‘Everybody was colour book banding
Turning those pages fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightening
But they levelled with expert timing’
It makes perfect sense for schools to extend book band levels into KS2 as a response to the removal of NC Levels but this leaves a whole heap of books in the library that need to be levelled, no time to do this and very little in the way of guidance to work by. Having spent our whole summer book band levelling the new Pandora Books collections we have some top tips.
- Whether you have decided your top colour band is going to be Black or Aquamarine you need to know what the top and bottom levels look like before you do all the ones in between; otherwise you are in danger of running out of books or levels.
- If the plan is to band all fiction, then look at the books that give your confident readers in Year 6 an appropriate challenge to help you to gauge the text level for your top colour band. Children reading below the expected level in Year 3 will be on existing KS1 colour bands but your new KS2 colour bands will start with texts suitable for those reading at the expected level in this year group.
- Basing your KS2 book band levels on the expected reading levels for each year group gives you a really good starting point but these KS2 bands will be broader than the more finely levelled book bands in KS1. To help you decide where to draw the lines find books that you think are spot on for each level and use these as a reference point. Most books will fall between these levels but as you go you will develop a feel for where the dividing lines between the bands fall.
- Scheme books come ready banded but banding your library books is as much an art as a science as these books have not been written to a specific level and it is common for them to have some features of one band and some from another. Publishers are now starting to produce scheme books banded for KS2 and you could use these as a bench mark but they can vary from publisher to publisher so this may only be suitable for schools that have committed to a particular scheme.
- Jump right in to the middle of books, rather than opening them at the first page. This makes it easier to focus on the text level and, without any context, I think that my levelling was more accurate.
- Bear in mind, text levels can still vary a great deal from page to page so it is a good idea to pick several different pages at random to level.
- Be aware that your levelling will drift from time to time and it is a good idea to regularly go back to your bench-mark texts to keep the levelling consistent.
- When you have completed a number of books it can be really helpful to just quickly review the newly sorted piles. This helps to ensure that this batch is consistent and makes it more likely that you will keep the consistency moving forward.
- As you move on to the Upper KS2 books it is a good idea to keep an eye on the complexity of the story as it is likely that you will encounter books where the most significant challenges to the reader come not from the vocabulary or sentence structure but from the ideas or structure of the story. Time travel stories and stories about mental health issues often fall into this category and we found it better to acknowledge this challenge and push these up to the next band.
In addition to these notes it may also be worth thinking about the interest level of your books. Colour banding is just about the text level and takes into account aspects like vocabulary, sentence structure and the techniques used in the writing but it is not an indicator of interest age and while a book may be the perfect text level for an average reader in year 4 it might be more ideal for year 6 readers in terms of interest age.
We would recommend that you also consider this when banding books for KS2 as it is this kind of detail that will help you to find the perfect book for a struggling reader in Year 6 or a very confident reader in Year 3.
It can be really tiring banding and assessing books, so when you have successfully banded all of those titles, treat yourself to a nice cup of tea, some biscuits (maybe a whole packet!), put your feet up and flick through our new catalogue.
Good luck and remember:
Make sure you have expert timing
Colour book banding, has to be fast as lightening.’
Written by Marcia Napp, Book Collections Manager