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.
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.