May 4, 2008


I just received two new boxes of books. A lot of them are baby board books, which I'm happy about. My students seem to be much more comfortable reading "green" books, and I don't have many of them at all.

I went through all my books and leveled them. It would be very depressing to my students to constantly be reminded that they are reading at a first grade level, even though that's a major accomplishment in and of itself. It's funny how they expect to be equivalent in skills in their second language and their first. So, I used ACTFL's guidelines for reading proficiency, simplified the language, and tweaked it a bit. Then I put garage sale stickers on my books so that they are now color-coded by level.

Novice books are coded green. Novice-low are single words with a direct picture to word correlation. Novice-mid have phrases and short sentences that have picture to word correlation. Novice-high books have short sentences and still have a very high correlation of pictures to words.

Intermediate books are coded yellow. Intermediate-low books have one or two sentences per page. They still have pictures which help guide comprehension. Intermediate-mid books have short paragraphs and pictures help guide the comprehension of the text but do not have a direct correlation to every word. Intermediate-high books have parapgraphs and pictures can be more stylized or less frequent.

Advanced, Advanced plus and Superior books are coded red. Advanced books are basically chapter books. They have few pictures, if any. These are mostly early elementary level books such as Junie B. Jones. Advanced plus books are my novels. I have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory up through the latest Harry Potter, El Hobbit, and El Príncipe Caspian. Superior books are novels which were written by native speakers and have a high level of culture throughout which would make comprehension by a non-native speaker more difficult.

The only students who have any rules about what they read are my two native speakers. They must choose a red book.

At first I was worried that students wouldn't get enough language exposure to be worth the time if they always chose novice books, especially if they kept re-reading the same books. But I am realizing now how rich and varied the text of children's books really is. My toddlers enjoy reading the same books over and over again, and why wouldn't my students do the same as they slowly come to acquire the same things?


  1. I received several boxes of books a couple of years ago from another teacher in CA who had them in her art room. We only had to pay the shipping. What a bonanza that was. I've been meaning to color code them, but haven't gotten to it yet. Thanks for taking the time to write out how you made your decisions. How did you mark them for the students within the color categories?

    Did you know that Reading A to Z has a free download day tomorrow? I'm hoping to make good use of it.

  2. I got the idea from a fellow TPRSer at the CCFLT conference this year. What I do is use two garage sale stickers on each book. The first one goes on the spine of the book, so students can easily see which basic level the book is: novice, intermediate, or advanced. On the front cover, I place another color sticker on which I write the two initials for the more specific level: NL, NM, NH, IL, IM, IH, A, A+, or S

    And yes, thank you for the reminder to check out A to Z!

  3. That sounds doable. Thanks again for the info. I've spent most of the day downloading A to Z books. I even had a couple of students help me. I'm looking forward to getting them printed and putting some new books on the rain gutters. I actually have an extra prep until school is out because both of my Spanish IIIs (new class for us) were seniors and they are through.

  4. Thanks so much for the details on how you leveled the books! I got a grant to implement a Spanish free reading program in my class and just got all of the books but was having a hard time knowing how I should level them! Thanks so much!

  5. What is the difference between intermediate-mid & intermediate high?
    You had written the same thing for both: "short paragraphs and pictures help guide the comprehension of the text but do not have a direct correlation to every word."


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