Saturday, November 28, 2015

Reflection Paper

The following is a reflection paper I wrote for my graduate course after completing my project:

After starting my new job in an elementary school library and seeing the Lexile system in action, I set out to learn more about the Lexile system. I wanted to learn more about the system itself, how and why it was developed, how it was used in classrooms and libraries, and whether it was effective. I also wanted to learn more about its history at my particular school—what had prompted our use of the system and whether we were using it effectively today.

Evolution of the Questioning Process
As I began the inquiry process, my focus was on how exactly lexile scores are determined. While I understood that every student in my building had a score, I wasn’t clear on how those numbers had been generated. So understanding that process was my first priority.

Once I understood the scoring system, I planned to look at the pros and cons of the Lexile Framework. I feel that I was I effective in this regard in my research; sometimes I felt like the articles I read just rotated in a “pro” / “con” pattern. Through my reading, I was able to understand that the Lexile system certainly has limitations—it cannot do what the teachers at my school are expecting it to do, which is to provide a perfect book for their students based solely on its numbering system. But I also found that the Lexile system is not as bad as I thought it was, and if used correctly, it can be a helpful guide.

Finally, I planned to compare the Lexile Framework to other leveling systems to determine if another system, such as Fountas and Pinnell, might be more effective for our school. This was the question that really evolved for me. As I read through the materials from MetaMetrics and realized that it wasn’t necessarily the Lexile system that was bad, but our staff that was using it incorrectly, I rethought the idea of introducing a different leveling system. There would certainly be no guarantee that we would use a different system any more effectively than we were using this one. It seemed to me that the problem was that teachers were relying on those numbered ratings, when in truth we need to be knowing books, knowing kids, and making connections between the two.

In my initial plan paper, I made several references to how use of the Lexile system touched my life both as a parent and in previous job as a public librarian. I continued to make these connections throughout my journal, but I did not include these references in my final project. In the final project, I focused solely on my work as an elementary librarian.

The Inquiry Process
I used the Alberta Inquiry Model. I really enjoyed this model because it allowed me to move so seamlessly between the stages, moving from any stage to “reflecting on the process” and back with ease. In retrospect, I think that I actually labeled many of my stages as “retrieving” when they were actually “processing,” or a combination of the two. I called them “retrieving” because I had located a new resource and selected the relevant information from it, but I believe they were also “processing” because I recorded the information and made connections and inferences from it. As I said, the process flowed together so seamlessly that I could hardly tell the difference between the stages!

I did stall out a little bit in the “creating” phase. At first I was keeping my journal mostly in Microsoft Word, but also partially on scraps of paper that I jotted down as I went. When I looked at that product as the due date approached I realized that I really wasn’t happy with it. So I took my journal entries and entered them into Blogger, keeping the original dates. I was even able to add images to several entries, which really enhanced the entries. Converting the journal from Word to Blogger took much longer than I would have expected, but I was extremely happy with the end result.

I had a similar problem when creating my final product (more on that in the next section). Combined with the demands of my regular job and my medical problems, these lessons lead to a simple conclusion: always plan ahead, and factor in much more time than I think I’ll need.

The Process of Choosing and Creating the Presentation
I had never created a final product that involved audio before, so I knew that this project would involve trying something new and different. After viewing the exemplars from last year, I decided to try PowToon. It looked like a great program that would fit my needs.

I found the program to be a bit tricky to get a hang of, learning that certain functions were only available in certain templates. I found it difficult to get the timing of my animations right. I was frustrated that each slide could only be 20 seconds long, because much of my presentation didn’t divide neatly into slides of that length. I wished over and over again for someone to teach me how to use the program. But I persevered, and after hours in front of the computer turned into days, my presentation was 2/3 done…. And then I learned that under a “free” account, I couldn’t make my presentation any longer than five minutes long, and also that I had limited capability for sharing my final product.

I narrowly avoided throwing the computer through a window, and I cursed my librarian information-seeking skills for having failed me in locating that information before staring the project. I took a break to cool off, then started over from scratch in PowerPoint.

