Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a term borrowed from psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In Accelerated Reader, the ZPD is a range of book levels that are not too challenging and not too easy--depending upon a student's reading level. Although ZPD itself is not entered or calculated in Accelerated Reader, it is a key component of successful reading practice and goal setting.

Star Reading provides a ZPD for each student who has tested (see the Star Reading Reading Range Report). Determining a student's reading level - or a Grade Equivalent (GE) score from a standardized test such as Star Reading - and ZPD will help you set an average book level goal and point goal with the student in Accelerated Reader. The ZPD, however, is approximate. Success at any reading level also depends on the student's interest and prior knowledge of a book's content. Teachers should use their professional judgment to adjust the level of books read to match an individual student's needs and interests.

The table below shows how ZPDs are selected based on some Grade Equivalent (GE) levels. In the table, you'll see a distinctive pattern. Above 2.0, the ZPD begins at a level that is lower than the GE - considerably lower as the GE goes up. This is because the GE from a test represents the highest level at which a student can read short passages, not the level at which he or she can read comfortably for hours. Besides that, most noninstructional materials, even for adults, are written at a level below 6.0. (John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for example, has a book level of 4.9.) If students were asked to only read books that matched their GE, once they tested higher than about 6.0, they would be faced with very difficult, and probably not very enjoyable, material.

Grade-Equivalent Reading Score Suggested ZPD
1.0 1.0-2.0
1.5 1.5-2.5
2.0 2.0-3.0
2.5 2.3-3.3
3.0 2.6-3.6
3.5 2.8-4.0
4.0 3.0-4.5
4.5 3.2-5.0
5.0 3.4-5.4
5.5 3.7-5.7
6.0 4.0-6.1
6.5 4.2-6.5
7.0 4.3-7.0
7.5 4.4-7.5
8.0 4.5-8.0
9.0 4.6-9.0
10.0 4.7-10.0
11.0 4.8-11.0
12.0 4.9-12.0

The Goal-Setting Chart and Goal-Setting Chart for Lexile® Measures provide guidelines to help you set average book level and point goals based on a student's GE score and ZPD.

Finding Spanish ZPDs:

To find a ZPD for a student reading in Spanish, the best strategy is for a teacher to start a student out at what she estimates to be a comfortable independent reading level for the student. She can make that estimate based on the student's performance with any reading material in Spanish that she is already using and/or by having the student read a short passage aloud to her and gauging the student's fluency. Then, as the student reads books independently in Spanish, she must watch the AR Reading Practice Quiz results closely. If the student averages between 85% and 95% on quizzes, the teacher knows the student is reading within the ZPD. If the student's average is below that, she should lower the range.