Which Text Levels Should We Teach With?

Which Text Levels Should We Teach With?

Teacher question:

I’m confused. I’ve worked with Lexiles for years and my district provided us with a chart showing the levels of books to use for each grade level. Then Common Core came along with a different chart that put different book levels with each grade level. I don’t live in a Common Core state, but I’m still not sure which chart to use. Can you help me?

Shanahan response:

I think a lot of teachers misunderstand this. They think that readability estimates and Fountas & Pinnell levels, etc. tell about “learnability.” They think if they match students to the right books, then the students will make optimum learning progress (and placing them in easier or harder books will interfere with this progress).

However, it’s kind of the opposite. Readability estimates predict comprehension, not learning. Lexile scales and book leveling systems provide gradients from easier to harder in terms of how well the texts are likely to be understood. But if students can already read texts with 75-90% comprehension without teacher assistance, then “teaching” kids to read from those books should be a non-starter. Instead of stretching students to handle harder texts (the Common Core column), they are focusing on having kids practice with levels of demand they have already conquered.  

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