time each day.
Create a bin for instructional books. (This bin might change as you come and go to the library). Not sure about a level of a book? Check on Scholastic here. You can find about any book's reading level in a couple of seconds.
Finally, create a bin of read aloud only books. When a child is listening to a book, comprehension levels are usually higher than if they are doing the work of reading and processing words and meanings themselves. That's a great bin for the "want to read" frustration level books.
If I can help in any way, please comment below. I'd love to get in touch with you and chat! I love reading and have had experience as a classroom teacher with children from all reading levels in my third grade room!
Have any questions about IRI's? Please comment below as well!
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