The first thing that was addressed was just exactly what do we want for our young readers? We want our students to leave school being avid readers. We want them to love to read and we want them to want to read. Can we attain this solely using the leveled system of reading? They suggest not. Does it really matter what specific level a child is reading at or is it more important to have students choosing books they want to read and are interested in reading? Maureen and Faye suggest that there may be an over reliance on guided reading in our schools today. Our students need a balance of whole and small group instruction. But more importantly, especially for those struggling readers, one-on-one instruction has proven key in moving readers forward. Students need to read daily to an adult and get the feedback or coaching quickly if we want to see change.
This led us to the discussion around benchmarking our students. Is it important to know all the exact levels of all our students three times a year? How much valuable teaching time does completing running records on every student each term waste? Do we need to know the levels of those students we know are reading just fine or above grade level? The answers to these questions may surprise you if you have been benchmarking your students for many years. Both Maureen and Faye say, “Trust yourself as a teacher.” You know where your students are, if they are where they should be at any particular time of year. Use the Performance Standard Rubric to track most of your students. After all, teachers in B.C. who know and understand our curriculum created them. Only benchmark those students who you feel you need to gain more insight into what they are doing so you can plan your one-on-one time or small group instruction accordingly.
At the end of this conversation, I felt validated. I do know if my students are below, at, or above grade level for reading. I don’t need to benchmark each and every one of my students three times a year. I only need to benchmark those I may be struggling to help. I need to trust in myself as a teacher and I don’t need a publisher’s assessment kit to tell me how my students are doing because I already know.