I have used PowerPoint before, but never with audio. Coming to it straight from PowToon, I approached it very differently than I ever have before. Instead of relying heavily on text, I used a lot of images and animations, basically trying to recreate what I had made in PowToon. I was really happy with what I created… until I realized that I would have to find a way to set all the animations and sound to play automatically. If we met in a physical environment where I could present it with button clicks, it would be much easier! In an online environment…. Well, I know that it all works right for me, and I’m crossing my fingers that the settings will hold when I push it out to the rest of you.


In spite of my frustrations with technology and timing, this project was incredibly useful to me. It has already sparked so many conversations between my teacher colleagues and me. I know I didn’t understand how Lexile was supposed to be used before this project; I suspect that many of them don’t either, because they’ve never been taught. I’m looking forward to taking on the role of collaborator to change the way that we look at reading instruction in our school. This will begin with individual conversations with teachers and sharing the findings from my research. As I mentioned in my journal and my presentation, I have become so interested in this topic that I will be doing an independent study with Professor Kramer next semester to continue to look at options for teacher-librarian collaboration and the reading curriculum at my school.

Creating - Rounds 1 and 2

My creation phase did not quite go as planned. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I planned to create my final product in PowToon. I had never used this program before, and found it to be harder to get the hang of than I had anticipated. Certain features are only available in certain templates, and getting the timing of the animations just right is tricky. I also found editing to be hard. I had to start my presentation over three separate times before I got my opening three screens to work like I wanted.

I was also frustrated by the fact that each screen could only be 20 seconds long. In the script I had written, most screens were designed to be longer than 20 seconds. So I had to go back and redesign, finding logical breaks. What I had intended to be one screen often ended up as two or even three, all of which took time to create.

All in all, I found the learning curve to be pretty steep. But I eventually got my presentation up to five minutes, 2/3 done, and I was really happy with everything I had. And then, suddenly, I was unable to add anything else to my presentation. That was when I learned that under the "free" account, my presentation maxed out at five minutes, and I also had very limited options for sharing my final product.

To say that I was SO FRUSTRATED is an understatement. I couldn't believe how much time I had wasted and how I could have avoided it if I had dug into the site's terms and conditions before starting. But at that point, there was obviously nothing to be done but take a short break and then start over from scratch.

I began Round 2 in PowerPoint. I had used PowerPoint before, but never with recording my own voice for audio. I actually wasn't even sure if PowerPoint had that capability or if I would have to couple it with another program to achieve that result, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to do all within PowerPoint itself.

Because I moved straight from PowToon to PowerPoint, I approached my presentation very differently than I have in the past. My previous PowerPoints have relied heavily on text and charts, but in this presentation, I used a lot of images and animations. I basically tried to recreate what I had done in PowToon. The final product looks very different than what I've done before, but I'm very happy with it.

My biggest problem came when trying to figure out how to share my presentation with my class. If we met in person, I could play the presentation and click the mouse to cue each audio and animation at the proper time. But since we meet in an online environment, I had to figure out how to record my presentation with the right timings in place, then hope that those timings would hold when I shared the final product with them.

Creating the final product has definitely been a process. I feel like I wasted a lot of time putting together this presentation, time that I could have spent furthering my inquiry or tackling another project. But in the end, I'm happy with how it turned out (assuming that all of my settings hold when I push it out). Mostly, I am just hugely relieved to have it finally done!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


I'm not quite to the evaluating stage yet.  That will come when I have posted and shared my final product with my class.  At that point, I will return to this journal to evaluate my own work and again reflect on my process.  In the evaluating stage, I will:
  • evaluate the product
  • evaluate the inquiry process and inquiry plan
  • review and revise personal inquiry model
  • transfer learning to new situations / beyond school
Alberta Learning.  "Focus on inquiry: A teacher's guide to implementing inquiry-based learning."  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Alberta Learning, 2004.


The sharing stage of the Alberta Model for Inquiry includes:
  • communicating with the audience
  • presenting new understandings
  • demonstrating appropriate audience behavior
So far, I've only shared my material with my husband.  :)  A few nights ago, I shared some of the key findings from my research with him as I sat working on my final product.  The larger presentation will be posting this journal for my classmates and professor to read and sharing the knowledge and understandings that I have gained since starting this project with them.  Soon, I will also be sharing my final product with my classmates and professor.  In a few weeks, I hope to also share an edited version (improved by suggestions from my classmates and professor) of these products with my colleagues at school.

