Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Total Reader Program Review

Are you familiar with Lexile numbers for reading levels? When I was a teacher years ago, books were labeled according to grade level and that is how we matched the correct book for a student's reading ability. There wasn't really a way to tell whether that book was going to be a good independent reader or something more appropriate on an instructional level. It seems this theory has evolved into an analysis with a little more accuracy.

Having a son with Dyslexia has made me really focus a lot on reading for the past three years. I am always wondering if all our hard work has paid off and whether or not he is reading on grade level. I also question whether the books he chooses to read independently are really at an independent level or not. This got me doing a search for the old reading level tests. You know the ones where you sit and count up all the words in a certain paragraph and how many sentences there are. Then you eventually come up with a number that you compare to a chart and it tells you approximately what grade level the book is at from that one little paragraph. Not real accurate! I also still don't know whether my son can read at that level or not. So during my search, I came across information about the Lexile number. To explain it best, here is an explanation from the Lexile site: "The idea behind The Lexile Framework for Reading is simple: if we know how well a student can read and how hard a specific book is to comprehend, we can predict how well that student will likely understand the book. When used together, Lexile measures help a reader find books and articles at an appropriate level of difficulty, and determine how well that reader will likely comprehend a text. You also can use Lexile measures to monitor a reader's growth in reading ability over time." Of course after reading this, I wanted to know what my son's Lexile score was and find books in that range for him to read. That lead me to finding a site called Total Reader. This site helps students in the following three areas:

Meeting Student Needs - Total Reader provides students with an individualized tool for practicing reading, measuring improvement and alerting them to the need for possible intervention

Monitoring and Assessing Student Reading Levels - Total Reader provides teachers with reports that are accessible from any computer, so they can not only assess and monitor students, but suggest text and plan curriculum based on reading levels.

Accountability - Total Reader enables educators to assess curriculum and demonstrate accountability to both state and federal mandates and tests.

The student is first given a diagnostic test to get an initial Lexile score. Then the system will adjust the reading passages to that range for the student to read. They are based on the Cloze Procedure where a word is periodically left out and the student must choose from four possible answer choices for the one that makes sense in the context. Each test is recorded and given a Lexile score. Because your child is reading passages in the correct range, his comprehension will increase and his score will actually get better the more he practices. You as the parent can go in and look at different reports and print results.

There are several things I like about this program:
1. I now know my child's Lexile score and can find appropriate materials at both the independent
and instructional level.
2. My son can continue to increase his reading level by reading passages that are interesting to
him. There are tons of different stories for the students to choose from.
3. I have diagnostic information that can be printed and put into a portfolio to show his progress
each year.

The cost was fairly reasonable for this program. It was $39.95 for a whole year per student. This price says it's a special offer so I don't know how long it will last. It is regularly $49.95. Being able to correctly select books for my son and knowing what level he is reading on was worth it enough for me. The fact that he can continue to increase his reading comprehension was an added bonus.

Perhaps you already know your child's score. If you do, you can go HERE to find books within that range.


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