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Don’t Pitch Your Leveled Readers!

November 18, 2021 by Suzanne Kelley




Being a teacher over the last year has drained me! What seems to be making it harder this year are the false critiques of my curriculum choices for my students! Depending upon who you talk to or what Facebook group you follow, people are coming down hard with their opinions about the best way to teach reading.  Are you using leveled readers still? For shame! Are you feeling this push from administrators, teachers, other professionals to pitch your leveled readers?

Well, I believe in teachers supporting other teachers and lifting them. Teachers know the focus we need to put on phonemic awareness and phonics, comprehension, and vocabulary. We are in the classrooms living and breathing the education of our students! We also know that our students are all unique and learn in different ways! So let’s make the curriculum we have work for our students! Don’t pitch your leveled readers! We will give you some ways to improve your reading program while using leveled readers!

Leveled Readers vs. Decodables

Essentially any book can be assigned a level, so what are we talking about when we say ‘leveled’ readers? Leveled readers are books that have a gradient level of difficulty. These books begin at a simple level, and as students move up in their proficiency, they move up levels. Leveled readers differ from decodable books in that decodable books focus on following specific phonics patterns. Leveled books are focused more on sentence fluency, vocabulary, and phonetic patterns, increasing in difficulty.

Both types of books serve a place in the classroom. There are countless benefits to students developing independent reading skills through reading decodable texts. Students need phonemic awareness and phonics! I love using phonics readers and activities to build my students’ reading confidence and abilities. Here are a couple of my favorites:

No Prep Phonics Booklets

Inside the foldable, you will find a passage for each phonics pattern, multiple-choice, fill in the blank, a short answer question, and word practice.

On the back of the foldable, you can see a sentence writing and parent connection activity!

Phonics-Based Fluency and Comprehension Passages

Included in this bundle are 89 passages focusing on each phonics component while focusing on reading fluency. These passages have three written comprehension questions for each passage!

But, many decodable books do not increase a student’s vocabulary or reading comprehension skills as they have the constraints of always following a phonics pattern. Leveled readers, as they grow in difficulty, have more focus on topics of interest to students. They build on language skills, increase background knowledge, and match a student’s reading abilities. I love our new leveled passages! Why these passages?

Why Leveled Passages?

  • Assessment Check-In: Use these passages for progress monitoring your students’ reading levels in the classroom.
  • Plan Your Instruction: Determine the next steps for instruction with your running record analysis.
  • Group Your Students: Group students together for instruction based on the needs discovered in the running record.
  • Align with Your Curriculum and Assessments Needs: Do you find yourself looking for additional leveled passages to do a quick check with a student or students, but don’t want to burn your limited number in your district-provided assessment kit? Leveled Passages is just what you need!
  • Multiple Options Per Level: Twenty passages at each level ensure you’ll never run out!
  • Fiction and Non-Fiction Passages Included: Ten of each passage type are available for your use!

Other Reasons to Use Leveled Readers

  • Books can match the interest levels of students.
  • Students can construct meaning in what they are reading. Students in higher grades will be expected to construct meaning from some challenging texts.
  • You can practice fluency with your students.
  • There can still be a strong focus on phonemic principles in your classroom!
  • Students can learn a variety of text structures.
  • Students can read with increasingly more challenging texts that won’t frustrate them.

Other Activities for Your Leveled Readers

  • A Warm-Up–I like to start with a quick warm-up, usually phonemic awareness in nature.  Whether it be segmenting words into syllables or sounds, identifying beginning, middle, or ending sounds, or producing rhyming words.  Sometimes I do Digital Word Cards!

  • Do a Comprehension Game with a Comprehension Ball–Teachers can purchase pre-made beach balls from various companies, but the easiest and cheapest is buying and blowing up a beach ball on your own and writing your questions.

  • Reading A-ZKids Love anything digital, so they will enjoy doing the leveled books on this site! ‘Reading A-Z also provides fluency passages, worksheets, activities, and quizzes for teaching comprehension and critical thinking skills.’
  • Making Connections–By making text-to-life connections and activating prior knowledge, students become invested in their reading.
  • 20 Tools to Include BlogIn this blog, you will see some of the must-haves for your guided reading groups!
  • Books–Students can warm themselves up by reading an easier book smoothly before moving to a “just right” book. Please make sure students have a variety of books to choose from in their book bag or bin!
  • Not sure about leveled readers?Try this freebie of our leveled passages!

Hopefully, you are feeling very confident in your choice to keep your leveled readers! Teaching students to read can require several tools in our teacher belts. The goal is always to teach to the students’ needs. So if you hear pushback on your use of leveled readers, be assured that there is a place for decodable books and leveled readers in every classroom. So, don’t throw away those leveled readers!

Want more leveled passages and other phonics resources at your fingertips? You can make your own packets, go across grades, and enjoy unlimited downloads: Premium Membership!

WRITTEN BY – SUZANNE KELLEY

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