When I started this project, I had a "gut feeling" that I didn't like using lexiles to level student readers or to limit checkouts, but I lacked the background knowledge to explain why.  Now I understand how the Lexile system was developed and the ways that it is misused in many schools (including mine) today.  Based on research, I feel confident in my vision of the school library as a place that inspires and supports students in developing a love of reading, not limits them to a certain band or level.  I'm excited to move forward and make positive changes in my library and my school.

Alberta Learning.  "Focus on inquiry: A teacher's guide to implementing inquiry-based learning."  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Alberta Learning, 2004.

Creating and Reflecting

My next step is the creation phase!  In this phase I will:
  • organize information
  • create a product
  • think about audience
  • revise and edit
  • review and revise the plan for inquiry
Part of the reason this project is so exciting to me is because I have multiple audiences.  First, my audience will be my professor and my peers in my graduate course.  They will be the first to read this journal and view my product.  Then, after their feedback, I will revise my product, and possibly even come up with another way to use or share this journal, to then share with my colleagues at school and hopefully begin to inspire change there.

As my product, I am currently working on a video in PowToon to share my findings.  I've never used PowToon before, so I'm finding it to be a bit of slow going.  I'm a little frustrated with myself for not moving faster, but at the same time, I feel like I've learned SO much since starting this project.  I'm also really happy with how this journal and the final product have turned out so far--so I just need to keep plugging along!

Alberta Learning.  "Focus on inquiry: A teacher's guide to implementing inquiry-based learning."  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Alberta Learning, 2004.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Processing and Reflecting

Wow, what a lot of information to take in!  In the processing stage, I:

  • establish a focus for inquiry
  • choose pertinent information
  • record information
  • make connections and inferences
  • review and revise the plan for inquiry
So actually, I've really been processing all along, as I've selected the relevant bits out of each article and made connections between the articles and my own experiences.  I also reviewed and revised my plan for inquiry when I decided to drop my initial inquiry of looking further into other methods of leveling, because I no longer felt that it was necessary.

Retrieving: Reading Level Chart

One of my original questions for inquiry involved looking at other leveling systems to see if any other systems were better than the Lexile system.  At this point, my reading on leveling in general has pretty much convinced me that it's not something I'm interested in doing.  While I have heard good things about the Fountas and Pinnell system, I have become convinced that leveling systems possibly are meant for curriculum, for classrooms, for reading groups--but not for the library.

However, as a point of reference in order to understand students' reading abilities, I did locate this chart as a helpful tool:

"Reading Level Chart."  Gaston County Schools.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Retrieving: School Libraries Organized by AR or Lexile Scores?

Today I read a heartfelt article by Marjorie Pappas.  It is entitled "School Libraries Organized by AR or Lexile Score?"  The article references a message string posted to LM_NET, which caught my attention because I subscribed to LM_NET and have been reading it as part of my graduate courses this semester.

Pappas's article criticizes the idea of organizing books in school libraries according to Lexile level.  She quotes one post from the LM_NET discussion as saying:
"[There is] a fundamental issue. . . underlying [this practice that suggests] the library is only a reading room.  It negates any possible use of an information retrieval system so the notion that students might come to the library to find information for a project or just personal . . . [information] becomes a major challenge" (69).

Pappas then weighs in with her own thoughts.  She writes:
"... even a small number of libraries that follow this practice seems like a serious problem to me.  Have some librarians lost sight of our mission?  'The mission of the library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.'  If this is our mission, then students need access to a wide array of resources.  Access means students can find books about specific topics of interest to them on the shelves of a library" (69).

In my library, the early reader (ICR) collection is shelved according to lexile.  This is a system that I inherited from the previous librarian. The teachers love this system because it allows them to send kids to the shelves to check out within their lexiles with very little supervision.  I HATE this system because whenever kids request a specific title and I see that it's an ICR title, I have absolutely no way to find it besides to search though the entire ICR section book by book.  While I don't think that this system for ICR books is as harmful as leveling, say, the entire nonfiction section, I do see on a daily basis how it holds students back from being able to find books on topics that truly interest them.

