The 8 Step Test to Choose High-Quality Reading Materials [episode 20]

high-quality-reading-materials

Click below to hear an 8 step test to choose high quality reading materials:

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Thanks for joining me for another episode! When it comes to selecting reading materials for your class or kids, it can be overwhelming trying to find a selection that fits your needs. Or even worse, you select resources that are a lot of fluff and not what you were expecting them to be. So how do you make sure you’re choosing the right resources? That’s where I come in! In today’s episode, I’m sharing the 8 step test to choose high-quality reading materials. 

If you look at your class of students, or your own kids if you’re homeschooling, you know that there’s a variety of academic levels, backgrounds, and literacy skills. That makes it hard in selecting the right reading materials. 

This 8 step test helps you evaluate the materials you’re choosing for your classroom to ensure they’re high-quality reading materials. The 8 step test is:

  1. Leveling and differentiation
  2. Quality of writing and content
  3. Appropriate for students
  4. Response space and types of responses
  5. Variety of topics
  6. Types of writing
  7. Diversity and representation
  8. Fluency tracking

Each of these steps allows you to meet the needs of all your students, while also being enjoyable, a way for them to grow their knowledge on various topics, understand other cultures and backgrounds, and track their reading growth. Finding high-quality reading materials can feel like an impossible task, but with this 8 step test, you’ll find exactly what you were looking for!

In this episode on high quality reading materials, we discuss:

  • How this 8 step test helps evaluate reading materials selected for your classroom
  • Why this can also be used for other curriculum materials
  • The way texts can be used to meet a variety of academic learners
  • Questions to ask for each step when evaluating a selected reading material

Resources mentioned:

Related episodes and blog posts:

Connect with Kelsey:

Read the transcript for episode 20, The 8 Step Test to Choose High-Quality Reading Materials:

Did you notice something different there? If you’ve been listening to the podcast before, you might have noticed we have a new intro to the podcast. Wwo weeks ago, once you’re listening to this, we released our new song for Wife Teacher Mommy we released the music video at Educate & Rejuvenate and I will also be sharing the full song next week on the podcast. When I interview the songwriter Christine Cox who spoiler also happens to be my mom, but she’s a talented musician. She is also a keynote speaker. She was at Educate & Rejuvenate for the bonus day for our club members. She has so much value to offer. And as we talk about at Wife Teacher Mommy, yes, she’s my mom. But that’s not why I involved her. She is phenomenal. We all have all these roles in our lives. And she is a motivational speaker. She’s a songwriter, all these things. And you know, as you can hear from that intro, she is an amazing songwriter. So be sure to hit the subscribe button as you’re listening right now to make sure that you don’t miss next week’s episode.

