September 23. 2016

What is a level and how can I make it work for me?

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 efficient.

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:

  • genre 
  • text structure
  • content 
  • themes and ideas 
  • language and literary features 
  • sentence complexity 
  • vocabulary 
  • words 
  • illustrations
  • 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 www.fountasandpinnell.com/continuum. It’s all in there.

Uses of the text gradient

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. Easy.

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.


Jill Backman

Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager


References:

Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

September 22. 2016

Daily Lit Bit - 9/22/2016

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 16. 2016

Twitter Chat: A Conversation on Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition

As the new school year begins, so do the monthly Fountas & Pinnell Twitter Chats. On Thursday night, September 15, 2016, the Fountas & Pinnell learning community joined Gay and Irene for "A Conversation on Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition." Below is the transcript of the conversation. You can follow us on Twitter here: @FountasPinnell and if you’re wondering how to get started on Twitter and how to participate in a chat, check out this free resource from Heinemann on Twitter for Educators. All of our chats follow the hashtag #FPLiteracy

Before you begin reading about the chat, some thoughts from Gay and Irene about Benchmark Assessment: 

  • If assessment does not result in improved teaching then its value in school diminishes greatly. 
  • Meet students where they are and bring them forward with intention and precision. 
  • Assessment is not teaching; it is gathering information for teaching.  
  • The ability to observe, analyze, and interpret reading behavior is foundational to effective teaching. 
  • The interpretation and use of benchmark data are more important than the scores themselves.




September 14. 2016

What is New in Benchmark Assessment System 1 and 2, Third Edition? Can I Use Second Edition Materials with the Third Edition?


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 go unaddressed.

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 available.

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).

Jill Backman

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/