Pappas argues:
"Certainly school librarians . . . support the reading curriculum, one among many content areas in the school.  However, the purpose of a library is not to teach children to read, but rather to provide them with reason to read--compelling and beautiful books they are motivated to read.  No doubt there are books in every library that can help children learn to read, but we must not become educators obsessed with teaching children the mechanics of reading--so obsessed that we drive a love of reading right out of some children" (69-70).

This is beautifully stated.  Recently I've received requests from some teachers in my building to use library funds to purchase several large sets of leveled readers to help with their curriculum needs.  This request left me feeling very conflicted.  While I really want to support the teachers in every way I can, this does not seem like the best possible use of library funds to me.  The leveled readers would only be used by a small portion of the school's population.  While a few students might read them for pleasure, they would be used far more heavily for curriculum than pleasure reading.  I fear that they would focus heavily on the mechanics, whereas I feel that my job as the librarian is to use my funds to focus on motivation.  Therefore, after much consideration, I told the teachers that I could not use library funds to purchase the sets of leveled readers--but that I would be more than happy to help them write a grant and seek a funder to secure the books they want for curriculum use.

As I continue to move forward at my school, these are the types of issues I will need to consider.  How can I support the teachers in their curriculum while still maintaining the integrity of the library's mission?  How should our collection be organized (or re-organized) to best serve our students?  Changes will certainly not happen overnight, but these ideas need to be in my long-term plan.

Pappas, Marjorie.  "School Libraries Organized by AR or Lexile Scores?"  Knowledge Quest.  Nov/Dec. 2004, Vol. 33 Issue 2, p 69-70.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Retrieving: The Question of Text Complexity

I just read another great article that points out the shortcomings of leveling our libraries.  The article is "The Question of Text Complexity: Reader and task trump traditional measures" by Olga Nesi.  Nesi is a former school librarian and currently works as a library coordinator for the New York City School Library System, NYC Department of Education's Office of Library Services.

Nesi draws an important line between quantitative and qualitative measures of text.  She writes:
"First, quantitative measures of text complexity (such as Lexile levels and other readability formulas), while profoundly comforting and easiest to determine, can be largely misleading--if only because our over-dependence on them blinds us to the more subtle qualitative measures.  Quantitative measures encourage us to slap a number, letter, or grade level on a text and be done with it.  Librarians and classroom teachers know intuitively that these labels do not work--hence our sensible resistance to 'leveling' our libraries" (20).

If we are blindly adhering to the Lexile system (or any other leveling system) without considering the merits of each book individually, we are depriving students of rich reading experiences.

Nesi goes on to make an important point that other authors have neglected: the connection between readers and task.  She writes:
"Depending on the ability of our students and what we ask them to do with a text, its complexity can vacillate wildly.  For example, a text with a low Lexile can easily become more complex if a student's prior knowledge of the topic is limited.  That very same material becomes even more complex the more critically we ask a student to think about it.  It is one thing to ask a child to read an article written at a Lexile level of 1000 just to comprehend it.  It is rather a different task to expect that same student to read the article to draw a conclusion from it and support that conclusion with evidence from the reading. The task, in this case, has just made the text more complex" (20).

Nesi's argument is important to note when helping students select materials.  Students do not need to be held to a strict Lexile band; it is far more important to cater to student interests and allow them to be challenged by content.  Teachers can develop challenging assignments to work with virtually any text; the most important job is to capture the students' interest in reading.

Nesi, Olga M.  "The Question of Text Complexity: Reader and task trump traditional measures."  School Library Journal.   Oct. 2012, Vol. 58 Issue 10, p 20.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Retrieving: Leveling the Library Collection

The article I read today, "Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection" by Judi Moreillon, brought a new perspective to the Lexile debate.