Now, this is the first episode today that I’m recording since the event. So the last couple of weeks I recorded ahead of the event to make sure that I had the bandwidth for the event itself. And I’m here to tell you today Boy, am I glad I did that. It was such a fun event such a great time. But before I dive into today’s content, which is all about high quality reading materials, I want to tell you just a little bit about Educate & Rejuvenate behind the scenes, I always think it’s fun to hear about that stuff. And also I have kind of a coachy type message to share with you about what I learned from hosting a big event like this, our very first time doing this. So hang tight for a sec while I share this I promise that will relate to you. And then we’ll dive into the reading content too. First off if you’re not familiar with what I’m referring to, so Educate & Rejuvenate was our big virtual conference that we did. It was on the 28th and 29th of June. And then we had on the 29th we had a bonus day for our Wife Teacher Mommy club members. And it was a huge event. We had amazing speakers such as Bree Richardson from Honest Teacher Vibes and Amber Harper from Burnedin Teacher. They were our keynotes. We had over 20 amazing speakers. We had Chrissy Nichols, our life coach coaching, we had workout classes, we had panels, we had so much fun, we’re giving away $5 gift cards all over the place. It was so much fun. We’ll do definitely do it again next year. So stick around and you can join us again. But anyway, so it was a lot of fun. Like I said, so much fun. So many teachers enjoyed it and we have some great feedback. Overall, it was a success. But can I also just be honest, for a minute, it was also very overwhelming during it too. It was a huge learning curve for me and my team. And I found myself like I said in some overwhelm and burnout with all the things that came up. I had been setting my alarm at 630 in the morning to make sure I was up and ready to go by 8am when the event began. And then I was up till past midnight helping customers helping my team troubleshoot issues and everything. It was a crazy day. My children hardly saw me and everything it was so a crazy few days so much fun. Like it was like ups and downs. It was like the fun of hanging out with all the teachers but then some of the overwhelm behind the scenes because of some things that happened that we had not foreseen. Right. And that happens a lot in life and in the classroom or homeschooling, any of that this will happen. Things that you don’t expect come up. So for us, for example, during this event, our website went down right at the beginning and I had tried to be proactive and talk to our web hosts to see if you know, they thought we might be okay. But I think they didn’t realize how many teachers were coming to this event. And I probably should have been more clear about that. So our website went down. So some teachers were confused or frustrated, they weren’t able to get on. And then right as we got that back up, we were streaming our workouts on Facebook Live, but then Facebook took it down due to copyright. And people were confused about where to find it. And I totally didn’t blame them. It’s kind of like a lesson plan, you know, when you’re teaching, and you realize that things aren’t working, but like it takes a bit to figure it out and readjust. you’re adjusting on the fly. And we’re definitely evaluating now on how we can do things better next year. But we also had back to back going live for all these events. And it was so much fun. But I was rushing one of these times, and I knocked my water off, because I was trying to hurry and get back to the next slide. I like had to just hurry and grab a bite to eat. I was like, I’m so hungry. And then my water spilled all over my laptop, my like, super expensive MacBook. So luckily, I had AppleCare on it, I found out so I had three years of Apple Care. And we were two and a half years in so it was still covered. So I get to have that repaired. But there were just so many things, so many hang ups that you know, I was feeling overwhelmed. And I could have focused on that and felt like the event was not a success. But you might be thinking, you know, hearing those things, man, that event was awful. But it was it wasn’t it was amazing. It was truly amazing. And I’m so glad we did it. Because I’m looking at the positive from it. I just want to share for a second what one teacher just one because I know I want to get into the content of today’s episode. But I want to share what was said and this was from Shelby. Shelby, if you’re listening, shout out to you. So she said, “You did amazing for your first year, I have teared up came to realization and honestly got my fire coming back. You and your team have truly created an experience that so many teachers needed and wanted. I know I said it so many times. But thank you. And thank you, thank you for your hard work for all of us educators. Wife Teacher Mommy is truly a community I always want to be a part of keep it up, everyone overcame and was so positive. Kelsey, your first video with owning showed through every single live, thank you for modeling being transparent and showing me how to own my wins and looking at my gains. Thank you.” I’m almost like tearing up reading that because I hadn’t read out loud. The impact that this event was able to have on teachers was amazing. And see my team come together. My amazing team. Like I said, this was a team effort, I could not have put on this event by myself, we all came together. And we did it. And we had new teachers joining our club community because they loved the experiences that they had during the event. And it was so fun to seeing so many of them engaged in the tools, the coaching that I know will truly help every teacher live their best lives. And that is our goal here at Wife Teacher Mommy. And if we hadn’t have done this event, if we hadn’t taken the time to learn and grow from all the challenges that happened in this situation, these teachers would have never had this experience. And that’s why we do what we do. And now we’re taking the time to reflect on what went well, what didn’t we’re already planning for next year, we’re super excited on how we can make this event better than ever. And that reflection is part of how we grow. And looking at it from a place of how can we improve and get even better. And we already came this far, it’s kind of like I even talked about in my own your teacher wins session during the event. I also talked about it in a sneak peek on the podcast, I think it was episode 13. But if you scroll through there, it’s the one that says own your teacher wins sneak peek at my session, you’ll be able to hear that there. But it’s we’re looking at how far we came. So it’s not like oh my goodness, all these issues came wrong. It’s Oh my goodness, we just put on this huge event. And teachers had inspirational experiences like that. So I’m so proud of ourselves. And you know, we just have to remember all along the way, life is messy teaching is messy. So as you head into your next school year, just be ready for things not to go exactly as you planned, that’s going to happen. So just don’t beat yourself up, you are doing amazing, we just have to continue to roll with the punches, find the support system around you. If you feel like you don’t have one, I’ll be your support system message me on Instagram, there are always things that can go wrong, but focusing on the good parts and your team around you. So my team is who helped me your team, who’s your teacher, team, your teacher, besties, your teacher, friends, all those around you be so proud of yourself for all you’re accomplishing. That’s just my getting on my soapbox for a minute from what I learned and what I want you to be able to take from it too. So for those of you who were at the event, I hope you had a great time. And for those of you who weren’t, I would love to see you there next year for doing it again, so no worries. And if you join us in the club, you’ll be able to watch the replays if you’d like.

