Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Carts, Books, and Benchmarking

I don’t think I would be too far off the mark if I said, “Teachers across the nation dream of creating life-long readers!”  Life-long readers LOVE to read, LIVE to read, and think about reading even when they’re not reading (that may be a bit of an exaggeration but you get my drift!)  Although there are MANY skills that we focus on in a day’s learning reading is very important.  You could say it’s “how we roll!"  It's what makes us A GROWING CLASS in Mrs. Hoffart’s First Grade! 
Each night, all students at Wakefield Elementary have the opportunity to bring a book home to read for pleasure!  These books (if you notice) have a small letter on the right-hand side of the cover.  This letter shows the “level” at which your student is reading independently (comfortably, with very few issues).  “How do they know which letter to choose?” you may ask.  Good question!  Let me explain the process:
At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Manz (reading specialists) “benchmarks” each student in the primary grades.  Benchmarking refers to a system of reading aloud and comprehension questions that “mark” the level at which your child can read comfortably and with a high level of accuracy.  Once that level is established, students begin choosing a book each night to read from the book cart.  We also use these benchmarking scores as well as data and teacher observation from the previous year to establish small groups where students receive a great deal of reading instruction.  
The process doesn’t stop there!  Every two to four weeks, students are benchmarked again by the classroom teacher.  Sometimes, growth is achieved and other times, students remain comfortable at the same level.  Both are fine!  If, however, a student remains at the same reading level several benchmarking sessions in a row a red flag goes up with the classroom teacher and certain interventions are put in place to help that student achieve growth.  This isn’t the ONLY indicator of student growth but it is certainly a valid starting point. 
Historically and statistically, the most growth occurs in first grade (see chart below)!  Not just because we ROCK (although, that’s certainly a factor) but, when you think about it, once students “figure out” this whole reading thing, their tendency is to take off and fly!

So, as your child brings a "mini-book" home each night, take 10-15 minutes, read with them, ask questions, be present in their learning!  This small window of time will go a LONG way in proving to them that you value their education and are interested in OUR goal of being A GROWING CLASS of life-long readers!

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