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.
"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.