Use the guidelines below to determine the best place for your student to begin. When evaluating skill level, for most students, we believe it is more important to look at writing ability than reading ability. It is also better to underestimate and ensure foundational skills are solid before advancing.
Browse our pre-selected grade level collections. Take me there »
K–Grade 1: HATCHLING
Begin with Volume 1 if the student has:
- The ability to “sing” or “say” the ABCs.
- The interest and ability to harness a pencil.
Begin with Volume 2 if the student has:
- Confidence reading Kindergarten readers (such as Bob Books).
- Been introduced to consonant sounds, short vowel sounds, consonant blends (beginning and end of words) and digraphs.
- The ability to write CVC, CCVC, CVCC, and CCVCC words, utilizing this knowledge confidently and with accuracy.
Grade 2: EARLYBIRD
Begin Earlybird if the student has:
- Completed Hatchling Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 or the phonetic equivalent.
- Moved beyond Kindergarten reading.
- Has the ability to sustain reading at the emergent level.
- The ability to write words, phrases, and simple sentences.
At this level, guides are tied to read-aloud picture books. Students will continue to move toward mastery of encoding skills. Vocabulary acquisition is heavily scaffolded, enabling the student to explore definitions and complete sentences using words in context. Descriptive language and basic conventions, such as capitalization, commas, and end marks, are modeled using word banks and sentence completion exercises.
Grade 3: LEVEL 1
Begin Level 1 if the student has:
- Worked independently, confidently, and accurately in Earlybird or its equivalent.
- The ability to read a simple chapter book, such as Flat Stanley.
- The eagerness and ability to write simple ideas.
- Demonstrated readiness through independence.
Students will move from using simple words to describe characters, toward using phrases supported with examples. Vocabulary is still heavily scaffolded, as in the EarlyBird level. Sentence writing is no longer modeled, students are learning to communicate story details in response to questions. “Idea making” begins at this level as students are introduced to simple, scaffolded paragraphing.
Grades 4–5: LEVEL 2
Begin Level 2 if the student has:
- Worked independently, confidently, and accurately in Level 1 or its equivalent.
- Has the ability and stamina for sustained reading while simultaneously comprehending mid-level chapter books.
- Has the ability to construct a simple paragraph independently.
At Level 2, character, setting, and plot notes are always supported with examples from the story. Vocabulary is looked up using a dictionary and students use words in new, original ways. Sentence writing is the same as L1, but more story points are crafted in response to questions. Paragraph scaffolding drops out of the writing exercise, allowing students to exercise idea-making within the form.
Grades 6–8: LEVEL 3
Begin Level 3 if the student has:
- Worked independently, confidently, and accurately in Level 2 or its equivalent.
- Reads fluidly and confidently with a high level of comprehension.
- Has confidence writing an expanded paragraph.
Students at this level are strengthening the ability to think deeply about the stories they read. Character examples are detailed. Students are able to connect subtleties of the setting that weave the world of the story. Students are beginning to recognize the significance and applicational relevance of larger themes. Writing is fluid and students are beginning to explore authenticity of voice.
Grades 9–12: LEVEL 4
Begin Level 4 if the student has:
- Worked independently, confidently, and accurately in Level 3 or its equivalent.
- has the ability to explore novels with sophisticated story lines, including rich themes, symbols, and motifs.
- Has completed our essay unit or its equivalent.
At Level 4 students will “close-read” a novel and create journal notes tracing characters, themes, symbols, and motifs. Students will practice constrained writing as they craft a weekly synopsis and personal reflection. During the final week of each guide they will craft a response essay working from a prompt. Students are also given numerous creative options for project builds in response to the story.