Moreillon writes:
"One of the long-debated controversies in school library organization is labeling books according to reading or lexile levels.  On the surface, this system may appear to be helpful because it could make it easier for young or striving readers to find 'just right' books at their proficient reading levels. . . . But is it?  Why is this practice so controversial?  Some teachers and administrators may not truly understand the issues inherent in leveling reading materials by lexile levels" (28).

Many, although not all, of the books in my library have stickers on the covers that mark the book with its Lexile level.  I quickly learned, though, that Moreillon disagrees with this practice.

She writes:
"In response to the pressures to level books many librarians face from their administrators and faculty, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has published a Position Statement on Labeling Books with Reading Levels (2011).  In the position statement, AASL identifies the ways in which labeling runs contrary to core values of librarianship" (28).

I am a member of AASL, but I did not know about this document.  I was fascinated to read more.

Moreillon writes:
"When the spines on the books in the library are labeled, students may feel or even have been told that they are only allowed to check out and read books at their 90% or higher accuracy reading level.  When limited to particular titles based on reading level or whether or not their is a standardized test to accompany a title, readers, unfortunately, may not feel or be free to browse and explore.  'A minor's right to access resources freely and without restriction has long been and continues to be the position of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL 2011)" (28-29).

This argument makes perfect sense to me.  I hate it when teachers limit their students' reading options.  This seems so contrary to what we should be teaching!

Moreillon continues:
"Students' privacy is also jeopardized by being limited to titles with specific labels based on reading level.  When a student's proficiency level is indicated on a book's spine, peers and other students' parents have access to confidential information.  This loss of privacy should be of concern to librarians who hold confidentiality as a core value" (29).

I do see what Moreillon is saying here.  If teachers force students to check out only within their lexiles, then those lexiles become common knowledge of anyone who sees their labeled library books.  And students with low lexiles, who might be ashamed of their lexiles, will be affected by this.  So I do understand the argument of this as a privacy issue.  It's a legitimate argument.  But based solely on my own experiences, I have a hard time getting as worked up about this angle.  I've seen the other point in action--kids restricted from reading materials of interest.  So that seems of more concern to me than this issue.

Moriellon also raises concerns about parents.  She writes:
"Like teachers and administrators, parents can believe that leveling library books is the answer to their child's striving to become a more proficient reader.  Parents can become competitive about their child's progress and may carefully monitor book selections.  But is there more to learning to be an effective, efficient, and motivated reader than the lexile level of a book?" (29).

Moriellon then appeals to readers' memories of positive experiences in the library.  She writes:
"Everyone reading this article has, no doubt, had the experience of coming upon a book or other resource through browsing.  If readers are limited to a particular reading level, will they have the same joyful experience of serendipity?  Should the library be a place of freedom where learners can be assured of opportunities to explore?" (29).

Moriellon writes about the importance of allowing readers to choose texts based on interest, not limited to lexile.  She feels that readers can handle texts above their lexile.  She writes:
"The role of motivation in reading cannot be underestimated.  All readers, including those who are striving, should have had the experience of reading text that is above their proficient reading level.  This can happen when readers are passionate bout something for which they have no background knowledge or adequate vocabulary.  Reading images or graphics in a text in which the print is too difficult for them to comprehend can further stimulate readers' curiosity or help them build the necessary background and prepare them to tackle the entire text" (29).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Moriellon also argues that there is no harm in reading books below lexile.  She writes:
"Everyone has read books significantly below their reading proficiency level as well.  Reading easy texts or rereading texts doesn't necessarily present cognitive challenges, but it can give readers meaning and the satisfaction that comes from the familiar.  Sometimes the easier text is just what readers need to maintain their confidence or reignite their enjoyment" (29).

Moriellon's arguments, coupled with Malbert Smith's statements from the last article I read, make it clear that readers should NOT be held strictly to their lexile levels for reading.  Leveled reading may have its place in classroom or instructional texts.  The library, however, should be a place for children to branch out and explore their options, not to feel squashed or limited.  This will require a rethinking of what teachers require of their students during classroom checkouts.

