Reading Groupies

As another school year winds to a close, I’m always reminded of my own school days.  I started kindergarten in September 1979–the heyday of reading groups–but it wasn’t until the following year that my classmates and I were divided into small groups for reading instruction.

photo hijacked from
Photo from

I always felt a bit of anxiety at the start of each school year when my new teacher would go around the room and have us read passages aloud from a book to check our fluency.  Would I stumble on easy words and find myself in the lowest group?  Would I be placed in a group that was too advanced for me because I was given an easy passage to read?  Fluency tests were fraught with peril.

Though only kids, we were savvy and easily saw through the reading group names, determining the fast readers from the slower ones.  Reading was like a competitive sport at my elementary school, and it was all about level placement.

My 4th grade teacher, an aging hippie with hand-t00led leather belts and handbags, favored bird names for her reading groups.  I seem to recall The Blue Jay group, The Starling group, and The Booby group.

In 5th grade, my teacher was a die-hard football fan and named her groups after NFL teams.  The Giants, The Saints, and The Browns.  Really now?  The Browns?!!?  Don’t hate on the slower readers or anything.

Thankfully, those days are looong over and my reading group anxiety has quieted.  These days I spend my time worrying that my students won’t enjoy the books, plays, and poetry I select for them to read.


  • At 2010.06.24 07:13, vivienne said:

    Reading this post, reminded me of all the anxiety problems my kids keep going through. Perhaps I should be a bit more lenient with them.LOL.
    .-= vivienne´s last blog ..The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King =-.

    • At 2010.06.24 07:48, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      You have just made me feel ancient. I got married in May of 1979! I do remember reading group – I used to get in trouble for correcting other students – but I don’t remember how we were placed into them or what they were named.

      • At 2010.06.24 11:03, nat @book, line, and sinker said:


        i know just how you feel. my incoming freshmen for this fall are born in 1996 and 1997…isn’t that like yesterday?!?!

        • At 2010.06.24 11:07, Meg said:

          Reading groups! Oh lordy, I forgot all about those. The only time I actively remember grouping off was in third grade — and apparently my teacher lacked any sort of imagination, as we were the “red group,” the “blue group” and the “yellow group.” I was red, I remember that, and I was all haughty and arrogant about it, too; I was one of the best readers in the class, see. And don’t think for a second I didn’t let all those other little snotty-nosed brats know about it! 🙂

          …Not much has changed over the years. Now I just use my blog to act holier-than-thou about reading, rather than the poor saps in my red group. 🙂

          • At 2010.06.25 10:12, Natalie said:

            oh, meg! of course you were in the blue jay group, you little book worm!! you would have found me wandering aimlessly in the booby group. ha.

          • At 2010.06.24 12:56, Valerie said:

            I was in junior high school in 1979 — in fact my most recent blog post talks about some of those memories! So I feel old compared to you :-).

            But, when I was in elementary school, I remember the later grades having math groups and how mortified I was that I was in the bottom math group :-(. I don’t remember whether we had reading groups or not but I do recall that I was one of the advanced readers.

            Now, for my kids, “reading neighborhoods” are what is going on. It’s not within one classroom, but shared among teachers of the same grade. When my daughter was in first grade, she hated going to reading neighborhood. Why? At first I thought it was because it was one of the lower groups (she has a fall birthday; always one of the younger kids, took her a while to take off in reading — she’s fine now). But no. It was because she was the only girl in her reading neighborhood! Awww!
            .-= Valerie´s last blog ..Nicholas Sparks, and Junior High School Journalism =-.

            • At 2010.06.25 10:14, Natalie said:

              aren’t school memories just so uplifting? it’s such a pleasure to look back on the torture that was school.

              but reading neighborhoods? i love the idea!

            • At 2010.06.24 14:37, bybee said:

              My first grade teacher wasn’t too subtle, either: The Green Astronauts, The Red Barons and The Blue Bunch. Wow, guess which was which??
              .-= bybee´s last blog ..I Believe I Can Fly… =-.

              • At 2010.06.24 17:28, Kathleen said:

                I remember those reading group days too. When I was in Kindergarten way back in 1968 they divided us into the early arrivals and late arrivals. The more advanced readers arrived an hour earlier than the slower readers. I was never clear how this made sense but that’s how they did it back then.

                • At 2010.06.24 22:05, Lisa said:

                  That’s really awful to do that to kids! I’m glad mine never had to go through that. I can’t recall now if I ever had to because, you see, I’m old. And I was reminded at the beginning of your post just how old I am–I graduated from high school the year you started kindergarten!
                  .-= Lisa´s last blog .."The Poisonwood Bible" =-.

                  • At 2010.06.25 10:35, Dishy said:

                    I’d have liked being in the Browns over the Boobies.
                    .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Dress Quest 2010 =-.

                    • At 2010.06.26 20:55, Jenners said:

                      I think Boobies is way better than Browns!!!
                      .-= Jenners´s last blog ..What Ive Been Doing Cause It Hasnt Been Blogging And SM5S Link =-.

                      • At 2010.06.28 19:38, institutrice said:

                        Then how do you do small-group reading? I do literature circles during RtI time, but to practice specific skills we have leveled readers. They are WAY better than what we had as kids (I started Kindergarten when you did), and the kids love to read them. We don’t have group names, and some groups read the same books; it’s very fluid. It’s also my favorite part of the day. 😀

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