Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Remember Those Color-Coded Reading Boxes

Does anyone else remember the SRA Reading Boxes? I happened to see a reference to them recently, and it reminded me of past connections to them. I remember them from school, and then later from using them many, many years ago in some reading classes I taught. For those who don’t know them: There are several boxes in each series, at graduated levels; each box has a set of reading cards of various color-coded levels; each card has a short reading followed by comprehension questions. The idea is that students move at their own pace through the various levels of cards. If they read, for example, three cards at one level with no more than one error in answering the questions on each card (I don’t remember the exact requirements), they may move to readings at the next color/level. The value is in allowing students to move as quickly or as slowly as they they are able, and to monitor their own progress. A whole classroom of students can each be reading at her or his own level; teachers set aside a certain amount of time a week for this activity. The downside is that the readings are often very dull. I don’t know if these are still used in classrooms, but I am guessing they are. I see that McGraw Hill still sells them. Although I found them a bit dull and bland both when I read them and when I taught them, there is something that appeals to many students about them, and this system offers a different kind of reading practice than the usual practice of the whole class reading and discussing the same readings. It allows students at all levels to feel a sense of accomplishment; it also harnesses the competitive spirit that many students feel, even if they are only competing against themselves. The hope is that reading these cards will lead to increased skills which then will lead to reading longer and more varied materials.

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