1. What do you mean by "placement"?

Placement in Read Naturally is more than just picking a level based on your knowledge of the student. Placement involves testing the student using a defined process to determine a level, goal and series that will be appropriate for the student.

Correct initial placement is crucial to success in Read Naturally Strategy programs (Read Naturally Live, Read Naturally Encore, One Minute Reader, Read Naturally GATE, and Read Naturally ME). You must select a combination of level, goal, and series that will challenge but not discourage the student. The reading material and the goal need to be difficult enough to require the student to practice reading the story several times to reach his or her goal. However, the level and goal should not be so difficult that the student gives up because of frustration.

Level: Stories are grouped into levels based on their difficulty. Levels range in difficulty from a first-grade reading level through an eighth-grade reading level. Read Naturally assigns stories to levels based on several readability formulas. Because a struggling reader can rarely make a full-year leap as he or she progresses, levels are available at almost every half year.

Goal: The goal is the number of words a student must read correctly in one minute to pass a story. The goal must be high enough to require the student to practice several times but not so high that the student becomes frustrated.

Series: For many of the levels, you have a choice of series. Regardless of the series you choose, the primary purpose of the program is to build fluency in developing and struggling readers. Some series focus on other areas of instruction in addition to fluency.

2. Can I use benchmark assessment scores to pick the Read Naturally level for the student?

No. Benchmark assessments can be good tools for determining whether a student should work in Read Naturally Live or Read Naturally Encore, but results from benchmark assessments are not appropriate for placement.

The only way to correctly identify the level of material and goal for a student who is entering Read Naturally is to follow the defined placement process. When you use the placement process, you determine an appropriate level of material and a reading-rate goal that are challenging enough to accelerate reading improvement, but not so difficult that the student becomes discouraged.

Use the Read Naturally Live built-in placement test or the Read Naturally Encore Placement Packet to place students. The placement test can be administered relatively quickly. Correct placement is vital to the student's success in Read Naturally!

3. Can a student's Lexile® reader measure be used to pick a level for a student in Read Naturally?

No, a student cannot be placed in a Read Naturally level using the student’s Lexile® reader measure because the Lexile reader measure and Read Naturally placement results convey information about different skills.

  • A student’s Lexile reader measure reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is likely to comprehend at 75% accuracy.
  • A student’s Read Naturally placement reflects the level of text difficulty where the student is unlikely to read fluently.

Placement in an appropriate Read Naturally level is based on the student’s fluency performance on passages in the placement test. The placement passages closely align to the passages in each level. Using Lexile reader measures, other text difficulty measures, or grade-level oral reading fluency scores will result in incorrect placement of a student and may be detrimental to the student’s progress.

pointer For More Information: Placing Students in Read Naturally Strategy Programs

4. Do I conduct placement on students who were working in Read Naturally last year?

Do not do the placement assessment again. Placement is for students new to the program and is completed before students start working in the program.

Simply have returning students begin a new story in the same level they were working in last spring. Some of these students may have lost some of the ground they gained last year and may not be as fluent as they were in the spring. Some may be better than they were last year. You can adjust the level and/or goal after the students have completed several stories if their reading has changed significantly over the summer.

If you place returning students, students who have lost ground over the summer may place into a level they've already completed. Students rarely need to redo levels. In fact, most returning students will be able to pick up where they left off.  However, it may take some students a few more practices to reach their goal than it did in the spring, or their goal may need to be lowered for the first few stories if they're frustrated.

5. How do I accurately place students in a Read Naturally Strategy program?

When you place students in a Read Naturally Strategy program, you choose an instructional level, reading rate goal, and series that are appropriate for each student.  It is essential that students are placed with a level and goal that are challenging--but not so difficult that students are frustrated.

For specific information about placing students with one of the built-in placement tests or a placement packet, refer to:

6. Do I do placement differently for an English learner?

If the student is to work in the English version of Read Naturally, use the placement test as usual for an English learner (EL)—either the placement test built into Read Naturally Live or using the Read Naturally Encore Placement Packet.

However, you're probably aware that many ELs can be very fluent readers of English but have limited understanding of what they are reading. Spanish-speaking students who are learning to read English may understand the rules of pronunciation but not understand the meaning of those English words. Vocabulary deficits in English words makes checking initial placement even more essential for these students. 
pointer Checking initial placement in Read Naturally Live
pointer Checking initial placement in Read Naturally Encore

IMPORTANT: After the first three stories in the level, if a student who is learning the English language has a comprehension score below 60%, lower the level to the next nearest level and have the student complete three stories in the new level. If the student's quiz average is still below 60%, lower the level again. Continue this process until the student is working in a level where the comprehension average for the first three stories is at or above 60%. That is the level where comprehension should begin to grow for a student who needs to learn the meaning of the words.

