Reading Expectations by Grade or Skill Level
When selecting reading materials for the classroom, educators must set expectations for their students based on where they are, not on a predetermined idea of where they should be. If the text you choose is too difficult, children will become discouraged and lose confidence. If it’s too easy, they won’t be challenged to grow in their abilities and will often become bored. But a skills-aligned approach will help foster a love of reading in your young students.
The best way for teachers to set appropriate reading expectations is by gauging children’s skills in terms of pattern recognition, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension. This guide is designed to help you select reading materials that challenge students at different skill levels without overwhelming them.
The Importance of Setting Reading Expectations for Children
Reading is almost always cumulative in the same manner. Children begin by learning the language, then sounds and symbols, gradually drawing connections between the two. Over time, they figure out how to decode increasingly complex words by sounding them out, using classroom discussions and read-alouds to improve vocabulary and language comprehension skills.
Eventually, the ultimate goal is for students to read with such fluency that decoding is immediate and without pause, so reading comprehension can occur. Simply put, the goal of reading instruction is for students to read with ease and understand what they’re reading.
To meet this goal, the process of learning shouldn’t skip steps. Students need all the pieces in place to have a foundation to build upon. By creating expectations that account for the specific skill sets of students, educators can ensure that students are given the material that will help them practice effectively while allowing for continued growth.
Choosing a decodable book that aligns with their skill level gives children the opportunity to practice independent reading and reading comprehension. This is the best way to encourage vocabulary building and increase fluency.
Reading Expectations for Kindergarteners and First Graders
Before even discussing the expectations for various grade levels, it’s important to note that, even though there are generalized standards for where children SHOULD be by a certain grade level, children don’t follow the same path. The needs of students must be assessed and met based on their various skill sets and abilities, not a pre-decided grade level list. That being said, based on general child development, there are often skills acquired by a majority of children at a certain grade level due to their developmental age.
Kindergarten Reading Expectations
Appropriate reading expectations for children finishing a kindergarten grade level include being able to:
◊ Recognize letters, basic sounds of all consonants, and the five short vowel sounds
◊ Blend syllables and singular sounds
◊ Segment short words into phonemes
◊ Decode and encode simple words
◊ Understand a vocabulary of sight words with irregular spellings
◊ Read with appropriate fluency to comprehend simple text
First Grade Reading Expectations
During first grade, students learn to:
◊ Sound out 2-3 syllable words
◊ Decode words with varied suffixes
◊ Identify spellings for long vowel sounds and digraphs
◊ Have more automaticity with irregularly spelled words
◊ Transfer many of the learned phonics structures into their writing
◊ Read appropriate material with increased fluency and expression, allowing for consistent reading comprehension
It has been argued that kindergarten and first grade are two of the most pivotal years for reading instruction, as the grapheme-phoneme knowledge, also known as alphabetic knowledge, is largely learned in the curriculum during these two grade levels.
Reading Expectations for Second and Third Graders
The biggest difference between K-1 and grades 2-3 is the depth of reading comprehension, as more of the mechanics of reading have been practiced and mastered.
Students often begin to gain speed in skill acquisition during these grade levels as they have learned how to acquire new skills and structures, allowing them to see letter patterns and apply that knowledge to their reading. Overall, students should already have a strong foundation in reading to complete the standards laid out for these grade levels.
It’s important to remember, though, that just because there’s a standard, children might have gaps in their prior literacy instruction or knowledge that require differentiation on the part of their teacher.
Second Grade Reading Expectations
Students are still acquiring alphabetic knowledge. They should:
◊ Continue to learn and practice higher-level vowel teams and spellings
◊ Learn less common spelling rules that can still apply
◊ Decode more multisyllabic words with long vowels
◊ Decode words with common suffixes and prefixes
◊ Recognize more words with irregular spellings
Third Grade Reading Expectations
In third grade, the foundation of reading needs to be in place. The focus behind reading moves into consistent meaning-making and the importance of morphology.
Morphemes are the smallest units of language that have meaning. By understanding morphology, or the study behind words and their parts, students can gain vocabulary independently and comprehend texts with unintroduced, complex words.