Monday, September 08, 2008

This Works For Me, Too

A big discussion has been going on for a few days at one of my listservs about the proposal in the U.K. to start banding books with age levels. I brought age banding up to a family member who's an education major doing her student teaching this fall in a fifth grade classroom. She told me about children determining the appropriateness of books for themselves using the Five Finger Test.

Basically, children read a page of a book and hold up a finger everytime they hit a word they don't know. If they have five fingers up by the time they reach the end of the page, they can assume the book is too difficult for them just then and try something else. The idea is to keep child readers from becoming frustrated and, potentially, turned off from reading altogether.

I think the Five Finger Test could work for me, too. Certainly if there are five words on a page that I don't know, the book is no doubt too frustrating for me. The difference between child readers and myself is that child readers have the hope that at some time in the future their reading level will be high enough that they can go back to the book they found too difficult and read it successfully. I'm not so sure that's going to happen for me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be okay with the Five Finger Test, and with the age banding, if there was just one more step described in the process. After you get to the end of the page, if you have five fingers up, and you know it will be a very challenging book, decide for yourself if you want to read it anyway.

It's all very well to warn kids when they are going to attempt something difficult, but this emphasis on Just Right Books is starting to play out in weird ways in my kid's classroom. It seems to be instilling Free of Failure more than anything else. It would be BAD to try to read a book that doesn't pass the test because then YOU MIGHT (what? decide you didn't want to finish it? and the world would end, why?)

I understand that finishing a book is an exciting thing and teachers want to start a feed back loop to get kids reading, but every system can be mishandled by the ham-handed. I've seen too many stories of people who weren't allowed to check out books that were "too difficult" for them. Advice is well and good, but I hope they leave the final decision in the children's hands.

1:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home