Ask the Teacher

My first grader brought home a slip of paper with his lexile number on it following a recent standardized test. He said that he should be reading books at that number. Can you explain what “lexile” means? Why shouldn’t he just read whatever he wants to read?

Lexile is a number developed by The Lexile Framework for Reading that attempts to show a student’s reading level as well as the level of a specific text. The scores range from 200 for beginning readers to more than 1600 for advanced readers. Theoretically, knowing a child’s lexile helps to determine the level of books he is able to read independently with 75% comprehension. This helps the teacher and the parent to focus the student’s attention on books he is capable of reading rather than material that is too easy to promote reading growth or so difficult that the student becomes frustrated. The lexile number can also be used to show a reader’s progress as he is tested periodically.

The lexile number is derived from specific data collected about a book’s vocabulary and its sentence length, then applied to a scientifically developed equation used to calculate the number.

Many books now show the reading lexile on the cover. The Lexile Framework for Reading has a website ( that provides the lexile number for countless titles of books. You simply type in the book title and the lexile is given. Other titles of the same lexile are also provided.

As a word of caution, the lexile number does not take content, theme or age-level into consideration. It is based on the words and the complexity of the sentences, not the ideas presented in the book. Some books with complex themes have low lexile numbers.

Keep in mind that a lexile number may not always be an accurate measure of what your child can read. If he does not test well or was having a bad day the test was administered, his number may be much lower than his actual reading level. Have him read some excerpts from a few books at his level and tell you about them. For most children, their ability to read fluently is higher than their ability to comprehend what they have read, so be sure to ask challenging questions about the content to help determine if the lexile number is accurate for your son.

As the first semester is wrapping up, I would like to help my seven year old daughter learn about setting goals. How can I teach her this skill?

Goal setting is certainly an important skill to develop. Instilling the idea of reflecting on past behaviors to decide how to improve can begin at an early age. To be successful, it is essential that the focus of the goal be realistic, attainable and measureable in a short term period of time.

A realistic goal has to be something that your daughter has complete control over. For example, she could set a goal to make her bed every morning or to study math facts for ten minutes each day. In contrast, setting a goal to master her multiplication tables in a week is not a realistic goal and will only lead to frustration and a feeling of failure.

Turning an idea into a goal also requires a plan of how the goal will be reached. Help your daughter identify the steps required to meet her goal and a timeline for attempting each step.

When your daughter reaches her goal, celebrate with her even if the outcome is not exactly what she had hoped. Her effort and her perseverance must be acknowledged so that she will want to set goals for herself again in the future.

My son is a junior and is starting to feel very anxious about graduating next year because he doesn’t know what he wants to study in college. Is there something I can do to help him with this?

Making a decision about a lifetime career choice is understandably overwhelming. Reassure your son that this is not easy! Be sure that he is aware of how many adults change occupations and companies frequently in our current culture.

The key is to select something that is of interest to him now so that he stays engaged and completes his course of study without several changes in majors that prolong his time in college. If he simply cannot decide, starting within a broad area will give him more options later.

There are many professionals available who can help by giving him an interest survey and discussing the factors he should consider when making a career choice, such as the kind of lifestyle he expects to live, what part of the country appeals to him, etc. High school guidance counselors are great sources to get the process started. If he still is not sure what to pursue, consider taking him to a career counselor. Career counselors have an even greater variety of methods to help your son identify potential future professions – some of which may have never occurred to him.

Also, consider setting up an appointment with admissions counselors at nearby colleges to see if they can offer some advice for your son. Perhaps picking up a college class prior to graduating from high school will help him find a better sense of direction.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected]

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