Okay, but today what we are doing is we are diving in, we are looking at the eight steps to choose high quality reading materials and emphasis on high quality because as I’ve talked with a lot of teachers along the way, they say they will like you know, buy a resource and they realize it’s just kind of fluff or just feels like it was just generated but it’s not very good. And there is a way that you can evaluate the materials that you’re choosing to use in your classroom to make sure that they are the quality that you would like to use in your instruction with your students or with your children when you’re homeschooling. And this can apply to any sort of reading materials, so books, or reading passages or readers that you’re looking for on TPT, or Lake Shore, or Amazon or wherever you get reading materials for your kids. And while I put together this eight step test, specifically for reading materials, these steps can actually I’ve realized, as I was looking through it apply to most sort of curriculum that you would use. So you can use most of these for even if you’re evaluating math resources, or science, or social studies, or anything, I’m going to dive in. And you can see I’m going to be talking about these applying to reading but it might every so often mention Oh, and you could apply this to other things, too.

Okay, so number one is leveling and differentiation. As we know, as teachers, not every student in your class has the same means educationally mind blowing, right? We all know that already. But do the resources that you were using, are they allowing you to differentiate to meet your students at each level. So if you are teaching third grade, for example, I like using third grade as an example, because it’s right in the middle. It’s also what I taught and love third grade, you might have students who are up to a fourth, fifth, even sixth grade reading level. And then you might have other children who are much lower, like maybe they’re at a second or first grade reading level. And you just have this huge range in your classroom, if you’re a teacher. And if you’re a homeschool parent, you probably have children. If you have multiple children, or if you’re in homeschool group, they’re probably children at different levels as well. So we need to figure out how to best meet those children. And the resources you choose can have a big impact on how easy it is to differentiate. Some of them, you might have just like one grade, and it’s like, right on grade level. And it’s not easy to adjust it to meet higher or lower levels. And they may or may not have the same thing available for other levels. Or if they do, it’s different enough that it’s noticeable for the students that were like, Hey, why is that kid reading about dolphins and I am reading about monkeys or whatever. And they notice like they they can tell they’re onto it that like some kids are reading at higher levels than others. And while that’s true, we don’t want to make children feel bad about it. So it can be nice if you can find something that can be differentiated. But it’s still very similar among the different levels of your children that you’re teaching. So number one is the ease of differentiation to meet all the children. And that will also wildly depend on the range with the students you teach. Maybe most of your kids, maybe you’re in a gifted classroom, and most of them are at the same higher level. Even there, though, you could have them in ranging higher levels. But if you have students who are closer might not be as big of a deal as those who have a bigger range. But as many of us have noticed what COVID, we’re seeing bigger ranges than ever. So differentiation very important.

