Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Slice of Life - Lexile Levels

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.

       Important staging to this story:  All students in our building recently took the Lexile assessment, and students know their scores.  A new fifth grader to our district came up to me this morning with a pencil poised above a notepad and said earnestly, "My mom and I would like to ask if you have any recommendations of series that are at my Lexile level."  Ahhh, teachable moment! 
      I want to make clear first, that I know she and her mom were trying to do the right thing, and I responded with a smile. "I'm so glad you asked me about books! I would LOVE to recommend some to you.  First, let me tell you a little of my philosophy on Lexile levels.  I love that we have a tool that helps us measure a part of your comprehension level and growth, and I  use that information for some important things.  However, my classroom library is full of books that you'll love.  I'd rather recommend books that you think you'd be interested in.  Lexile levels don't tell us everything about a book.  How does that sound? " A lot of my students from last year started listening and got ready to join in.
      Big smile.  "Great!"
     "Okay!  Let's get started!  You say you'd like to start a series?  Do you have a genre in mind?"
      "Oh boy, you're in luck.  I've got LOTS of fantasy series in my library.  Let's start."  I proceeded over to the buckets filled with series such as the Guardians of Ga'Hoole (730L), The Warriors (790L), the Chronicles of Narnia (940L), Pendragon (660L), etc.  Other students were getting up and heading over to the shelves with me and started offering more suggestions - some fantasy, some science fiction, all their favorites:
     "Gregor the Overlander!" (630L)
     "A Series of Unfortunate Events!" (1010L)
     "The Maze Runner!" (770L)
     "Maximum Ride!" (700L)
     "Amulet!" (310L)
     "Charlie Bone!" (630L)
     "Savvy and Scumble!"  (1070L and 900L)
     "A Tale of Emily Windsnap!" (600L)
     ...and on and on.  Her Lexile level is 1084.  Does that number tell me some important things?  Yes.  Should she only read books at that level?  No.  Look at what she would miss!  She was looking excited and overwhelmed at the same time.  I calmed everyone down and chose a few books with her for her to preview, and she went back to her desk, ready to dig in. Most of what we recommended to her she hadn't read.  I can't wait to see what she chooses!


  1. Love the way you turned this into a productive and joyful conversation within a community of readers!

    1. Thank you, Carol. It's so fun when those moments come!

  2. Thanks, Holly. This give me hope and strength for the students that come in with the Fountas and Pinnell letters. :)

  3. Thank you for approaching lexiles sanely! I hope my daughter's 4th grade teacher uses the same approach.

  4. agree, agree, agree! Thank you for sharing. xo

  5. I absolutely love the way you responded to your student! Yes, as a teacher, there are certain things we need to know and that is why we test our students. However, no matter how much I would like my students to be able to read the expected level at the end of the year, I want them to develop a love of books and reading even more!

  6. I never tire of hearing stories about kids getting excited about reading. I just recently started blogging and have probably read hundreds of these stories from inspiring teachers like you but still...never gets old. Thank you!

  7. What a lucky girl your student is to have such a wise teacher. Wonder what she will latch onto.

  8. Bless you for resisting the pressure to define students by test scores--they are SO much more!

  9. I love your approach to lexiles. I have had so many conversations with parents and students about what lexiles measure and what they don't. Your students are lucky to have a teacher that knows they are more than a number.

  10. I often worry about the kids whose parents and teachers say they're reading a few grade levels above their actual age. I push back and tell them all of the wonderful books they'll miss if they don't read below their actual reading level. Thank G-d there are teachers out there like you who push back on what the parents want their kids to be reading. What an amazing canon of books kids will have if they are allowed their interests to guide them (in addition to their levels).

    Thanks for this important post, Holly!

  11. Well said! Could not agree more. Wondering if we have any family connection. My maiden name is Mueller. My dad's family is from the Cincinnati area. Glad I stumbled across your blog tonight. I'm sure I will enjoy reading more and hope to find my way back to writing on my blog...

  12. I love this! While my students DO read above grade level, they are good about varying what they read. I encourage them to read widely - which means reading book that hit their "challenge spot" and books that they love for ANY reason. I got my parents convinced that it's okay for them to devour graphic novels AND easier books AND books "on their level".