Moreillon, Judy.  "Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection."  School Library Monthly.  Feb. 2013, Vol. 29 Issue 5, p 28-29.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Retrieving: An Inside View of Lexile Measures

Today I read an interview with Malbert Smith III, the president of MetaMetrics.  The interview was conducted by Carl A. Harvey II, who was the AASL President-Elect at the time the article was written.  The article is entitled "An Inside View of Lexile Measures."  I thought it was a significant article because it focused on how the use of lexiles impacts school librarians.

The article began with what I am now thinking of as the "typical" information about the history of the Lexile Framework and how Lexile measures are determined.

I was interested to note that Smith did state that he did not feel that it was in any way necessary for libraries to organize their materials by Lexile.  My library does organize our early readers by Lexiles, and this has been a source of conflict for me since I inherited the collection.  Since our school does not have another leveled collection, I can see why the previous librarian did this, but it's interesting to note that Smith comments that organization by Lexile is not necessary because "items are cataloged in the automated system" (58) and that librarians should "protect the main library collection from being rearranged" (58).

Later in the interview, Harvey raised these significant questions:
"What do you think about students having free choices in selecting their reading materials?  Should they always remain in their Lexile range?"(58).

I was extremely interested to read Smith's answer.  He said:
"A student should be able to choose what he or she wants to read, regardless of whether that book or article is in his or her recommended Lexile range. . . . In no way should a Lexile measure or Lexile range be used to dictate what a student can and cannot read.  Students can certainly read books above or below their Lexile range" (58).

He goes on to qualify that books below the range may not offer enough of a challenge and books above the range may be too challenging.   However, it's incredibly important to note that even the creator of the Lexile system champions allowing students to read the materials that interest them, regardless of Lexile measure.  Student interest should guide selection.  Teachers would do well to take note of this portion of the interview.

Smith goes on to state:
"While a Lexile measure is a valuable piece of information in the book-selection process, it's important to note that the Lexile measure is only one piece of information to consider when selecting a book for a specific student.  Other factors, such as the content and quality of the text, and the student's interests and reading goals, should also be considered.  A Lexile measure is a great starting point, but it is not intended to replace the role of an educator, librarian, or parent in helping students pick books that will support growth toward the reading demands of their future endeavors" (59).

Further in the article, Smith adds:
"Of course, we should never discourage pleasure reading, even when those books are well below the student's Lexile measure" (59).

Based solely on this interview, I'm feeling some of my previous frustration with the Lexile Framework fading. :)

Harvey II, Carl A.  "An Inside View of Lexile Measures: An Interview with Malbert Smith III."  Knowledge Quest.  Mar/Apr 2011, Vol. 39 Issue 4, p 56-59.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Retrieving: Teaching Flexibility With Leveled Texts

The article that I read today took a completely different approach than anything I had read before.  It's called "Teaching Flexibility With Leveled Texts: More Power for Your Reading Block" and was written by Kathryn Glasswell and Michael P. Ford.  While one of my inquiry questions has been what alternate systems I might consider, Glasswell and Ford argue against using any leveling system at all.

They write:
"Our concern is that in maintaining a focus on assigning numbers or letters to texts as labels that represent their 'difficulty,' we can lose sight of what matters in reader-text interactions.  Although we would argue that some attention to text difficulty is needed, taking a simplistic approach to a complex phenomenon is hindering teacher judgment and masking the transactions that occur between a reader, a text, and the social context in which they read.  Thus, rather than helping readers as they learn to read, such an approach can constrain teachers in their organization of reading groups and plot instructional pathways for students that are inequitable" (57).

This statement resonates with me.  As a parent, I've been thankful that my own children have always qualified for the highest reading classes because I know they will be challenged.  But the students in the lowest reading classes at each grade level don't have anyone to model good reading skills for them.  In their classes, everyone is low, and the entire class stagnates.  They don't have anyone except the teacher to show them how to get excited about reading.  Often, they read lexiled texts that fail to capture their interest.  They start out behind their classmates, and as they learn to view reading as a "chore," they fall further behind every year.

Glasswell and Ford argue:
"Many readers, particularly those who struggle, can access grade-level appropriate material if we facilitate their interactions with it.  This is both necessary if we want to accelerate growth, and desirable if we want our below-level readers to see themselves as competent and confident readers" (57).