Number two is the quality of the writing. So is the writing using proper grammar, proper sentence structure? Are your kids going to be finding errors that you don’t want them to be doing in their own writing? The second thing is the quality of the content. So even if the writing is like great sentence structures, and using good vocabulary and everything, is the content actually good? Is it an interesting story to read? Or is it just boring and the kids are like, I don’t want to read this, you know. And of course, there will always be some students like that. But if the whole class thinks that the reading material is absolutely boring, that maybe you can find some reading material that is more interesting to your students, it’s higher quality in both the quality of writing and the content, like it’s enjoyable content that your students actually enjoy reading, which will make them want to read more. Okay, so that was number two, the quality of the writing and the content. And again, this can be for any subject, like even if it’s not quality of writing, the quality of the content is the content there.

Number three, is it appropriate for students? And this can be obviously taken in many ways. So you can take that question however you would like. But is it appropriate? Like grade level appropriate? So if you’re teaching kindergarten for one, are the names ones that kids who were in kindergarten could pronounce? Or are they names that there’s no way they’re going to be able to figure it out? When you get into older grade levels, you can have you know, more complicated names, but in the kindergarten you want like ones that they can sound out, you know, when they’re trying to send out we want names like Matt or whatever. So like my daughter Brielle, that is not a name that’s easy to read, I would not have that in a kindergarten reading passage, because these children are just learning how to read. Is the content on their level that they’re going to understand what is going on? Is there any content within it that might not be seen as a appropriate for a school setting? Like, is there religious stuff in the content? We probably don’t want to use that if you were in a public school, for example. Just things to keep in mind. Is it appropriate for students if you can take that however, it makes sense for you in your situation, but making sure it’s appropriate like grade level appropriate for them to be able to read it appropriate in the content is in it. And even just like, it doesn’t necessarily need to be inappropriate content for it to be not appropriate for the students.

Number four, response space and type of response. And this is for if it’s like passages that have questions to go with the reading. If you are teaching fourth grade, for example, and there are like writing lines for like kindergarteners, obviously, that wouldn’t be appropriate. And that is an obvious scenario. But what can oftentimes happen is there’s not enough room for students to write their answer in the answer space. So you want to make sure that you pick passages where there’s room for them to write their answer. Number two is also the type of responses and are there options? So like, are there options for multiple choice? Is it free response? What is it that you’re wanting those kids to achieve? I’m not saying either type is wrong? What is it you want to achieve? And is that available? Or is there a nice mix of both? Or are there options? So you can again, kind of going back to number one, the leveling and differentiation so you can have different types of responses for different students. So number four, was the type of student response to questions, the amount of space they have to write and the type of answer response.

Number five, is there a variety of topics? And this kind of ties into what I was talking about about the content? Like is it good content, but also like there can be good content, but too much of the same content? So is there a fiction and nonfiction? Are there topics about animals are reading about Miguel and his plant, or learning about Vanessa on her volleyball team? Do you have a variety of topics for kids to read about? That is the big thing, because variety, as we know is the spice of life, we want to make sure that our kids are reading about a lot of different things when they’re reading. And they’ll learn more that way too. So if they’re always reading about like, animals are great. And again, if it’s like their students, they’re picking what they want to read. And they always want to read about animals. That’s great. But we’re talking about like, if you’re buying some readers like like some reading passages on TPT, like we have some as well, making sure that those include a variety of topics, and that your kids aren’t going to get bored, because there’s a huge variety.

Have you heard of are ready to go sub plans, taking a sick day doesn’t have to be harder than just going to work sick because we did the work for you. We have sub plans for pre K through sixth grade, they have been trusted by over 60,000 teachers, here’s what just a few of them have to say. “I was so sick two years ago, and I was so glad I found these plans. Because normally I’d be sick in bed trying to type I had already made the coffee. They were in a sub tub. And I didn’t have to worry about anything, all I had to do is email my lesson plan to my administrator. And from there, they knew where everything was, it made it so easy, I didn’t have to worry about a thing, which when you’re sick, you don’t want to worry about one more thing for your class. So I love the sub plans.” “My favorite resource is the sub tubs. I love having something ready to go at a whim because sometimes emergencies pop up and you just need something ready to go.” “Hi, my favorite Wife Teacher Mommy club resource is the ready to go sub plans on multiple grade levels because I teach multiple grade levels. And I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around how to get sub plans for each different level that I teach within one classroom. And the bundles are just a lifesaver because I just they’re ready made them I’m so excited to be able to put them to use.” Get your sub plans at wifeteachermommy.com or access all of our resources by joining us in Wife Teacher Mommy club. Want to try before you buy? Get a free sample by going to subplanningstarterkit.com. You can find all of these links in the show notes.

