As a reading teacher, each year I am excited to get to know my new group of reading students. I can't wait to see their unique personalities and get to know them as individual readers. I've found the easiest way to get a reading level assessment of each student is to hold intial reading conferences which I refer to as, "Three Different Books". This simple conference gives me valuable information and insights about each student as well as helps shape my literacy curriculum. Here's how it works...
How To Use Three Different Books As A Reading Level Assessment
Before I kick off my initial student reading conferences, I inform the class that they will each be meeting with me so I can learn more about their personalities. I explain that since I'm a teacher I find the best way to learn about something is through books! So each student will need to come prepared with three books that will help me get to know them better.
Book #1- Favorite Book
First, I ask my students to have a copy of their favorite book. This might sound cliche, but it tells me a lot about a student, when I ask them to discuss their favorite book. For example, there are the students that can easily and happily discuss the book's characters, setting, plot, and problem. These students also seem to know the book like the back of their hand and will continue to proceed to discuss several other books that they are currently reading (the motivated readers). Then there is the student that should and is able to read chapter books, but brings in a very simplistic picture book. Of course a childhood favorite with a detailed explanation of why he or she chose it would be an acceptable choice, but typically this is a student that has not read enough chapter books to have a favorite (the unmotivated reader). You also have the students who bring a book they have never read, but they desperately needed to find any book because they clearly do not have a favorite book (the struggling readers). This activity helps me see who has a passion for reading already and who needs me to ignite the fire. These books help me get an idea about what genre the students are drawn to reading. I can also gauge which students are able to get the gist of a book. This first book tells me a lot about the students' basic comprehension skills as we discuss the storyline. I am looking to see if they are able to recall and understand a book.
Book #2- A Character They Admire
The second book I ask my students to bring is a book that has a character they admire in the book. This book is going to have them dive a little deeper with their thinking as we discuss the book during our conference. I'll inquire about why they admire the character or what they would most like to ask that character and why. I ask for specific character descriptions with evidence to support their thinking. I will also ask if they know another character with similar traits in a different book. This book tells me a lot about a student's analytical skills.
Book #3- A Book You Would Change
The third book is a book that they would like to change something about the book. It does not have to be a book that the student didn't like, but it must have a part that he or she would like to rewrite and why. This can be quite difficult for many students. It is another level of comprehension that requires students to not only analyze, but in a sense almost create something by changing a part in a book.
When We Meet...
When we meet, I use my Initial Student Reading Conference Forms to record information. I start by reading their first book alongside them. Ideally, the student would read the entire book aloud to me, however if I notice they are struggling I will either a) take turns reading pages/passages to help them relax or b) have my student read along with me. Once we are done with the book I start asking questions and taking notes on my student teacher conference form. I use this same process with the other books too.
These initial student reading conferences always end up influencing many of my classroom reading strategies. The more I get to know about each students strenghts and weaknesses, or likes and dislike, the better I can prepare to guide and encourage them!
In short, If we want to make our students lifelong readers, it's essential that we recognize they are all on an individual reading journey. Start the semester off right, download my Initial Student Reading Conference Forms and get to know your reading students by holding "Three Different Books" meetings. You won't regret it!