Determining Which Reading Level To Use As A SLP

Are you wondering what reading level you should be using with your students? Should you be using their age, grade level, classwork?

There is tons of research out there that shows that in order for students to be good readers, students need to have adequate decoding skills as well as listening and language comprehension skills. Most of the students we work with are already at risk for being weak readers and most of them are at a lower reading level. So, keeping in mind that students need the decoding piece and the comprehension piece to be good readers, what can we do to help our students with these skills?

There are many different things that we can do to work on comprehension skills. In order to boost reading comprehension, you can focus on language skills such as recalling, main idea, cause and effect, syntax, vocabulary, and the list goes on and on. All of these things can boost language comprehension which in turn boosts reading comprehension. Working on all these different skills can help our students access the curriculum without needing to specifically use the curriculum during speech sessions.

With all the students I am working with, I like to find out what reading level they are at. That means both instructional level and independent level. The independent reading level is how they are reading on their own and the instructional level is what level they can read at with the assistance of a teacher. You can find out the reading level by asking the teacher, looking at their file or looking at their IEP.

Sometimes we can find out what their reading level is but it may be in terms of Lexile or Fountas and Pinnel or something else we may not be super familiar with. One resource I have found to help with this is the learning a to z website. On this website, they have a level correlation chart that I have found super helpful. This chart will show you the correlation between things like Lexile and grade level. Each reading level is then correlated with reading resources you can use from the site. I also like to use websites like and because you can filter and search by Lexile.

When it comes to which reading level to use during speech sessions, I like to use resources that are at a student's independent reading level because I want to focus on skills to help them with comprehension and not the decoding piece. When I focus on those other skills that aid in comprehension, it helps my students in turn do better with the decoding piece when they are in the classroom. Every once in a while, I like to bring in grade-level passages and stuff from their curriculum so that I can show my students how to use the strategies that we have been working on and apply them to what they are working on in the classroom. In order to teach those skills and strategies though, I like to use passages that are at their independent level or without a text at all.

You don’t always have to give your students a text to work on comprehension. There are so many awesome resources and activities you can do with students to work on their skills without ever giving them a text. Some of the text free resources I like to use are pictures, Pixar wordless videos, the Mystery Doug website, Youtube, Google images, podcasts or music. Most of the students I work with are avoidant readers or reluctant readers so sometimes just putting a reading text in front of some of those students, it's like their whole body language changes and they freeze up because they don’t want any of their peers to know that they cant read. So sometimes using text free options will help boost their confidence and it shows them that you are not there to trick them or make them feel frustrated. It helps your students know that you are there to help them be successful and show them that they can do it.

I really like to focus my therapy on what can I help my students get to that next level? Where are they struggling? How can I show them exactly how to do it? That is why I made resources like How Do You Know Boom Deck. A lot of my students can make an inference or a guess but they have no idea how they got there.


This boom deck is all about how do you know and how did you get to the inference you made. It helps students find relevant information by giving them the inference and then the students select the text evidence that would lead to the inference. My students have loved this Boom Deck activity!


After I started with the How Do You Know Boom Deck, my students really started to make progress in this area which then led me to create the Locating Text Evidence Boom Deck. I noticed that my students struggled to go back to the story to find the text evidence on their own and if the story was a little bit longer, they would be like oh it's somewhere in there but they struggled to actually go back and find it. But based on the common core standards, students need to be able to use textual evidence and state it in their response which makes it important that our students can locate their answers in the text.

Like I said before, most of my students are struggling and reluctant readers so when they read a passage it is a labor of love and then they are exhausted. They don’t know how to go back and skim the text for the evidence. So, with that in mind, I like to teach them a note taking strategy. In this Boom Deck, the passage is separated paragraph by paragraph and there is a spot to the side for each paragraph’s main idea. Then there is an inferential question after the passage where the students will have to answer the question and then find the evidence. When students are able to take notes and find the main idea of each paragraph it makes it much easier for them to find the text that supports their answer.

So both of these resources have been great for helping my students work on these strategies and I hope that they can help your students as well! And bonus points for them being paperless and virtual friendly. I use these resources for my students that are virtual as well as for my in-person students so that we can limit the number of things they are touching and germs we may be spreading.

Want to learn more? Check out the video and the resources I mentioned for engaging, no prep activities to use with your students this week!

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