The Inside Scoop on Reading Levels
Three times a year teachers administer the Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) reading assessment to determine your child’s reading level. During the one-on-one assessment your child will read one or more leveled books to their teacher, who keeps track of the number and nature of your child’s errors. Then the teacher will ask your child comprehension questions, engaging them in a brief discussion of the text. All of the data the teacher collects from this assessment is then used to determine your child’s current reading level.
Students are assigned two levels: an “Instructional Level” and an “Independent Level.” The instructional level is the level at which children can read with help. At school, this is the level of text students will read during small group or one-on-one instruction. The independent level is the level of text students can read on their own. Typically, but not always, a student’s independent level is one level lower than their instructional level.
It’s important to note that, of course, students progress on a gradual continuum. If they are assessed at Level B in September and then Level C in November, it doesn’t mean they should wait until November to start reading Level C books. They likely reached Level C much sooner than when they were assessed. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with students on taking control of their own learning and progress (building “agency”) by constantly monitoring and reflecting on their level. Once their books start feeling easy, they should start choosing the next level. They should not wait for the teacher to tell them they are at the next level.
The reading levels also give students the feel and awareness of the level of difficulty of a book. By reading so many explicitly leveled books, they gain the ability to tell whether a book is approximately their reading level, too easy, or too hard. This gives students another opportunity for agency. If they are reading books at home, or at a library, that don’t have a sticker on them noting the level, they will regardless be able to determine at least if the book is too easy, too hard, or just right.
Lastly, a student’s current reading level is NOT a label. It does not characterize THEM. It characterizes their CURRENT READING SKILLS, which are rapidly changing and expanding. How students think about their level is determined by how teachers and parents TALK about it. Reading levels are a continuum on which students are constantly progressing. The reading level is a tool, a guideline, to help students choose books and read books they can understand and thus enjoy. It’s a tool with which to watch, and celebrate, growth. It’s a tool to help teachers PERSONALIZE learning and meet each student’s reading needs. And in it lies the valuable lesson that, as each child in a class is their own unique person, each child in the class is somewhere different with their reading skills. We don’t compare. A child who recognizes without shame that another student is currently reading at a higher level than them is a child with confidence. A confident child can see that other student as someone who could help them. And a child who recognizes without arrogance that another student is currently reading at a lower level than them is a confident child, who can offer help. As with everything, we can use this opportunity to help students develop a growth mindset--the idea that we are not born with a fixed amount of “smart,” but rather, we build our intelligence through learning and hard work.
See the below chart for the benchmark reading levels for each trimester for each grade level.
In general, by the END of each grade level, the goal is for students to be reading at the following INSTRUCTIONAL levels (or higher).
1st Grade: J
2nd Grade: M
3rd Grade: P
4th Grade: S
5th Grade: V
Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher, Ms. Bagby, or Ms. Weissman with any questions regarding your child’s reading level or reading levels in general.