September 23. 2016
Levels of books are more complex than they seem. The gradations of complexity from one level to
the next are subtle, but significant.
Understanding levels and how they work takes time and practice. But it
can be done! Here is an explanation to lay the foundation for learning the
intricacies behind the levels and how you can use them to make your teaching
What are levels?
First, look at the F&P Text Level Gradient ™. This
gradient of reading difficulty was created and refined by Fountas and Pinnell
as a teaching and assessment tool over the past thirty years. Each of the
twenty-six points on the F&P Text Level Gradient ™, from easiest at level A
to hardest at level Z, represents a small but significant increase in
difficulty over the previous text level. (There is a level Z+ on our website, which
refers to the highly complex texts, many of which contain very mature subject
matter that students read in high school and college. But for our purposes
here, let’s just look at A to Z.) Each level is made up of a composite of ten
text characteristics that increase slightly in complexity as you move up the
level. The ten text characteristics are:
- text structure
- themes and ideas
- language and literary features
- sentence complexity
- book and print features
A great way to learn the specific characteristics of texts
at each level and see how they increase in complexity is to get your hands on The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum
It’s all in there.
Uses of the text
OK, so now you know what levels are and how they make up a
gradient of text. How can the levels help in your classroom teaching? “A
gradient of text is a powerful tool for you as a teacher. It helps you in the
very challenging task of selecting texts that will challenge your readers and
offer them opportunities to learn (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” You can organize
your leveled texts in magazine boxes or baskets from easiest to hardest. If you
have a school book room, organize it by level, which will make selecting and
using books easier for all your colleagues. But you want your students to
choose books the way readers do—by author, topic, genre, and general
interest—not by level. So, in classroom libraries (and school libraries) you
don’t want the level to be a criterion or even visible. But more on that later.
A nifty tool for looking up a book’s level is by accessing the Fountas &
Pinnell Leveled Books Website www.fandpleveledbooks.com.
You can look up the titles and it will tell you the level, genre, and much more.
How do I know my
students’ reading levels?
Begin with a benchmark assessment to learn your students’ instructional
book level so you can group them and begin teaching www.fountasandpinnell.com/bas. Once you begin teaching,
observe your students and notice their reading behaviors. There are specific
behaviors to look for at each level that change slightly as you move up the
F&P Text Level Gradient ™. Students
start at the instructional level, a level that offers some challenge, but not
too much. Once they demonstrate good control of most of the behaviors and
understandings at the level, move up a level to introduce more and new challenge
opportunities for learning.
“A gradient of text is not a precise sequence of texts
through which all readers pass. Books are leveled in approximate groups from
which teachers choose for instruction. The teacher who recognizes the
convenience of the gradient yet reminds herself of its limitations will be able
to make good choices and test her decisions against children’s behaviors while
reading and talking about texts (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” Below is a figure
that sums up what a text gradient is and is not.
So back to the aforementioned warning about not letting your
students know at what level they’re reading. They may notice some levels on
books (and as students grow more sophisticated, they will realize that some
books are harder than others to read); but assure them that these markings are
helpful to teachers but not important in choosing books. Teach them to evaluate
a book for themselves. “It is destructive to measure their own progress by
“moving up levels.” This does not provide the real motivation that consuming
and talking about texts would (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” To put it simply: a level
is a teacher’s tool, NOT a child’s label.
Log in next week to learn more on that topic and how to
avoid using levels as labels for students.
Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager
Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
September 23. 2016
Learning does not occur in stages but is a continually evolving process. The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. © 2017 by Fountas and Pinnell.
September 22. 2016
Educators must develop a culture of collaboration within the school. The school should be more like a community. This can happen if teachers work together toward this common vision of what literacy progress looks like.
September 21. 2016
Rather than teach the level or book, notice and use
behavioral evidence to guide your next teaching move.
September 20. 2016
Assessment must result in informed teaching. Assessment is not teaching; it is gathering information for teaching.
September 19. 2016
Reflect on your assessment analysis and observations, and engage in a discussion with colleagues to plan rich and comprehensive literacy experiences that meet learners where they are and bring them forward with intention and precision.
September 16. 2016
The primary purpose of assessment is to gather data to inform teaching. If assessment does not result in improved teaching then its value in school diminishes greatly.
September 15. 2016
When students spend their time thinking, reading, writing, and talking everyday, they get a message about what is valued in your classroom and they begin to develop their own values. Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Fountas and Pinnell.
September 14. 2016
Here we are again with another new edition! I assure you we
are not trying to make you all crazy. The fact is: Fountas and Pinnell always
have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in our schools. They
always want to know what’s working and what’s not working. What’s trending and
what’s going out of style. And on top of it all they are always revising and
they are ALWAYS working! (Just ask our editors here at Heinemann who are on the
brink of insanity.) So when they saw that there was room for refinement in the Benchmark Assessment Systems it couldn’t
What is Different?
Perhaps the most significant differences in the third
edition are the new comprehension conversation rubrics and the more detailed
assessment guidelines. Fountas and Pinnell have been able to observe many
teachers administer and score the comprehension conversations with BAS, Second Edition through their work
in schools over the last few years. “It became clear that gaining strong
behavioral evidence of understanding using talk as evidence was new or
unfamiliar to many teachers,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2016). Because many teachers weren’t getting the
ongoing professional development needed in standardized administration and
scoring, Fountas and Pinnell decided they needed to offer more guidance. The
goal is for teachers to achieve consistency. “The new guidelines and rubric
will enable teachers to sharpen their observation of students’ reading
behaviors and strengthen the connection from assessment to instruction,”
(Fountas and Pinnell 2016).
Other changes to note are:
• Updated Assessment Guide and Recording Forms
• All new Professional Development and Tutorial Videos
• Inclusion of the new The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum
• Updated leveled books that include factual revisions to some nonfiction books and minor revisions to some fiction books
• Recording Forms, summary forms, optional assessments, and videos will be available in one place on the Fountas & Pinnell Online Resources
• Updated Online Data Management System (ODMS) to accommodate both BAS, 2e and 3rd edition scoring
• Updated BAS Reading Record App.
Can I use a mix of
materials from the Benchmark Assessment
2nd and 3rd editions?
No, unfortunately. Changes have been made to both the Benchmark Books and the Recording Forms
in the third edition. So using the two editions will not work because the text
of the book and the text on the form will not always match, which will affect
your ability to score a reader’s accuracy.
It’s also important to note that because of the
modifications to the scoring rubrics, it is essential for all classrooms and
teachers to be using the same edition. Maintaining consistency in assessment
protocols within schools and across districts is critical. Some schools may not be ready to transition to
the new edition, however, or have recently purchased the second edition shortly
before the third edition was published. Heinemann does offer some solutions.
Please contact your local sales representative to explore your options. The second edition is still a reliable
resource for teachers, but we urge you to learn more about the choices that are
They key word here is refinement. “With refinement comes
reflection. Reflect on your assessment analysis and observations, and engage in
a discussion with colleagues to plan rich and comprehensive literacy
experiences that meet learners where they are and bring them forward with
intention and precision,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2016).
Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager
Join #FPLiteracy on Thursday, 9/15 at 8:00 p.m. EST for a LIVE Twitter Chat with @fountaspinnell
Explore the Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition at www.fountasandpinnell.com/bas
Join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning
Group for more collaborative conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/