If the student is to work in the Spanish version of Read Naturally, use the placement guidelines to place each student in Read Naturally Live—Español or ME Spanish (Masters Edition). It is important to evaluate the scores after the student finishes each of the first three stories to make sure the placement is appropriate.

7. How do I decide to place in the Phonics series?

The Phonics series is appropriate for any first- or second-grade student who is beginning to learn phonics.  Also, consider using the Phonics series with older students if the placement test indicates the student should work in level 3.0 or below and the student would benefit from phonics instruction and practice.  

Place a student in a Phonics level by first determining his or her placement level using the placement test.  Then determine whether the corresponding Phonics level is a good match for the student’s phonics needs. If the corresponding Phonics level does not match the student’s phonics needs, select the Sequenced level and provide separate phonics instruction.

Learn more about:
pointer​ Word Warm-ups
pointer Signs for Sounds

8. How do I place beginning readers?

For beginning readers, there is an exception to the placement process. On the placement test, a student who falls below the placement table range on the lowest level, 1.0, will still be able to work successfully in Read Naturally if the student knows beginning sounds and can recognize about 50 written words.

Note: To work in Read Naturally, a beginning reader does not need to know the words from any particular word list. When a student knows beginning sounds and approximately 50 words, the student usually has the skill to recognize whether the word he or she is viewing in the story text matches the word being spoken by the narrator.

At placement level 1.0, you have a choice of series (Sequenced level 1.0 and Phonics level 0.8). After choosing a series, set the goal as usual by adding 30 to the student's score on the placement test.

Students who are not yet ready to work independently in these series but who know 15 to 20 words may start in Read Naturally GATE level 0.8. Read Naturally GATE offers direct phonics instruction for students in small groups, in addition to fluency support. 

pointer Learn more about Read Naturally GATE

Placement Example for a Beginning Reader
Jessie is in second grade, and English is her native language. On her placement test in level 1.0, she read 26 words correctly per minute. She knows beginning sounds but can recognize only 60 written words. Can she work in Read Naturally? If yes, what level might be appropriate?

Jessie can work in Read Naturally even though her score fell below the placement table range of 30–60 wcpm for level 1.0, because she knows beginning sounds and more than 50 written words.

As a beginning reader, Jessie can work in either Phonics level 0.8 or Sequenced level 1.0. If she needs practice in decoding words with short vowels, place her in Phonics level 0.8 to provide some phonics instruction along with the fluency practice. If Jessie is receiving good phonics instruction and does not need more phonics practice, put her in Sequenced level 1.0 to work on fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.

Set her goal by adding 30 to her score for the level 1.0 placement story and rounding to the nearest five (26 + 30 = 56 wcpm, and round down to get 55 wcpm).

9. How do I determine initial goals?

A student's goal should be sufficiently high to require the student to read the story several times after reading along with the audio recording. Generally, when setting  the goal for a student below fifth grade, set the goal 30 words above the initial reading rate (words correct per minute) on the placement passage. For a student in grade 5 and above, set the goal by adding 40 words to the initial reading rate on the placement passage.

The placement program in Read Naturally Live recommends an appropriate goal for each student. You may decide to set a different goal than the one suggested by the program based on your knowledge of the individual student.

pointer More about initial placement

10. What is the role of accuracy in placing students in Read Naturally Strategy programs?

In most cases, we do not isolate and then use the accuracy scores to place students in Read Naturally. Accuracy is accounted for in the words-correct-per-minute score obtained in the placement process because errors are subtracted to calculate the score. 

One way Read Naturally accelerates students’ reading is by teaching unfamiliar words. The student learns the unfamiliar words modeled during the read-along step, and then the student masters the unfamiliar words during the repeated reading step. So a student can be (and should be) placed in a level in which the student makes some errors. 

However, if a student’s scores indicate the student could be placed in two or more levels, the teacher should take the student’s accuracy into consideration in selecting the best level for the student.

11. I have a fourth-grade student who is a beginning reader, but has some phonics skills. Should I start her in Phonics level 0.8?

If she is a beginning reader she probably does need to start with Phonics level 0.8.  But because she is older and may not need work on all of the sounds, she probably won't need to go through all of the stories in that level.  So you can tailor the program to fit her needs.  Direct the student to select only stories from level 0.8 that focus on the sounds you have determined she needs.

However, you should consider using Word Warm-ups Live with this student. This program is included with a subscription to Read Live, and offers direct instruction in phonics skills for beginning readers.


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