StudentsI often get questions from teachers about adjusting levels and goals and recently received one that inspired this blog post.  The question was a common one, “Can I move my student to a new level before she completes all 24 stories?”  My first response was, “YES, yes, and yes!”

You should be ready to move your student as soon as you think she can handle it.  There is nothing magical about completing 24 stories.  But do not move the student before she can handle a new challenge or it might frustrate her.  It is essential to keep students challenged but also successful, or they could lose motivation.

Ah, now I see why I get this question a lot. There’s not a really clear answer for what to change and when! It is difficult to explain exactly, because it often starts with a gut feeling a teacher gets and ends with a decision made because of teacher observations and conversations with a student. So here are some concrete guidelines.

First of all, don’t raise a level and a goal at the same time. Doing so can be too much at once and can frustrate the student.  If a student is older and/or very far below grade level, you are likely to raise her level more frequently than her goal.  If a student is younger and is reading slightly below or near grade level, you will raise her goal more frequently. A good time to check the level and goal is after 12 stories.

Next, don’t be afraid to raise a level or a goal quickly after initial placement and long before a student completes 12 stories.  Regardless of how confident you were when you placed a student initially, you may need to alter her level or goal quickly.  It probably took only about five minutes to place her on one day.  It is possible that she read either really well or really poorly during those five minutes.  Feel free to move her goal or level within a story or two if you see right away there is an issue.  If you have to move her down, take the blame by saying you made a mistake during placement.  If you get to move her up a level or goal, give her the credit.

You will know a student is ready for a new level or goal if you see one or more of the following signs:

  • Cold reading rates constantly increase.
  • Only needs to read along once or twice.
  • Only needs to practice a story a few times.
  • Consistently surpasses his or her goal.
  • Begins to show signs of boredom.

Here are some other tips to consider when you are monitoring student performance:

  • Increase goals by 10 words at a time.
  • Increase levels by half grade levels.  Occasionally there are students who can handle skipping a full level.
  • Before altering a level, be sure the student is averaging 80% on his or her comprehension questions. You don’t want to move a student into harder material if his or her comprehension isn't strong.
  • Always discuss the change with the student and ask for input.

We have lots of other helpful information about monitoring student performance in the Knowledgebase.  Please leave a comment if you have any tips or stories you would like to share or if you have questions.