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March 9. 2018

Why the Comprehension Conversation is Critical to Assessment

Students' talk reveals their thinking, which helps you know them as learners. One-on-one assessment is a great time to talk with students to learn their thinking, because what they're thinking will inform your instruction. Without talking to them and learning where they are, there's no way to know how to bring them forward. It's for this reason that the Comprehension Conversation is vital to assessment.

The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System stands out from other assessment systems because it incorporates a rigorous and important Comprehension Conversation. The purpose of this Comprehension Conversation is to enable teachers to sharpen their observation of students' reading behaviors by hearing their thinking through talk and strengthen the connection from assessment to instruction. Here's how.

Reading is complex

Reading is a highly complex process that requires students to bring together their own knowledge with the print on the page. When students read, they use in-the-head systems of strategic actions to process texts, flexibly integrating many different kinds of information in order to construct meaning. You cannot see strategic actions, but you are able to observe reading behaviors and infer what readers are able to do as they think their way through a text. Students' talk during the BAS Comprehension Conversation reveals their thinking.

How it works

In Part 1 of the BAS assessment, the student reads aloud a precisely leveled fiction or nonfiction book while the teacher observes and notes the reader's behaviors. In Part 2, the teacher conducts a conversation with the reader to determine how well he or she comprehended the text; beyond a simple retelling. This unique approach not only gathers data about what students understand about a text, but it also provides an opportunity for teachers to get to know their students-a valuable use of time, especially at the start of the school year. During the conversation, teachers will prompt the student, but the goal is to have a flow of back-and-forth talk, with the student doing as much of the talking as possible. It is in these conversations that the student's thinking is revealed.

Key understandings

Key understandings that the teacher should look for during the Comprehension Conversation are provided in Part 2 of the assessments. These key understandings are based on the goals and behaviors from The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. The twelve systems of strategic actions are clustered into three categories that encompass how readers construct meaning as they process a text: thinking within, beyond, and about the text. So while you are giving the assessment you can note which of the understandings the students pinpoint and which ones they don't.

What next?

Now that you've identified in which areas the student needs instruction, you can weave that into your teaching. Since the goals and understandings that you've identified come from The Literacy Continuum, it would be ideal to also have instructional material that also aligns with those goals. For those students who may need extra instruction, the Leveled Literacy Intervention System is a good option as the goals in each lesson are taken from The Literacy Continuum. And for your small-group and whole-group instruction, as well as partner and individual work the lessons in Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ are designed around the goals in The Literacy Continuum.

Reading is thinking, and a student's talk about what they've read is evidence of that thinking. Skilled observation of literacy behaviors enables teachers to understand how their students can "think their way" through a text. The Benchmark Assessment System Comprehension Conversation is a key tool for gaining this behavioral evidence of students' thinking.

January 12. 2018

FAQ Friday: How Often Should the Benchmark Assessment Be Administered?

Q: How often should the Benchmark Assessment be administered?

A: We suggest that you administer the assessment at the beginning of the year to help you determine where to start your teaching with each child. You may also want to conduct the assessment in the middle of the year, to take stock of progress, though you may already have the information from your ongoing use of reading records in instruction. Finally, near the end of the year you may want to conduct one more assessment to obtain a final record of the child's growth across the year. You may decide to administer the last assessment a couple of months before the end of the year. In this case, the assessment can provide information for instruction during the last months of school, while avoiding the redundancy of testing at the very end of one year and the beginning of the next.
December 22. 2017

FAQ Friday: Can a Child Look at the Book During the Comprehension Conversation?

Q: Can a child look at the book during the comprehension conversation?

A: Yes. One purpose of the Benchmark Assessment System is to give you information to guide your instruction. If a child has to look back as a reminder it doesn’t necessarily mean the child doesn’t understand or remember. Perhaps the child doesn’t feel confident in his or her memory or talking about the text without that confirming look. Reinforcement and prompts to talk about texts without always looking back may build the child's confidence. The teacher needs to know the student and note such observations of behaviors that provide evidence of thinking and analyze the child’s thinking at that point in time.

October 20. 2017

FAQ Friday: Extra BAS Books

Q: Are there additional/supplemental texts for the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System?

A: No. The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System revolves around the idea that students should be continuously progressing throughout the year. If a student is assessed at, for example, Level M at the beginning of the year, the goal is for them to be at level N or higher by the next assessment. In some cases, it is necessary or preferred to reassess a student at the same level, which is why each level includes two books: one fiction and one nonfiction. But beyond that, the student should really be progressing to the next level.

If you are finding that a student is 'stuck' at a level, take a look at The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum for that level to see in what behaviors the student may be lacking. Then, try and focus your teaching around cultivating those behaviors.

<<To see more FAQs or get answers to other questions from a trained consultant, please visit the Discussion Board!>>

September 7. 2017

Go Paperless with the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App

The Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App is an efficient alternative to taking a reading record on paper. The app accurately analyzes reading and accuracy rate, self-correction ratio, and fluency and comprehension scores to reveal students’ progress, and the results sync wirelessly to the Online Data Management System.

In the video below, watch how the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App provides greater convenience for iPad® users taking assessments. 

Wistia video thumbnail - Reading Record App Robert v4_FINAL_captioned

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September 1. 2017

Twitter Chat RECAP: The Power and Purpose of Assessment

On Thursday, August 31, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell  hosted a Twitter Chat about The Power and Purpose of Assessment. People from all over the country logged in to share their thoughts about this important topic, just in time for the new school year! Followers engaged in a discussion about many different angles of assessment from how assessment informs moment-to-moment teaching decisions, to the importance of the continuous use of reading records in everyday instruction. Some favorite tweets included: 
Assessment is not teaching. It is gathering information for teaching. More...