Number six types of writing. And I actually got into this a little bit in a variety of topics. So forgive me for getting ahead of myself. But do you have multiple types of writing in there? Is there a fiction? Is there nonfiction? What about like a step by step like a how to or poetry? Are there different options of writing for students to read so they can get exposed to different types of literature. And they don’t all necessarily need to be in one resource, right? But make sure that when you are choosing and selecting resources and curriculum to use either as supplemental in your classroom or homeschool or if you’re choosing your main curriculum, like if you’re a homeschool parent, it can be very overwhelming to pick what curriculum to use. So make sure within everything you pick everything you’re curating, you’re able to find a variety of types of writing.

Okay, number seven is diversity and representation. We want the children we teach to understand that not everybody is the same. And the thing about that is it’s such a beautiful thing and it really should be something to celebrate. Sadly, we all know that racism and prejudice are still things that so many people are experiencing. And it’s an issue. And part of what could potentially help that is for our students to see and understand others, kids should see black, white, Asian, Hispanic, all different kinds of races, and cultures in different places in the world, in their reading materials, because they will meet all kinds of people right in their communities and all over the world. And you know, it’s not just about race, but also different worldviews, religions, or lack thereof, sexual orientation, different types of families, not everyone has a mom and a dad at home, some may have neither, and they live with their grandparents or other guardians, aunt and uncle, you know, people’s lives just look different. So it’s important for our kids to know how to respect people, regardless of all of these things. And one way to help them do that is by helping students see themselves and others through literature. And it’s important for them to see themselves some of your students are those students who might feel marginalized in different ways. So imagine that student seeing themselves in a book and how validating that is for them. And then it’s also important to have windows for all of our students to see into other cultures besides their own, there are so many out there, and giving exposure to as many of them as possible for your students to be able to learn for them is so important. And I do this even with my own books I pick for my kids at home, I want them to be able to see the variety and the beauty of humanity in the diversity and representation in our literature. And I think that’s something that everybody could do in their classroom and home libraries.

Number eight is fluency tracking. So if you want to be able to track fluency for your students, make sure that you at least have some resources that will allow you to track that. So you have a nice little chart where you can keep track of fluency. If you need one of those, we have some great ones in our shop that you can grab. Because tracking fluency is a great way to see the student’s reading skills grow over the years.

