One of my main goals this year has been to really get to know my students as readers and to help guide them toward age-, and reading level- appropriate titles. With so many classes and no transition time, this has sometimes been a tricky thing to accomplish. I have been working on a new plan recently that seems to be helping me toward my goal. I decided to ask each teacher to identify for me which of their students are reading on grade level, above grade level, and below grade level. I gave each teacher a class list with students’ FIRST names listed in alphabetical order (I never know my students’ last names, and I find it easier to locate them on the list if they are ordered by first name). I then asked teachers to highlight students’ names with different colors based on their reading levels. My list also had a box next to each name where teachers could write other helpful notes about their students.
I started a version of this plan with my fourth graders weeks ago and it has been extremely helpful. I can quickly circulate through the room, glance at each student’s books and determine whether or not they have made good choices and if they need assistance. Instead of recommending Sharon Creech or E.L. Konigsburg books to a student reading well-below grade level, I now know to direct that student to more level-appropriate titles. With fourth graders, I had each student read a paragraph or two to me during check-out time to determine their reading levels. This was very time consuming, but it did allow me to make useful lists. I came up with my plan to ask teachers for this information as I was preparing to meet with the third grade team. It was obviously much quicker and probably more accurate than my original plan, and I really like having the teachers’ incites about certain students in the notes section. I think I will go back to the fourth grade teachers this week and ask them to help me refine the lists that I already have for those students.
I plan to carry these lists around with me on a clipboard during each check-out period throughout the school year. Now I will be able to quickly converse with students and glance at their books to see if their choices will meet their reading needs. I only work with third and fourth grade students at my school, but my co-librarian is planning to use this method with the fifth graders as well. I think that it would work really well with the lower grade students also. I love to encourage the K-2 classes to check out at least one “just right book” each week, and using the lists would be a quick way to make sure that this is happening.
Here is an example of what one of my lists might look like. This is a fictional class (most of my real classes have 28 students in them!), but it will help you to get the idea: