Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's Your Reading Level?

They know. They know. My daughter certainly knows. Children are keenly aware of the successes and failures of other students in their class. That was evident today when my daughter filled out her Valentine’s Day cards for her classmates.

She sat down with her mother, and get this, she categorized the Shrek Valentines based on reading difficulty. There were seven different designs and she quickly assessed them from hardest to easiest to read. She then went down the list of children and assigned them a card based on their reading level. She knew each child’s reading level, which is based on a color.

“Well, so-and-so is in the yellow group,” she said. “He reads …” [shakes hand].

Now this is not an indictment of her teacher or the teacher’s methods; she has a good teacher and she has learned a lot from her teacher. But it is a learning opportunity for me to understand that children are very aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. They think about those weaknesses. In many cases, those challenges are used against the child. In this case, my daughter considered each child and wanted them to be able to read her Valentine.

So how do I use this information? I don’t know if there is any way to prevent students from knowing other students’ reading abilities. Reading is, after all, top priority in elementary school. A lot of time is spent on it. I am inclined to think that children should be placed in heterogeneous groupings to prevent categorizing them as poor, average or good readers. It could be that the teacher uses heterogeneous groupings at times. It’s not really about my daughter’s classroom as much as it is about mine and my philosophy of teaching.

My wife recalls a classroom where there were three reading groups: 1, 2 and 3. I, too, remember homogeneous reading groups. We kept a chart above the chalkboard and I can remember sitting there and wondering how those girls – those damned smart girls – were able to read so many books so fast. It boggled my mind. There was no way I could read that fast or that well. It was disheartening. I felt stupid. I’m still not a fast reader, but I do it a lot and I do it for fun. Alas, it has not always been that way.

I am proud of my daughter for considering other children. I am disturbed by the fact that she knows their abilities so readily. Much to ponder.

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