I have been personally been using our reading passages, our original one. So we have these reading comprehension and fluency passages. And they follow all of these things, we made sure that there’s representation, we made sure that there’s leveling and differentiation, quality of content, right amount of space, and different types of questions, options there, variety of topics. There’s always fiction and nonfiction in there. And we also include fluency tracking and multiple ways. We have different fluency tracking sheets like full pages, we can keep track for your class. We also have fluency tracking directly on each reading passage. So you can choose which way he wants to keep track of that. There are printable and Google options. So you have lots of options there, I’ll be sure to link to those in the shownotes. We also, and these ones don’t have fluency tracking, but we have a new growing bundle with monthly reading passages. So these are going to be used kind of in tandem with the ones that include the fluency, the original reading comprehension and fluency passages, we included 36 passages, so that’s enough for one per week, that’s plenty to be tracking fluency. And then when you use the monthly as well, you’ll have more passages to mix in for students to practice reading and comprehension where they don’t necessarily need to also be tracking fluency. But those are so fun, because they include monthly themes every month, we make sure to have fiction and nonfiction every single month, there’s four passages, there’s two of each, and it is a growing bundle, right now it’s less than halfway done. So you would get more than 50% off. If you grab that growing bundle right now, you can grab them for one grade level. And each grade level includes three level passages. So if your kids are close to the same level, if you teach third grade, and you have kids who are on like a second on a fourth grade level, one grade level is going to cover you for all those kids. Now, if you need a even wider range, the great thing is what we did with all these passages, both in the monthly and in the original ones, is the passages stay as consistent as possible throughout the entire span of grade levels. So kids could be reading different passages and other kids again, kind of like I mentioned earlier in the episode, they don’t feel bad that other kids are reading different passages in them because you can all still discuss the story or not necessarily always a story because sometimes it’s nonfiction but discuss the passage together. And they’re reading the same thing just level differently. I mean, obviously does change quite a bit from like a kindergarten through sixth grade level, obviously. But you know, if your kids are, you know, between like, second and sixth grade, they’re going to be reading about the same thing. And if they’re closer, the closer they are together, it’s going to be like they’re reading pretty much the same thing. And you can still do it as a class together, which is great. Or you could like divide them up for centers, however you want to use them. They’re pretty flexible. And we have free samples of these, which I will link to in the show notes. We know we want to make sure that it’s the right fit for you. That’s why I have this episode in the first place. So you can you know, do the eight step tests make sure that these work for you. And we want to make sure it’s the right fit for you so you can always try before you buy. But I don’t think you’ll be disappointed because we kept all the things in mind. On this episode as we created them, and the passages in this format are also part of our ready to go sub plans, which again, I’ll let you in on this. I mentioned it last week, but they are on flash sale right now. And I am not sure if we’ll have mentioned it publicly by now yet, you guys podcast listeners, so you get the inside scoop. And last week’s episode, Sarah mentioned these passages and how she uses them in her sub plans, we actually have some of these passages within the sub plans to write in them. So you can check those out. They’re also on sale, I will link to them in the show notes.

Now let’s go through and recap all of these things, the eight step test that you want to put anything you’re using through to make sure it is a high quality reading material. So first, the leveling and differentiation, are you really going to be able to differentiate to meet all the kids in your class with this resource. Important question to ask. Number two, is their quality of writing and content in this resource? Number three, is it appropriate for the students? Number four, response space and type? Is there enough room for students to write their answers? And is it multiple choice or free response are their options are a mix and match? Is that what you’re looking for? Number five, a variety of topics, you want to make sure your kids will be able to see a variety of things that they’re able to read about. It’s just so much more fun that way. Types of writing fiction and nonfiction Are they both included so your kids can read both of those types of writing. And then even you know, some poetry or other types of writing as well. Diversity and representation are students seeing themselves and others in the materials you are choosing to read. Here at Wife Teacher Mommy, we love all people. It doesn’t matter what your religion or race or sexual orientation, any of that. We love you. We see you and we’re here for you. And last but not least number eight, is fluency tracking. Are you able to track your students fluency? If that’s something you are wanting to do? Is there an option for that in the resource, so that is the eighth step test for your reading materials. So I hope that you find that helpful. And if you have any questions about this, feel free always to DM me on Instagram. And make sure to stay tuned for next week where I will be interviewing Christine Cox who is the songwriter of bridge the gap who you heard in the intro, and I bet you could guess we have an intro. We also have a new outro so be sure to listen to it and listen till the very end because it’s so cute at the very end. It is my cute little daughter singing at the end. I hope you love it. And you’ll get to hear the full song on the podcast next week. So make sure to hit subscribe, and I’ll see you then.

More about Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast

Being an educator is beyond a full-time job. Whether you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent, the everyday to-do list is endless. Between lesson planning, grading, meetings, and actually teaching, it probably feels impossible to show up for your students without dropping the ball in other areas of your life.

Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast is the show that will bring you the teacher tips, practical strategies, and inspiration that you need to relieve the stress and overwhelm of your day-to-day. Your host, Kelsey Sorenson, is a former teacher and substitute turned homeschool mom. Tune in weekly to hear Kelsey and her guests cheer you on and help you thrive as a wife, teacher, and mommy. Because with a little support and community, you can do it all. For access to every single Wife Teacher Mommy resource, join the club at www.wifeteachermommy.com/club.

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