In my second year of teaching fourth grade, my science curriculum had a unit on plants. In an effort to integrate my English Language Arts and Science instruction, I wanted my students to read an informational text about plants during our small group guided reading time (In our district, guided reading was a time when students with similar reading abilities met in small groups to read and discuss a leveled book and receive more individualized reading instruction.)
So, I headed down to our guided reading library intent on finding a leveled text about plants for each of my guided reading groups. However, I was met with not one book about plants in the entire library. In an effort to be respectful of your time, I’ll spare you the details about the hours I spent in the coming days combing through our school library, area libraries, our local AEA catalog, online sites and resource catalogs and still could not find what I needed. I found books at a few levels, but not at the levels all of my kids could read independently. The books I did find were about plants, yet didn’t cover the same content from title to title. Then there was the problem of needing multiple copies for everyone in the group. I have to admit, I finally just gave up on the idea and read my kids a text aloud in addition to round robin reading from our old textbook.
This is one of the experiences that lead me to the development of StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way. Through our research, I’ve found I am far from alone in my quest for science informational texts aligned to my curriculum that all my students could read. In our latest survey about science informational texts, many teachers responded they were having issues finding appropriate informational texts for the Next Generation Science Standards:
“Most science books are nonfiction and that can be harder to read especially for lower readers.”
“I read difficult text to students and reword text so they understand.”
“Finding resources already integrated together are a challenge. It is up to me to find appropriate text that aligns with science and try to figure out which standards align.”
“I struggle with finding the texts I need due to lack of time to search. I also struggle with finding the texts I need to match what I am teaching.”
StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers with these struggles by providing informational texts written specifically for each Next Generation Science Standard Performance Expectation. All students can access the texts online at their specific Lexile level. This innovation means all students can independently read the same text with the same content.
One of the criticisms of leveled texts presented in labeled bins in a classroom is that children may feel labeled as a good reader or a struggling reader by their designated level. Our texts help to address this concern. Since teachers are choosing the Lexile level of StarrMatica’s texts behind the scenes, the level is never displayed for the child and the content of the text is the same for each level. So, a student doesn’t know there are multiple levels of the text read in his/her classroom.
Another criticism of leveled texts is how much a child’s reading choices are limited by the books available in his/her school at his/her designated level. This criticism speaks to me as a former fourth grade teacher. I had access to sets of leveled readers at our school, but there are only so many books and so many copies of each we could afford. Having sets of texts about the same topic, all aligned to my curriculum and that all of my students could read independently would have been a game changer in my room.
If your school doesn’t ascribe to book leveling or guided reading, you still may be interested in choosing different Lexile levels or different text structures based on how the text will be used with your students. If you are reading as a class, maybe you want to choose the highest level because, you will have an ability to discuss vocabulary and to address student questions. If you are reading in small groups, maybe you want to have half of a group read the text written as a problem/solution piece and half of the group read the text as a descriptive piece before discussing the similarities and differences between the two sets. You might also be interested in additional customization options to allow you to turn on and off voiceovers to read the text aloud, to choose ELA standards, and to select graphics.
You can visit http://www.starrmatica.com/index.php?/main/texts to learn more about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way. Send me an email with questions or just share your classroom struggles and triumphs with informational texts. I would love to hear what is and isn’t working for you!