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.