Glasswell and Ford suggest using the model Grouping Without Tracking (Paratore 1990), which I will need to look into further.  They write:
"This model encourages teachers to sandwich shared experiences on the front and back end of the lesson around differentiated instruction during the reading of the text.  When differentiating, students would be divided into two groups.  Some will operate more independently, indirectly guided by the teacher.  Others who might have struggled are given more direct support as they are reading and responding.  Teachers would bring the two groups back together for a final discussion.  Struggling readers who are given more teacher support will be better prepared to contribute to the large-group response, making it a truly shared experience for all" (58).

In this model, students are given the teacher support they need, and all students are given equal opportunity to grow.

Glasswell and Ford also suggest:
"Consider increasing the use of individualized instructional formats like Readers Workshop.  These formats balance issues around choice, engagement, and text difficulty.  They lead to the development of a community of readers providing additional opportunities for meaningful, authentic, and enjoyable reading experiences.  They allow for a more powerful positive relationship to develop between the teacher and student through the use of individual conferences" (59).

This again makes me think of Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  Her entire approach is based around readers workshops and teacher conferences, and it is hugely effective.  In my own classroom, I would choose that method every time over lexiles.

So how can I share everything I have learned with the teachers in my school and help them to become more effective?

Glasswell, Kathryn and Michael P. Ford.  "Teaching Flexibility With Leveled Texts: More Power for Your Reading Block."  Reading Teacher.  Sept. 2010, Vol 64 Issue 1, p 57-60.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Processing: Conversing with Classmates

Recently I was assigned to post about my progress in my course's online forum.  The assignment included posting a brief background of the topic and an update on what I have done so far.  Our professor encouraged us to ask our classmates for support so that, as MLS students, we could dip into more than one subject area.

Here is what I posted:

I'm looking at how the lexile system is used to monitor student reading in schools.  My primary question is, "Is the lexile system effective?"  Secondarily, I'd like to explore alternatives and see if any of them are MORE effective.  The second part is really where I could use help.  Do any of you have experience with alternatives to the lexile system?  Professor Kramer suggested looking at Fountas and Pinnell, so that's where I'm starting, but I'm definitely open to other suggestions.  I feel like the wider my field, the better feel for alternatives I'll be able to offer.

As for where I'm at right now, I'm honestly off to a pretty slow start.  I'm doing lots of reading about the lexile system to make sure I understand the ins and outs, but its not exactly fascinating reading.  I'm kind of wishing I had picked a more "fun" topic, but this one is important to my real-life job, so I'll stick it out.  :)

Several of my classmates responded with useful suggestions.  Sarah wrote, "The district here uses the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading System.  Unfortunately, I really only have experience helping parents and children find books that are the appropriate level."  We don't use the system at the [public] library, so I do have to do a bit of searching to find books in the collection that match the reading level the patron is at.  I can't really speak to its efficiency as a system, but I can say it's easier for me to help a patron who is looking for a level G book than a patron who is 'looking for a book for a first grader.'"

Another classmate, Anne, told me about a different experience.  She wrote, "Some of our area schools have started using Reading A-Z in favor of AR or lexile where students move up in levels and there are assessments.  It also relates to Common Core.  It might be something else to consider in your research.  Unfortunately, like Sarah, we don't use the system at the [public] library so we have trouble finding books that match the level students are in as well.  The system uses its own readers so it can be tricky to give parents and patrons options to find books in the same level."

A third classmate, Ashley, also a children's librarian in a public library, shared her experiences.  She wrote, "I would definitely agree with Professor Kramer.  I used to think the AR system was the best, but recently, I've found that the Fountas and Pinnell system is very good at dividing up the levels.  I'm also used to telling parents whose children are just starting to read to look at the Easy Readers and start at level 1.  I'm now finding that many level 1's have paragraphs and large words!  The Fountas and Pinnell is really good at saying THESE books are level A and at the very beginning of the reading spectrum.  Also, instead of saying a child should be reading four level 4 books in AR, which can span from 4.0-4.9, it again gives a specific letter instead of a range."

Based on this feedback, I had some ideas on alternate programs to explore, as well as the pros and cons of each.